The Washington Times Daily - - From Page One -

sion co­in­cid­ing with the open­ing of the Sil­ver Line to Wash­ing­ton Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port, that will push its to­tal em­ployee ranks past 12,000.

With nearly 1 in 10 ex­ist­ing po­si­tions un­filled and an ad­di­tional 5 per­cent turnover each year, the chance of suc­cess­fully fill­ing all the new po­si­tions is vir­tu­ally nil, said Tom Downs, a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton Met­ro­pol­i­tan Area Tran­sit Author­ity Board.

“There are 1,700 peo­ple be­fore you get to that 1,000,” he said of the new po­si­tions, which of­fi­cials say are mostly for track main­te­nance, the new Sil­ver Line and tran­sit po­lice.

Con­struc­tion on the Sil­ver Line be­gan in 2008 and the 11.6-mile first phase is sched­uled to open in 2013. The 11.5-mile sec­ond phase will be opened in 2016.

Cur­rent Metro poli­cies, The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported Tues­day, have led to a work­force whose largest job cat­e­gory is 97 per­cent black and has only 70 white women out of 10,000 non-ex­ec­u­tive work­ers, and where dis­ci­plinary and pay records doc­u­ment that some work­ers get away with chronic malfea­sance while oth­ers are dis­ci­plined frivolously or ha­rassed.

Metro of­fi­cials have said that 1,000 ap­pli­cants are whit­tled to a pool of 30 can­di­dates and even fewer hires. Yet the cream of the crop, court and Metro doc­u­ments and in­ter­views showed, is rife with con­victs, drug ad­dicts and the marginally lit­er­ate, while oth­ers with col­lege de­grees or strong work ethics have doc­u­mented an in­abil­ity to suc­ceed within Metro.

Of­fi­cials de­clined to say at what stage, or for what rea­sons, the 970 ap­pli­cants were re­jected.

“What hap­pens to the 970? We’re look­ing for peo­ple who are qual­i­fied for the po­si­tion. You get some peo­ple who are not qualif ied,” agency spokesman Dan Stes­sel said. “You should be happy we have hir­ing stan­dards.”

Only 1 in 4 ap­pli­cants passes Metro’s three-part test with read­ing, be­hav­ior and cus­tomer-ser­vice sec­tions. But a sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis of test re­sults shows cu­ri­ous re­sults.

In one class, nearly ev­ery­one who could read, ac­cord­ing to the lit­er­acy test, was marked down as fail­ing a “be­hav­ior as­sess­ment.” Ev­ery­one deemed tops on be­hav­ior, mean­while, failed the other seg­ments.

Metro of­fi­cials said the tests were mul­ti­ple choice and that the be­hav­ior test is de­signed to fail about half of the ap­pli­cants.

“I don’t think the test is rocket sci­ence,” said Jackie L. Jeter, pres­i­dent of the union that rep­re­sents most Metro work­ers.

She said f illing the new jobs wouldn’t be a prob­lem. “All you have to do is look at the un­em­ploy­ment line. . . . How long it’s go­ing to take to get to 1,000, I don’t know, but the ones they are ad­ver­tis­ing are pretty good-pay­ing jobs.”

To ex­plain the 1.4 per­cent of op­er­a­tors who are His­panic and 1.5 per­cent who are white, Mrs. Jeter spec­u­lated that such peo­ple must not be ap­ply­ing. (The union is not re­spon­si­ble for hir­ing.)

Mr. Downs said, for the same rea­sons Mrs. Jeter noted, that is false.

“Of course they are. These are good-pay­ing jobs with re­tire­ment and health care,” Mr. Downs said.

Metro de­clined to pro­vide de­mo­graphic in­for­ma­tion on ap­pli­cants.

Pay and a pen­sion

The av­er­age Metro worker had a $60,000 salary, which went up to $69,000 in­clud­ing over­time, about the same as D.C. school­teach­ers.

The 144 peo­ple who try to keep Metro’s es­ca­la­tors in ser­vice make $80,000 to $100,000, af­ter paid train­ing at a $60,000 to $80,000 per year rate. The 488 sta­tion man­agers in­side glass kiosks at rail sta­tions — oc­ca­sion­ally field­ing ques­tions, of­ten with a bare min­i­mum of in­for­ma­tion, rid­ers say — have base salaries in the high $50,000s, but in re­al­ity, most take home closer to $70,000. In­clud­ing over­time, 20 sta­tion man­agers made in the six fig­ures.

Nearly all of Metro’s 3,000 bus and train op­er­a­tors were paid over­time, with more than 1 in 3 mak­ing more than $10,000 in over­time and more than 1 in 10 sup­ple­ment­ing his or her salary by more than $25,000, ac­cord­ing to a Times anal­y­sis of pay­roll records ob­tained through open­records re­quests.

The fis­cal 2010 bud­get in­cludes some emer­gency work done af­ter the June 2009 Red Line crash. Metro of­fi­cials de­clined to pro­vide The Times with de­tailed records since 2010, but over­time rose in 2011 be­fore fall­ing sharply in 2012 in emer­gency-re­lated cat­e­gories. Over­time for sta­tion man­agers and bus and train op­er­a­tors, how­ever, has re­mained con­stant for years, and the agency’s 2013 bud­get al­lots for an in­crease in over­time across all cat­e­gories.

Some over­time for bus driv­ers comes from shut­tles that re­place trains when por­tions of tracks are shut down for re­pairs. Other over­time is pre­ferred over hir­ing more work­ers be­cause of the cost of ben­e­fits for new hires, Mr. Stes­sel said.

Over­time al­lows work­ers to dra­mat­i­cally in­crease the pen­sion they col­lect upon re­tire­ment. The pen­sion is based on an av­er­age of the worker’s high­est-earn­ing years.

Mrs. Jeter said low-rank­ing work­ers’ salaries weren’t too high given what man­agers earn.

“I had a su­per­vi­sor who re­tired the other day, his av­er­age was $196,000,” she said. Work­ers who are pro­moted from union­ized po­si­tions to su­per­vi­sory roles can stay in the union for re­tire­ment pur­poses.

At Metro head­quar­ters down­town, Gen­eral Man­ager Richard Sar­les, the for­mer head of New Jersey Tran­sit, is paid $350,000 — $50,000 more than his pre­de­ces­sor — and em­ploy­ees say he has made the sys­tem more top-heavy.

“He brought in Lynn Bow­er­sox, his spokesman in New Jersey, to be No. 2 in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, cre­at­ing a layer that never ex­isted and pay­ing her in the high $160s plus $30,000 to re­lo­cate,” a for­mer top Metro ex­ec­u­tive said. “Then they brought in Dan Stes­sel from the same place . . . and paid him to re­lo­cate. Un­der their own poli­cies, they’re only sup­posed to pay re­lo­ca­tion for hard-to-lo­cate skill sets like en­gi­neers. PR peo­ple are a dime a dozen in this town.”

The agency’s mar­ket­ing and pub­lic relations staffs num­ber about 72 while its safety de­part­ment staff num­bers 61, records show. And those hires have not led to higher-qual­ity work, the of­fi­cial said.

“They run the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fice like a po­lit­i­cal cam­paign now,” she said. “They give state­ments when it’s con­ve­nient. They don’t an­swer ques­tions.”

An­other per­son un­til re­cently at the high­est level of Metro noted that rapid turnover among ex­ec­u­tives has ex­ac­er­bated a di­vide be­tween out-of-touch ex­ec­u­tives and a long-stand­ing cul­ture of ap­a­thy among work­ers out­side head­quar­ters.

“The peo­ple down at that level say Mr. Who­ever-you-are, you want us to change, but you’re go­ing to be gone in three or five years, and we’ll still be there. I could walk into that build­ing and not know 20 per­cent of the peo­ple,” he said.

Mr. Stes­sel said long-stand­ing is­sues with hir­ing bus driv­ers have im­proved. “We’ve in­creased [hu­man re­sources] staff to han­dle bus op­er­a­tor staffing” and held re­cruit­ing events for mil­i­tary veter­ans, he wrote in an email.

Projects sched­uled for this year still in­clude large amounts of over­time.

When a rail car re­pair fa­cil­ity is re­vamped, for ex­am­ple, most of the 5,200 hours paid to Metro work­ers will be at over­time rates, largely so they can es­cort con­trac­tors. Mul­ti­ple Metro work­ers who have over­seen such projects said that con­trac­tors are given keys to fa­cil­i­ties in vi­o­la­tion of rules, and that Metro work­ers pro­vide vir­tu­ally no su­per­vi­sion or ser­vices on such as­sign­ments.

Even of­fice work­ers took home large amounts of over­time. The over­time paid to com­puter spe­cial­ists was 37 per­cent of their com­bined base salaries, while the over­time paid to in­for­ma­tion agents was one-third of their base — a fact that im­me­di­ately stood out in the Times re­view of 2010 records.

But it wasn’t un­til more than a year later that over­time fraud was caught.

Two weeks ago, a jury con­victed for­mer in­for­ma­tion agent su­per­vi­sor Al­fred Atanga of theft for pay­ing for hours that were never worked to Lak­isha Gardin, Em­priss Ja­cobs and Kee­sha Richard­son. Gardin re­ceived pro­ba­tion. Ms. Richard­son, who records show had pre­vi­ous drug and as­sault ar­rests and was placed on paid leave pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, had theft charges dropped in court. Ja­cobs will be sen­tenced Thurs­day in Prince Ge­orge’s County.

Take up the slack

Metro’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble back­log in pro­cess­ing ap­pli­cants has led ju­ris­dic­tions to take up the slack, pre­screen­ing them, run­ning crim­i­nal back­ground checks and for­ward­ing the names in an at­tempt to help Metro do what it has not been able to do for it­self for years, Mr. Downs, the Metro Board mem­ber said.

D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray had one idea for break­ing the de­cided ho­mo­gene­ity in Metro’s work­force: Hire more D.C. res­i­dents. In­deed, the good-old-boys net­work that com­prises Metro’s 10,000 field work­ers is dom­i­nated by men from Prince Ge­orge’s County, with only 14 per­cent of Metro work­ers liv­ing in the city. In­clud­ing ex­ec­u­tives, 15 per­cent live in Vir­ginia.

“There’s a story be­hind that,” Mr. Downs said. “At one point, 70 per­cent lived in the Dis­trict. A bus driver can make $70,000 and that’s mid­dle class, and like a lot of mid­dle-class peo­ple they want to move to the sub­urbs. The same peo­ple are still work­ing for Metro, they just moved to Prince Ge­orge’s.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.