Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has fired another track inspector in connection with falsifying reports, a former track inspector said Jan. 4.
David Stephen, spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said Jan. 5 that union members, including track inspectors, could not be available for interviews. Stephen said Metro’s firing individuals after safety issues occur fails to address the problems themselves.
“It’s their responsibility to hold the systemic problems of the system accountable, and they have not done that,” Stephen said of Metro.
Trap Thomas, one of the terminated Metro track inspectors, said he is filing a grievance against Metro for firing him. The inspector said he was being a whistle-blower for pointing out safety concerns and considers the firing to be retaliation.
Thomas said at a news conference hosted by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, one of Metro’s unions, that Metro notified him Jan. 4 he was being fired for falsifying records.
Wiedefeld released a statement during the two-hour union news conference to remind the public Metro is putting safety first, which he said involves not overlooking misdeeds. He did not confirm or deny whether he fired more inspectors.
“It’s important to remember that thousands of Metro employees do a great job and routinely put safety first,” Wiedefeld said. “However, a true culture of safety requires that we hold ourselves and each other accountable. We cannot condone falsification of documents, and I stand by the actions we have taken that hold both frontline and management employees accountable.”
Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly said Wiedefeld’s statement was related to his December firing of six track inspection department employees in connection with falsifying reports, including four inspectors and two supervisors. Wiedefeld said at a board committee meeting Dec. 15 he had fired four track inspectors and two track inspection supervisors, adding that six more inspectors were awaiting termination or suspension without pay and 10 more were pending in the administrative process and might be disciplined.
Wiedefeld had said he made that decision to fire the six and discipline roughly half the department on the basis of findings from the Metro Transit Police criminal investigation of the derailment near East Falls Church Station in July.
Thomas was one of the track inspectors Metro interviewed as part of the investigation, according to the transcript of the interview.
Union representatives have said at Metro board meetings and Capitol Hill hearings about Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that the series of ongoing safety issues results from systemic issues and therefore that low-level employees are not to blame.