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“I had a supervisor who retired the other day, his average was $196,000,” she said. Workers who are promoted from unionized positions to supervisory roles can stay in the union for retirement purposes.

At Metro headquarters downtown, General Manager Richard Sarles, the former head of New Jersey Transit, is paid $350,000 — $50,000 more than his predecessor — and employees say he has made the system more top-heavy.

“He brought in Lynn Bowersox, his spokesman in New Jersey, to be No. 2 in communications, creating a layer that never existed and paying her in the high $160s plus $30,000 to relocate,” a former top Metro executive said. “Then they brought in Dan Stessel from the same place … and paid him to relocate. Under their own policies, they’re only supposed to pay relocation for hard-to-locate skill sets like engineers. PR people are a dime a dozen in this town.”

The agency’s marketing and public relations staffs number about 72 while its safety department staff numbers 61, records show. And those hires have not led to higher-quality work, the official said.

“They run the communications office like a political campaign now,” she said. “They give statements when it’s convenient. They don’t answer questions.”

Another person until recently at the highest level of Metro noted that rapid turnover among executives has exacerbated a divide between out-of-touch executives and a long-standing culture of apathy among workers outside headquarters.

“The people down at that level say Mr. Whoever-you-are, you want us to change, but you’re going to be gone in three or five years, and we’ll still be there. I could walk into that building and not know 20 percent of the people,” he said.

Mr. Stessel said long-standing issues with hiring bus drivers have improved. “We’ve increased [human resources] staff to handle bus operator staffing” and held recruiting events for military veterans, he wrote in an email.

Projects scheduled for this year still include large amounts of overtime.

When a rail car repair facility is revamped, for example, most of the 5,200 hours paid to Metro workers will be at overtime rates, largely so they can escort contractors. Multiple Metro workers who have overseen such projects said that contractors are given keys to facilities in violation of rules, and that Metro workers provide virtually no supervision or services on such assignments.

Even office workers took home large amounts of overtime. The overtime paid to computer specialists was 37 percent of their combined base salaries, while the overtime paid to information agents was one-third of their base — a fact that immediately stood out in the Times review of 2010 records.

But it wasn’t until more than a year later that overtime fraud was caught.

Two weeks ago, a jury convicted former information agent supervisor Alfred Atanga of theft for paying for hours that were never worked to Lakisha Gardin, Empriss Jacobs and Keesha Richardson. Gardin received probation. Ms. Richardson, who records show had previous drug and assault arrests and was placed on paid leave pending an investigation, had theft charges dropped in court. Jacobs will be sentenced Thursday in Prince George’s County.

Take up the slack

Metro’s inexplicable backlog in processing applicants has led jurisdictions to take up the slack, prescreening them, running criminal background checks and forwarding the names in an attempt to help Metro do what it has not been able to do for itself for years, Mr. Downs, the Metro Board member said.

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