T cash handling mismanaged, report says

Door to facility not alarmed or access-controlled

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

MISMANAGEMENT OF THE MBTA’S cash handling operation in Charlestown left employees and assets vulnerable to intrusion, coercion, physical danger, and theft, according to a consultant’s review of the facility that handles nearly $200 million per year.

Eager to reduce costs, contract for expertise and refocus the T’s operations more purely on transportation, MBTA officials have been moving ahead on plans to privatize the money room and have already swapped out MBTA Transit Police security for a private security firm, G4S, which is now guarding the facility.

According to a review conducted by consultant Shellie Crandall, a former chief operating officer at Brink’s Inc., the door between the facility and an outside barbecue area was “not alarmed or access controlled,” there was no chain of custody for keys, and vehicle and cashbox keys were unaccounted for.

“My initial reaction was, ‘I can’t believe that a government agency is doing this work,'” Crandall told the Boston Herald for a story in Tuesday’s paper, which reported she found employees wearing “Don’t Outsource” T-shirts at work and one employee in shorts and flip flops.

The barbecue area is behind a gate that Crandall said she has observed open and she said the door from the barbecue area to the interior can be opened without triggering any alarm or notification.

Crandall told the News Service the infrastructure of the money room is “awesome” and it has the “bones to be one of the top facilities out there,” though one of the security features had been covered with drywall.

The facility handles $119 million in MBTA revenue from fare boxes and vending machines and another $75 million collected and counted for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the cities of Boston and Cambridge. In 2012, State Auditor Suzanne Bump found “hardware and software deficiencies had led to a $101 million variance over five years,” the report said.

MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve responded to the consultants’ report in a statement on Tuesday.

“In coordination with Transit Police, the MBTA took immediate actions to secure the facility. The MBTA has also changed management – four top managers are no longer in their positions,” Shortsleeve said. He said, “While the MBTA believes it has addressed any significant threats to security, a major investment would still be necessary to correct all of the problems identified in the audit.”

The union supervisors have been replaced with “executive managers,” according to the MBTA, which said it would cost upwards of $500,000 in capital repairs to continue operations.

James O’Brien, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union representing money-room employees, pinned blame on management.

“Transit workers are being unfairly blamed for management’s failures. The fact that MBTA leadership remains committed to moving forward with outsourcing without first addressing these problems is proof that they will seek privatization at any cost,” O’Brien said in a statement. “It’s disappointing that MBTA management is attempting to disparage money room workers so they can embolden an effort to privatize the operation.”

The review, which has cost about $50,000 so far, found “generic guest key cards allow full access to the facility” and the gate is opened for vendors who arrive unscheduled.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

In his statement, Shortsleeve said security doors were bypassed, “vault room access was unrestricted,” cameras were removed at guard stations and people entered and left the facility without being inspected. Crandall said there were thousands of copies of keys to money boxes where only about 50 would be necessary.

A US Army veteran, Crandall spent 18 years at Brink’s Inc., rising to the position of chief operating officer. Asked why, given the deficiencies identified, the money room had not been targeted for a heist, Crandall said she did not know.