T control board meeting less than law requires

Chair says fewer sessions in best interest of the authority

OVER THE LAST SIX MONTHS, the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board has been holding fewer meetings than the law requires.

The state law creating the control board requires it to meet “not less than 3 times a month,” but since July the board has met three times in a month only once. Overall, the T is on track to meet 33 times this year, three less than the law requires.

Board members made no public announcement about the reduction in meetings, but officials on the board and higher-ups at the T have made no secret that they are frustrated with the amount of time eaten up by the control board meetings. The meetings take most of Monday and considerable time is spent the rest of the week preparing for the next meeting.

Steve Poftak, the T’s general manager, has even suggested the time spent on control board meetings is distracting T staff from its core mission. Shortly after an Orange Line construction accident in October that extended a weekend shutdown into Monday, Poftak said it was clear the agency needs to promote and ensure safety as a core value.

“Frankly, that starts with me,” Poftak said at a control board meeting. “I’ve allowed a dynamic to develop where, as a management team, we are focused on these meetings and it comes, at least for us, at the expense of a focus on operational performance and contact with our workforce.”

Other T officials said the three-meetings-a-month requirement may have made sense in 2015 and 2016 when the agency was trying to recover from a snowmageddon shutdown that drew attention to long-simmering problems at the transit authority. But now, these officials say, it’s time for the board to scale back the meetings to one or two a month and let the T staff do what it needs to do.

Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the control board, issued a short statement in response to a question about the reduced meeting schedule since July.

“We’re operating in what we believe is in the best interest of the authority and the many customers and stakeholders we serve,” Aiello said.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo issued a statement saying control board meetings “are scheduled based on the availability of board members and the ability to maintain a quorum.”

The control board is scheduled to go out of existence in mid-2020. There has been little or no activity on Beacon Hill so far to come up with a replacement board.