Big MTA earners got more than $200,000 in OT in 2020 — but overtime closer to budget than before

Overtime helped put five MTA police officers on the transit agency’s list of top-10 earners in 2020, officials reported Friday at the same time they crowed about their success driving down overtime costs.

Robert Rau, an MTA Police detective-sergeant, was the second-highest paid employee at the agency, earning $397,160 in 2020, the agency said. His pay was $14,809 less than the $411,969 earned by former MTA chief operating officer Mario Peloquin, who resigned in February.

Rau earned the overtime because of a shortage of MTA Police detective-sergeants available for track death investigations and other matters that had to be handled by officers with his job title, said an MTA source.

Rau didn’t even make the top-10 list of MTA overtime earners. At the top of that list was Salvatore Lazzarino, a Long Island Rail Road utility worker who got $252,892 in overtime, boosting his 2020 earnings to $333,794.

MTA Police
MTA Police (Shutterstock/Shutterstock)

Next on the top overtime earner list was Patrick Damboise, an LIRR track foreman who took in $244,617 in overtime, bringing his total 2020 pay to $344,201.

Another top LIRR earner was Frank Pizzonia, who was indicted in Manhattan Federal Court in February on charges of plotting with four co-workers to rack up outrageous overtime without doing any work. Pizzonia, a track worker and the son of an alleged Gambino family mobster, got $221,766 in overtime in 2020, bringing his total pay to $302,025.

Pizzonia’s four co-defendants in the overtime fraud case did not make the MTA’s lists of top earners.

Though some top overtime earners got more than 70% of their pay from logging extra hours, MTA officials say they’ve done a good job paring OT costs overall.

The agency spent $1.136 billion on overtime in 2020, down about 9.7% from 2019′s $1.258 billion overtime bill.

The MTA went 6% over its overtime budget in 2020 — down from being 19% over budget in 2019 and 26% over budget in 2018.

“MTA management’s renewed and continued focus on ‘controllable’ overtime costs has generated significant improvements in managing overtime to budgeted levels,” the agency said in the report, which also credited a consulting firm with coming up with overtime reduction ideas.

The biggest overtime charges were at the Long Island Rail Road, where the top 10 earners got an average $222,529 in overtime pay in 2020. They were followed by workers on the Metro-North Railroad, where the top 10 earners got an average $174,999 in overtime pay.

Missing from the top earner lists are employees of NYC Transit, which includes city subways and buses and is the MTA’s biggest operating agency.

The top 10 overtime earners at NYC Transit got an average $121,633 in extra pay in 2020 — a bit more than $100,000 less than their counterparts at the LIRR. Overtime costs at NYC Transit dropped 12% in 2020, the report says.

Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen said better maintenance of the subways meant there was less need for extra hours from members of TWU Local 100, which represents NYC Transit workers and is the MTA’s biggest union.

“The system continues to be in a state of good repair, and organically because of that the overtime decreased … When the system doesn’t need high maintenance, overtime goes down,” Samuelsen said.

Samuelsen doubts the report’s claim that a management focus on costs drove down overtime levels, and said MTA board members’ complaints about overtime fraud are overblown.

“I’m not aware of one overtime control they put in place in NYC Transit that reduced overtime,” Samuelsen said.

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