Falsified work logs at Metra led to some employees being paid for work they didn't do and others not getting paid when they showed up, a report released Monday says.
But the commuter rail agency blasted the Illinois executive inspector general's report as a waste of time that documented a practice that was once widely used then abandoned by Metra three years ago.
The report takes aim at shift "swapping" in 2011, when one worker might cover for another, particularly on Saturdays. Inaccurate books led to payroll problems, it said.
Inspector General Ricardo Meza says that's a problem because federal rules require accurate reports and safety could be at stake if conductors and engineers work too long.
"Accurate log keeping is not simply an administrative ritual or completion of paperwork -- it is required to ensure public safety, pure and simple," Meza said.
But Metra officials were sharply critical of the report, calling it "flawed" and saying swapping was commonplace in the railroad industry and then stopped by the agency three years ago.
"Reasonable people may question whether the OEIG Report released today, after three years and the investment of hundreds of hours of public employee time, served a real purpose and was a prudent use of taxpayer dollars," a statement from the agency reads.
"There were indeed some paperwork inaccuracies, but at no time was safety compromised; and, in fact, if there had been real concerns over safety, the OEIG should never have waited three years to issue a report," the statement continued.
Meza's office turned the findings over to the Federal Railroad Administration and other authorities for "whatever action they deem appropriate," the report says.