Published: August 20, 2012
Publication: The New York Times
By Russ Buettner
Eight subway signal inspectors were charged on Monday with falsifying reports to make it appear they had performed inspections that prosecutors said they had never actually done.
The inspectors collectively filed 33 false inspection reports of the mechanisms that control subway traffic during 2009 and 2010 under the direction of their immediate supervisors, according to prosecutors.
The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in a statement that the false reports could have created dangerous situations for riders, if not for the presence of other safeguards in the subway system.
“Failing to properly inspect the subway system can lead to delays in service and, potentially, endanger the safety of subway riders,” Mr. Vance said in a statement.
The inspectors, mostly middle-aged men, were arraigned in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, each on one or more felony counts of tampering with public records, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
Searching one inspector’s locker, investigators found bar codes that are supposed to be on signal equipment and scanned when the inspection is complete, according to court records. That inspector was also charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor.
Two supervisors who oversaw the inspectors were charged last Friday. They pleaded guilty to tampering with public records, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, and official misconduct, according to court records.
Arthur Z. Schwartz, a lawyer for six of the inspectors and their union, said that his clients “were ordered to meet quotas that some might describe as impossible” in order to artificially increase productivity.
“The pressure on these individuals to do this or suffer consequences all came from above,” Mr. Schwartz said outside of court. “And yet all we’ve seen is the guys at the bottom of the chain who are getting in trouble here.”
Mr. Vance’s announcement said his investigation had explored whether the practice of falsifying inspection logs had been directed or condoned by upper management and only found evidence sufficient to charge the 10 employees.
Barry L. Kluger, the inspector general for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, reported that signal inspections were being falsified in 2000 and 2005. Mr. Kluger said that the authority did not resolve the issues raised by those earlier reports, but that it had since.