There’s a new sheriff in town at the MTA, and she’s not messing around.
The agency’s Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny spent her first week in office hyping up damaged timekeeping equipment at two agency workplaces. Now she’s embarked on a tour of the city’s transit facilities.
She’s popped up at subway maintenance facilities, surveyed tunnel conditions and examined deep cleaning work on subway platforms.
Pokorny, a career prosecutor who most recently worked for Gov. Cuomo, touts herself as an independent investigator. She’s done stints for former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the office of the U.S. Attorney of New York’s Eastern District. Her first job out of law school was at the Bronx District Attorney’s office, where she worked under Barry Kluger, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s outgoing IG.
“He (Cuomo) came to me and said he wanted a very strong prosecutor with a very strong federal background who would be independent, respected and be fierce,” Pokorny told the Daily News in her first interview since taking the job. “He asked me if I would help come up with some names, and then I pulled a Dick Cheney and suggested myself.”
Despite her declaration of independence, the activities Pokorny has chosen to look into during her first two weeks on the job have raised concerns about the governor’s influence over her office and the MTA in general.
“Independence is something you expect by action, not by the structure of the office,” said Rachael Fauss, an analyst at good government group Reinvent Ablany. “As far as judgement on her at this point, it’s been heavily weighted at issues where the governor has a lot of influence. She’s going to have a longer tenure, so to judge now would be premature.”
Cuomo has over the last several months railed against overtime abuse and outdated timekeeping systems at the MTA while hailing the effectiveness of the $836 million Subway Action Plan launched in 2017.
Pokorny has spent her tenure thus far educating herself on each of those issues, often publicizing findings on the IG’s official Twitter account.
The social media account is run for now by Gareth Rhodes, a former upstate congressional candidate who has been detailed to the IG’s office from the state’s Department of Financial Services.
Rhodes wears many hats, and is Pokorny’s de-facto chief of staff. He previously worked in Cuomo’s press shop.
“I think everyone brings their own take to the position,” said Pokorny. “I would like to bring much more transparency to it. I would like people to know that there is an Inspector General and that there’s someone looking out for them and that their tax dollars are being put to good use.”
Pokorny’s office two weeks ago sent out images of a severed Ethernet cord at an LIRR facility she said was intended to hook up a new time clock that uses fingerprints to track employee attendance. Christopher Natale, head of the union of workers who installed the cable, said it was not a live wire in the first place.
Days later, she publicized a smashed-up time clock at the MTA’s 38th St. train yard in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
“The screen on that device was cracked for a long period of time before she got to it,” said Transport Workers Union International President John Samuelsen. “The report of sabotage was borderline ridiculous. The claim was to advance her narrative, which is that there’s vandals and criminals across the system.”
Pokorny says her 20-year record as an independent prosecutor should help dispel many concerns over her independence, and says she comes in with no set narrative or agenda.
Kluger, who is staying on at the IG office to help with the transition before he retires, said Pokorny’s work over the past two weeks is standard procedure — she’s just publicizing it more than he did.