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Queens Chronicle

Ozone Park man seeking back pay

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Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 12:00 am

Despite long odds, one Ozone Park resident has been fighting a city agency for more than two decades for back pay and benefits that he claims are rightfully owed him.

Richard Iritano thought the day some 20 years ago when he was offered an intra-agency job promotion at the Metropolitan Transit Authority, where he was employed, would be the start of a long career. Instead, it was only the beginning of a long battle.

Iritano said that when he started his new position as a staff analyst, the person who hired him apparently did not have the authority to do so.

According to Iritano, this person told him to log in every day in the morning and then “disappear” for eight hours while the matter was sorted out.

“She told me to go take in a movie, to do whatever I wanted,” he said.

Iritano said he could not in good conscience do that, so he alerted authorities at the MTA.

He was then surprised when he was called in by the MTA Office of Labor Relations and told his job was terminated because he had falsified records, and shortly thereafter he received a letter from the state Department of Labor stating that he was not eligible for unemployment benefits for the same reason.

Iritano said he was outraged at the allegations, and filed a lawsuit against the MTA.

“Those charges were completely untrue and made up,” he said.

After two years of legal wrangling, an Appellate Court found that the MTA could provide no proof Iritano had actually falsified any records.

In fact, a letter to Robert Ligansky, the attorney representing Iritano at the time, dated Sept. 21, 1992, from former MTA inspector general Michael Boxer states that “there was absolutely no proof that Mr. Iritano has falsified time records.”

However, Iritano said that the MTA still denied him any back benefits, saying he wasn’t eligible for them since he was a provisional employee at the time of his dismissal.

But since a court ruled that the stated reason for his dismissal couldn’t be proved, Iritano believes he is due compensation from the agency.

A request to the MTA for comment on Iritano’s situation was not retuned as of press time.

Since 1992, Iritano has pleaded his case to the offices of three different mayors and countless elected officials on the city and state level, some long retired.

Most recently, he has sought help from Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), who was able to arrange a meeting between Iritano and a member of Gov. David Paterson’s staff on Monday.

However, that meeting did not bring him any closer to resolving the decades-old case.

“I am the victim of a monstrously self-serving bureaucracy,” Iritano said. “All I ever did was apply for a promotion.”

Though he is no closer to receiving what he believes he is due, Iritano said he will continue to pursue his cause.

“There’s isn’t one person I haven’t spoken to about this in 22 years,” he said. “But I’ll keep trying. I have truth, fact, evidence and proof on my side.”

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