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CTA Fires Workers In Blue Line Crash, ‘Stolen Time’ Sting

Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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T(CBS) – There was more disciplinary action handed down by the CTA Friday in two cases CBS 2 has been reporting on this week.

The transit agency fired two of its employees in the wake of September’s runaway train incident, and terminated four more caught on tape in what it calls a “stolen time” investigation.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s initial report in the Sept. 30 Blue Line crash revealed water-damaged controls. The CTA’s disciplinary action appears to target those it believes are responsible for the damage.

The CTA promised to inspect its entire fleet of railcars for what the NTSB called “thermally damaged wiring and water in electrical connection boxes in the runaway train.” CTA officials say they have found no similar damage anywhere else on any other trains in its fleet.

The rail agency fired two electricians for leaving doors open after working on the boxes, which allowed water to get inside during a subsequent power wash. Three days later, the controls failed and the train crashed.

In all, CBS 2 has learned, eight employees have been either fired or suspended — four of them caught on tape by those secret surveillance cameras in rooms where employees claim they changed clothes.

Cliff Horwitz represents the four people fired, after the cameras were installed in what the CTA claimed were maintenance storage rooms.

“Some of these people have never done a thing wrong – not one thing wrong. First offense, and they’ve been given the most grievous penalty: loss of career, loss of pension, loss of medical benefits. This is devastating,” the attorney says.

There is video of people changing clothes, but also, the CTA says, of them stealing from taxpayers by sleeping, goofing off, viewing pornography when they should have been working. CBS 2 revealed the existence of the cameras and the employees’ concerns on Wednesday night.

Horwitz plans to file civil suits on behalf of the workers. But one may also seek criminal charges against the CTA.

One troubling footnote: Some of those fired today claimed they were told by the CTA they were fired, rather than suspended for a first offense, because their attorney spoke with CBS 2.

In a statement, a CTA spokesman denied the claims of retribution, calling them “ridiculous and patently false.”