By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The monuments to MTA subway corruption are conspicuous by their absence. They are stations -- let‘s say Laurel Canyon, Crenshaw Boulevard, Boyle Heights -- on the unbuilt lines that could be operating for tens of thousands of passengers today had not so many hundreds of millions instead been pissed away on rigged change orders, double billings, sweetheart contracts, payoffs, paybacks, kickbacks and other insider malfeasance that took place during the first 15 years of the project’s existence.
This ongoing waste and pilferage of so much of the billions of dollars in federal funding discredited the entire project. Now this grand opportunity to make a more livable city may not recur in many of our lifetimes. Particularly since the passage of a voter initiative -- spurred by all that reported corruption -- ordering that no more heavy-rail transit be built in the county.
But when it comes to cleaning up a bad act, it‘s better late than never. The MTA has been relatively free of major scandals over the past four years. The huge and suspect turnover in its upper ranks has ceased. When more recent scandals did arise, you increasingly heard about them first, not from the media, but from an MTA office -- specifically, the Office of the Inspector General. Who, for the past eight years, was a guy named Art Sinai.
I would love to be able to quote him. He’s a sharp guy with a street-smart Brooklyn attitude. And he sure likes to talk. Unfortunately, he doesn‘t talk on the record, even now that he’s retiring. Those close to him say that he takes the most pride of accomplishment in getting former City Councilman Richard Alatorre under a sentence of home detention for much of that bad stuff he did as MTA chair and after -- particularly involving a notorious Eastside MTA contract.
There was a lot of whispering around City Hall after Alatorre pleaded out that Sinai should have snared a few of Alatorre‘s buddies. But Sinai has a long list of other, less showy accomplishments, in turning the MTA’s internal policies around and tightening up the ship to the point where, as he modestly puts it for the record, it is “performing much better as an organization than it did in 1993.”
That‘s back when, in Sinai’s understated official words, “internal controls throughout the system were weak or nonexistent, making the organization as a whole vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.”
Art Sinai gets a lot of credit for that transition, and accordingly deserves our thanks.
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