At Walder Hearing, Yaro Defends His Severance Package

ALBANY—Today is the first of two joint State Senate hearings on the nomination of Jay Walder to lead the M.T.A. The hearings were called by senators to express "concern" over his reported severance package. But he got at least one voice of support.

The State Senate hamstrung a bailout for the M.T.A. earlier this year, and while Walder was contrite in accepting his nomination by David Paterson to lead the authority after the dust had settled, some members of the chamber still have lingering concern with how it is operated.

At today's hearing, in Mineola on Long Island, Regional Plan Association President Bob Yaro said that Walder's pay is fair (and low, if you compare it based on ridership) and the severance package is justified "given the volatility that is unfortunately associated with the position."

"We are also aware that some have questioned the extra compensation Mr. Walder would receive in the event that his contract were terminated prematurely," Yaro testified. "We would argue that this provision reflects the risk Mr. Walder is taking in coming to the MTA at this time, with little more than a year to go in the current governor's term, and given the volatility that is unfortunately associated with the position. It will also encourage the MTA Board and the governor to think twice before discharging Mr. Walder for frivolous or purely political reasons. Keeping him in place for his whole contract would provide the continuity of leadership that this important agency urgently needs."

A second hearing will be held September 8 in Harlem, and the Senate will return to Albany to act on Walder's nomination September 10.