T board member got door-to-door service for years

Disabled ex-judge ends perk

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / August 14, 2009

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Once a month for the past nine years, the MBTA has sent a transit officer in an unmarked police vehicle more than an hour from Boston to pick up an elderly member of its board of directors, take him to the agency’s meeting downtown, then return him to his home in Marion.

An MBTA spokesman said yesterday that the practice ended last week as part of efforts to trim costs and inefficiencies at the financially struggling agency.

“It was done for a career public servant in his mid-80s who has a bad leg,’’ said Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The MBTA police officer formerly assigned to the duty, who normally processes criminal complaints in the court system, earns $55,788 annually, Pesaturo said.

The board member, retired judge Baron H. Martin, said he volunteered to end the practice before the most recent board meeting because he heard that it had come under scrutiny.

“I really haven’t done anything wrong,’’ said Martin, who turns 83 next month. “I’m crippled.’’

Martin walks with a cane and cites several ailments, including arthritis and breathing problems. He said he cannot walk 20 feet without stopping, sleeps with oxygen equipment, and can drive only short distances, never after dark.

He said he remains on the MBTA board because he is dedicated to the agency, even returning from North Carolina for monthly meetings in the winter at his own expense.

“I’m the first African-American person to work at the T that was not pushing a broom,’’ said Martin, who was hired in 1952 and worked his way through the ranks of the legal department before retiring in 1976, when he became a full-time state trial judge.

Last week, Martin’s wife dropped him off at the Middleborough commuter rail station, and he rode the train to Boston to attend the most recent meeting, at which the board deliberated the status of Daniel A. Grabauskas, who then resigned as general manager. Martin said it took him 30 minutes to walk from the platform at South Station to the nearby taxi stand. An MBTA officer drove him home because the meeting ended unusually late, 8 p.m., and the next train to Middleborough did not depart until 10:30, Pesaturo said.

The T has a special van service for disabled passengers called The Ride, but it is not available in Marion, according to Pesaturo.

MBTA board members are paid $7,500 a year, receive full health benefits, an office at the state Transportation Building, a parking pass to the building, and a T pass that gives them free access to all buses, boats, trains, and trolleys. The board will be phased out this fall under a recently approved reorganization of the state’s transportation system.

It is unclear who first authorized Martin’s police rides. He was appointed in 2000 by Governor Paul Cellucci. The general manager of the T when he was appointed was Robert Prince.

Martin said a previous board member was driven by police to meetings from Springfield.

“I don’t remember asking anybody to do this,’’ Martin said. “Whoever it was that knew about my physical condition said: ‘Well, we used to go to Springfield to get so-and-so. We’ll send somebody down to get you.’ ’’

Pesaturo said that no other board members are taken to and from meetings by transit police.