The Washington Examiner reported last week that WMATA gave six executives Apple iPads as bonuses in 2010, sparking the expected round of indignation. The six execs, and two others who received cash bonuses of $2,000 each, worked evenings and weekends to complete a project and were not eligible for overtime pay.
Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told the Examiner, “In lieu of payment and as a token of thanks for the tremendous amount of personal time they dedicated to this project, each received an iPad for their extraordinary work.” She said the iPads were intended as personal gifts and not as work implements, since the Metro system does not use Apple products.
Of course, Metro is strapped for cash and regularly faces complaints from the public and officials about the quality of service, so the awards may seem an extravagance. But Farbstein said the project in question “saved Metro tens of thousands of dollars immediately and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.”
No one gripes more about overspending and poor service more than I do, but some perspective is necessary. In order to improve its service and cut costs, Metro needs talented people in its finance department. Since executives are not part of the union, they either need occasional rewards for good work, or they’ll start sending out resumes.
Local transit advocate Dennis Jaffe did make a good point in talking with the Examiner, saying WMATA should perhaps have a standard rewards system. “Who else at the agency goes above and beyond and what do they get for it? It's willy nilly if it can't be consistently applied.”
But even so, it’s better for WMATA to spend about $7,000 to reward good work than to lose strong executive-level personnel, then have to go through lengthy and expensive hiring and training of new decision-makers.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC