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I-Team Investigates Lavish MBTA Lunches

Joe Shortsleeve
(masscopguy's buddy)

BOSTON (WBZ) ― There's no such thing as a free lunch, unless you are a member of the MBTA board of directors.

In these tough economic times, this might be hard to imagine, but the I-Team has learned that before every monthly meeting, the board treats itself to a catered lunch.

Although these lunches take place in a private board room with a "Do Not Enter" sign taped on the door, the I-Team found a way to videotape what comprises these catered meals.

We saw multiple chafing dishes being set out, all with different hot entrees. There were salads and fruit plates, all being enjoyed by a large group of people.

Among them: MBTA General Manager Dan Grabouskas, and Bernard Cohen, Secretary of Transportation in the Patrick Administration.

An I-Team source tells us that these catered meals have been a long standing tradition for the MBTA. David Tuerck, a public policy analyst with the Beacon Hill Institute, believes this is just another example of an entitlement mentality that pervades the Massachusetts political scene.

After having a free lunch before the September board meeting, the board of directors then announced the MBTA was basically broke, and would need to borrow $53 million just to meet basic operating expenses.

Even though the idea of free lunches seems OK to the board, commuters just don't understand it. One woman said, "We can't spend anyone else's money on our food."

Another woman thought a free buffet sounded nice and wanted to know how she could get invited. A man added, "That seems a little silly, a waste of money. What, are they like billions of dollars in debt?"

As a matter of fact, they have about $8 billion of debt. But the lunches continued, even after Governor Patrick had this to say about cutting the state budget: "This is not about cutting so called fat; this is going to cut muscle."

Or maybe a nice piece of sautéed chicken. Because regardless of that dire pronouncement, the board still had a free lunch before their next meeting. This is the one where they decided that they had no choice but to raise the parking rates at MBTA garages.

We asked Grabouskas how they could justify paying catering bills in the current economic environment. Although the I-Team witnessed an elaborate buffet, he said, "Typically we are talking about sandwiches or pasta, but I am happy to raise it with the board of directors and see if they would like to brown bag it."

He added that he didn't know if this issue had ever been raised before, and that lunch has always been supplied.

To be fair, in the context of the MBTA's overall budget, this is a relatively small expense. But it's what it represents those angers the MBTA's critics.

Tuerck said, "This is just a manifestation of these deeper, more serious issues."

He would like to see the state change the way it funds the transit authority.

Currently, the MBTA automatically gets one cent out of every five cents collected in the state's sales tax, even from communities that it doesn't service.

Tuerck believes the MBTA should justify its needs to the state and then get funded, not get a large sum of money carte blanche. "Maybe then, the directors would start going to McDonalds for their meals instead of bringing in lavish catered meals for their board meetings."

After we raised questions about this practice, the policy of free lunches for the board members is now under review.

Super Moderator
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Wow, this is going to get Shortsleeve the Pulitzer Prize! Way to go with the investigative reports douche!

429 Posts
This is the best the Iteam can come up with these days. GARBAGE!! They're not looking out for anyone but themselves with the trash that gets reported these days. These stations put reporters that have been working respectably for years with in a "scammers" face with a microphone to harass them like cheap paparazzi. Here's an idea. Do some research and report on the best schools in the state. Crunch numbers to give people financial advice. Do something that doesn't involve the big conspiracy of it all.
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