MetroWest RTA official spent $5,000 on lunches

Most of his peers spend far less, some none at all

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority spent more than $5,000 on working lunches in fiscal 2019 – a level of expenditure that far exceeds what his counterparts at other agencies spend.

According to records obtained from 14 of the 15 regional transit authorities, Edward Carr’s expenditures on meals were the highest, with James Scanlan of the Lowell Regional Transit Authority a distant second at just over $2,000.

Top officials at the other regional transit authorities spent $800 or less on meals over the course of the year. The top officials at the Worcester, Cape Cod, Franklin, Merrimack Valley, and Montachusett authorities spent nothing at all. Expenses for Felicia Webb, the head of the Cape Ann authority, were not obtained because she wanted $125 for the records.

The meal expenses of Carr were the only item that stood out in a larger review of regional transit authority expenditures on food, lodging, transportation, parking, and fuel. The review coincides with an effort by the state Transportation Department to bring some uniformity to the service and spending practices of the regional transit authorities.

Carr said his spending on meals is part of his job.

“I try to have working lunches where I go out with municipal officials or legislators or anybody that will listen to my story,” he said. “You know, we’re always trying to get bigger and better and we do.  And I think it’s important to have these working lunches.”

Carr said he prefers meeting people over lunch than at his office or their office. “If you think about it, I’m getting the bargain,” he said. “I have found that moving these meetings offsite over a modest meal makes for a more productive session.”

Most of the meals cost just $40 to $50, with the highest tab being $100 at The Rail Trail Flatbread Co. in Hudson. His most frequented restaurants were Station 5 Grill and Lola’s in Natick and New Maugus in Wellesley.

Carr’s expense reports do not indicate the purpose of each meal nor the names of his dining companions, which he refused to provide.

“I can see no benefit to anyone for me to name to you any particular attendee to these working lunches,” he said in a follow-up email.  “I am not interested in providing cannon fodder for your article.”

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Carr, who makes $159,000 a year, the highest salary of any regional transit authority official in the state, signs off on his own expenses.

When asked if he thinks it might be more appropriate for someone else, such as a board member, to approve his expenses, he says: “Well it’s something to think about, for sure.”  He pauses and then explains, “Life is filled with conflicts.”