Agency spends $61K fighting $500 fine

June 23, 2010 at 9:24 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, June 23 (UPI) -- An Austin, Texas, public transit agency spent more than $61,000 in legal fees fighting a $500 Occupational Health and Safety Administration fine, observers say.

Fined for failing to file OSHA required paperwork, Capital Metro successfully appealed the fine, saying it was a "political subdivision" of the state and not an independent private company, The Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday.

The union representing Capital Metro workers says the federal agency, effectively winning exemption from oversight by OSHA, could lose substantial federal funding as a result, the newspaper reported.

The heart of the issue is Capital Metro and StarTran, an agency-created entity managing most of the employees who drive and maintain the buses, are linked, StarTran alleges, making them a "political subdivision" of the state, not an independent private company.

Capital Metro interim Chief Executive Officer Doug Allen said the reason for spending so much money on lawyers was to legally establish OSHA does not have a stake in Capital Metro's operations.

"Obviously, it's not just about a $500 fine," Allen said. "Under OSHA come a lot of duplicative, in our position, administrative and compliance costs. We've got our own safety plan, and we're reviewed on a semiannual basis" by the Federal Transit Administration.

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