MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny announced the findings of the 11-month investigation on Thursday, which found that seven New York City Transit track inspectors were caught skipping inspections and falsifying reports.
As a result, all seven of the track inspectors were suspended, and six of the inspectors received a final warning that similar conduct could result in termination, and they would be prohibited from performing track inspections for five years.
Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett first reported exclusively on the suspensions and the rail defects found in the investigation back in March.
The MTA says the inspectors' suspensions are worth more than $145,000 in total.
In addition to the investigation, the Office of the MTA Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit on how such widespread deception could occur without management's knowledge.
The audit found significant systemic issues with how supervisors and managers at NYC Transit oversee the work of track inspectors.
Officials say the lack of oversight exposed riders, MTA employees and people on the street passing below elevated tracks to significant safety risks.
"It is appalling that so many track inspectors, on so many occasions, skipped safety inspections, filed false reports to cover their tracks, and then lied to OIG investigators about it," Pokorny said. "Management needs to utilize a technology that will ensure supervisors can verify when inspectors do their job - and when they do not."
The OIG first opened an inquiry into the NYC Transit Track division in January 2020 in response to track debris raining down on cars below the elevated tracks.
From rusted sharp metal spikes to heavy bolts, they are just a few pieces of debris that came raining down from the 7 train tracks in Queens two years ago.
A wooden beam even pierced through a windshield, missing the driver by inches and nearly caused him to crash.
That led NYC Transit to spend $15.9 million to attach netting underneath elevated tracks to protect the public and employees.
Council member Jimmy Van Bramer says constituents on a weekly basis would come into his office with debris that nearly struck them.
"The MTA to our shock said it's not that serious," Van Bramer said. "In this report we learned why debris kept falling and the MTA couldn't stop it from falling."
Investigators say they became concerned early on that inspectors may not have been following through with their duties because in some cases, no reasonable explanation could be found as to why loose debris had not been found during the required twice-weekly inspections.
The investigation found that the seven suspended inspectors did not complete their assigned inspections but reported and got paid for doing so.
They also found that inspectors used their personal cell phones when they were supposed to be inspecting tracks, which created a safety hazard.
In addition, the audit revealed that track supervisors did not verify track inspectors' walks.
The NYC Transit agency has also agreed to implement all of the OIG's audit recommendations to improve oversight.
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