Metro GM: More Than 20 in Track Inspection Dept. Fired for Falsified Records

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld speaks to reporters during a Jan. 26 press briefing after the board held two committee sessions and regular board meeting at the transit agency's headquarters in northwest D.C. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the board of directors Thursday almost two dozen employees from the transit agency’s track inspection department have been fired in connection with a probe of falsified inspection records.

Wiedefeld, who said last month that six people had been terminated as result of the investigation, announced Thursday that disciplinary actions have now been taken against a total of 35 employees, 21 of whom were fired. Five of those terminated were supervisors.

The investigation was sparked by August’s East Falls Church derailment in Northern Virginia, but Wiedefeld acknowledged Thursday that the terminations were unconnected to that particular case. However, he maintained the firings were indicative of a systemic problem in the 60-member track inspection department.

Raymond Jackson (right), second vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, speaks to reporters outside the Metro's board meeting room on Jan. 26 after the transit agency announced the termination of 21 employees related to an investigation of falsified track inspection records. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Raymond Jackson (right), second vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, speaks to reporters outside the Metro’s board meeting room on Jan. 26 after the transit agency announced the termination of 21 employees related to an investigation of falsified track inspection records. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

He declined to comment specifically on how often and to what extent, but said the agency has completed its investigation.

“When you look at the action we took, it wore more on the management side than the front-line side,” he said. “There’s a whole personnel process we go through. That has to play out.”

One way to improve the department will be instituting a new standard manual and a 10-week training course for workers this year, Wiedefeld said.

Raymond Jackson, second vice president with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said there is an ongoing investigation into whether the 16 union workers were justly fired.

He said the union has requested information from Metro regarding the terminations, but has yet to receive it.

When asked by a reporter outside the board meeting room about track workers being accused for falsifying records, he gave an example of a supervisor who would request a worker to complete an impossible assignment.

“You’re my manager. Why are you giving me this assignment? Not only did you give it to me once, but you gave it to me twice on separate days,” Jackson said. “Once you change the safety culture at this company, you will change the problem.”

He attributes a presentation made by Lynn Spencer with the Federal Transit Administration regarding the agency’s Safety Management Systems plan, which offers a policy and data-driven approach to improving safety at transit agencies nationwide.

Spencer, director of safety system at the FTA, said communication between supervisors and employees are vital for a transit company to succeed. She also said employees “are the eyes and ears of the organization” and a rich source of safety management information. She said transit agencies may be required to adopt this plan in the future.

Jackson hopes so, but with union officials being an equal partner to improve Metro.

“The front-line employees are the [people] that do the job,” he said. “If you are going to get safety done here, you have to bring the union to the table to get these things done. You can no longer discipline your way out of these problems.”

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About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 311 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com
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