Not too many New Yorkers who shlepp daily to work and shopping on the various forms of public transit offered them, know who Joe Lhota is. He’s the current Chairman and CEO of the MTA. A Brooklyn resident himself, Mr. Lhota’s main concern right now does not seem to be the frantic juggling act of seeing to the safety and promptness of the city’s public carriers but rather how his job designation is viewed legally in order for him to earn income from sources other than his employment as the city’s transportation czar. The story itself is a total discombobulation of fact, fiction and wishful thinking. A tough job for anyone to understand who’s not involved with what is described as the “ethics code.” The question here is who determines the difference between a “regular” employee and a “per diem” one. To us mere taxpaying citizens, if you work at a job, you’re an employee.
But that’s not how Joe sees it. While running the MTA, he considers himself a per-diem worker and not an employee. As such, he can rake in money from his other side jobs. One such outside employment is his position as VP at the NYU Langone Medical Center which pays him $2.5 million annually. He is also a board member of the Madison Square Garden Corporation with a reported salary of $150,000. According to Common Cause New York, a government watchdog agency, Lhota was hired as an employee and is therefore barred from gathering income from other employment.
Susan Lerner of Common Cause states: “State law is very clear that the Chairman and CEO of the MTA is supposed to be one person and a full-time job. It’s up to Joe Lhota to decide which job he wants to hold, but he can’t work for the MTA and hold these other private positions. This is so clearly a conflict of interest. Here we have a person who is not putting the public interest ahead of private interests.”
We’d like to point out that MSG sits atop Penn Station and that in itself poses a conflict of interest for Lhota. The MTA is planning renovations to Penn Station. If he’s a spokesperson for both and when both parties are sometimes at odds, how does that work out? Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s Democrat primary challenger said Lhota is essentially running the ailing transit authority as a “part-time volunteer.” we believe running and fixing the MTA is a full-time job. We side with those who feel Mr. Lhota should be considered a “full-time employee” and not a mere “per-diem” who shows up for work when he wants to. Joe, please give us your all or move out and let someone else do the job.