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NYC Transit says wife worked for husband against agency rules


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A Bronx couple working side by side in the same NYC Transit office violated agency rules by hiding their marriage from bosses for 12 years, officials say.


Anti-nepotism rules require staffers who marry colleagues to notify the agency, partly to avoid an employee supervising a relative, NYC Transit said.


Veteran transit lawyer Patrick Leach and his paralegal wife, Pansey Lawrence, kept mum about their relationship, even though she worked under him, the agency said. One source said Leach signed Lawrence's time sheets "for years."


The cagey couple's relationship came to light because of two lawsuits Leach filed, NYC Transit said.


In one suit, Leach says he was unfairly denied a promotion; in the other, he griped that his upstairs neighbor played the piano too loudly, court records show.


Now, Lawrence has been suspended without pay - Leach has retired - and both are the subject of an ongoing probe by the MTA inspector general's office.


Leach, 68, and Lawrence, 52, declined to comment.


If the investigation turns up evidence that the Riverdale couple falsified time sheets or collected pay for time not actually worked, the inspector general could refer the case to criminal prosecutors. NYC Transit also could seek restitution.


Leach, a Harvard-trained lawyer who passed the bar exam in the 1960s, worked in private practice and as an assistant professor before joining NYC Transit in 1988. Financial disclosure forms filed with the state also indicate he worked for AT&T.


Lawrence, hired years earlier, was 32 years old when Leach joined the legal department, which is based in downtown Brooklyn.


A source familiar with NYC Transit's probe said the couple was married in 1996, a surprise to co-workers.


"No one knew they were a couple," one transit staffer said last week. "They kept it hush-hush."


Another staffer said some in the legal department suspected Leach and Lawrence were married but "no one knew for sure."


At least as far back as 2001, Lawrence listed her marital status as single on annual state Ethics Commission and Commission on Public Integrity disclosure forms, the Daily News found. Leach said he was married but didn't state that his wife also was an NYC Transit staffer, documents show.


After being passed over for promotion to bureau chief, a miffed Leach filed a series of complaints culminating in a 2005 federal suit, accusing transit brass of age discrimination, records show.


Staffers preparing the agency's defense last summer discovered a suit Leach had filed against a neighbor in his apartment building, sources said, accusing a neighbor of making excessive noise, including "extreme" piano and flute playing and singing.


The veteran lawyer didn't name Lawrence in his suit or legal papers, opting instead for the more general reference to his "family," case records show.


But in other court papers, the neighbor's lawyer named Lawrence as Leach's wife.


NYC Transit wouldn't state the charges leveled against Leach in August and Lawrence two months later. Leach retired, but the case against Lawrence is pending.


"We have a no-nepotism policy, meaning that you cannot directly supervise a member of your family," NYC Transit said in a statement to The News.


Last year, Lawrence submitted amended ethics disclosure forms for the years 2001 through 2007, admitting her marriage. Leach also filed amendments.


BY Pete Donohue


February 17th 2009



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