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State Comptroller DiNapoli: Alarming Case Of Nepotism At MTA

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Alarming accusations of Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers cutting corners and surfing the Internet instead of riding the rails surfaced on Friday.

And if that's not all, a high-ranking executive has been accused of getting her domestic partner a cushy job, CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reported.

Sherry Herrington pulls down a cool $170,000 a year as the vice president for operations at Metro-North. Apparently that wasn't enough for her. According to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the woman whose job it is to oversee the movement of more than 600 Metro-North, Amtrak and freight trains on the 400-mile system got her domestic partner a job for nearly $85,000. This despite the fact DiNapoli said the partner got a lower job rating than two other applicants and the posted starting salary was just over $57,000.

"There were certainly other candidates and it begs the question: did this individual get an unfair advantage because of that relationship?" DiNapoli said.

The job was in the Onboard Services Unit, which is tasked with monitoring train crews and conductors to see if they were wearing name tags and collecting fares properly.

An audit by the comptroller found that some members of the unit were goofing off. Some didn't always come to work, while others surfed the Internet instead of riding the trains to check up on staff.

"We found significant hours that were logged onto to Google as a search engine, firearms sites, Chuck E. Cheese was a popular website," DiNapoli said.

Several riders Kramer spoke with said they were upset by the apparent nepotism and the ethical questions it raised and by the fact that the MTA gave Herrington a verbal warning as punishment.

"That sounds like a blatant conflict of interest," said Onnik Kasparian of Forest Hills.

"Being politics what they are, you can give her a verbal warning the first time, but then she's got to go," added Dominick Servedio of Bronxville, N.Y.

"Nepotism is never good. I don't like that sort of thing," added Pam Myerson of Manhattan.

After the audit Metro-North disbanded the unit, saying it could do the same job with one-third less people.

The comptroller has referred the case to the MTA inspector general, asking him to determine if there were violations of the ethics or the public officers' law.

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