Who's Behind The Wheel? Twelve Wake County Bus Drivers Convicted Of Crimes
Posted November 9, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST
WAKE COUNTY — You might be surprised who is behind the wheel of your child's school bus. In Wake County, 12 bus drivers with court convictions on their record may have driven your children to school.
WRAL obtained a list of the 760 drivers available to drive Wake County school buses. We matched that list against theNorth Carolina Department of Correction, theDepartment of Motor Vehiclesand civil records. Twelve drivers were on the list with convictions that Wake County schools knew nothing about. Many Wake County parents always wait for the bus with their children on Simpkins Road. They were upset to learn a bus driver had been convicted of cocaine possession
"You got to be able to trust your bus drivers," says parent Amy Augustine. "They're taking your kids and you're supposed to be able to trust them."
"No drugs, I mean, I'm sorry."
"I mean, I wouldn't want somebody doing drugs and stuff like that driving my kids to school."
There's more. Drivers who committed assault; also, resisting an officer. Fraud. Felony Check bouncing.
"They couldn't find none of this out?"
We found it out. -->
Three drivers were convicted of felonies: one for passing worthless checks, one for assault with a deadly weapon and damage to property.
Another driver committed food stamp fraud and illegally accepted child care payments from social services.
The other nine drivers were convicted of misdemeanors: cocaine possession, carrying a concealed weapon, assault on a female and driving while impaired, assault and resisting an officer, a larceny involving credit card theft.
Two drivers committed rental vehicle fraud for not returning a car. One driver was caught speeding twice and driving without a license.
Wyatt Currin, school transportation director for Wake County, says a criminal background check is performed on all drivers before they are hired. While many of the convictions WRAL found occurred after they were hired, others should have been found in a background check and may have been.
Currin says some convictions like check bouncing may not matter.
"If it happened several years ago, and it's cleaned up, I'm not sure it should affect their driving," he says.
Three drivers resigned last Friday: one Wake Forest driver who assaulted his wife, a substitute driver for committing fraud and a full-time substitute from Fuquay-Varina for drug possession.
WRAL attempted to contact every bus driver on leave. Only one agreed to talk for the story anonymously. He was convicted of cocaine possession -- a 13-year-old charge in Catawba County. He served two years probation.
"I made a stupid mistake. I made a wrong decision," he says.
However, the driver says Wake County schools should not be surprised about the charge. He told them about it when he was hired in 1995.
"The man told me that these were not a problem as long as it hadn't involved children, so I got hired," he says.
Despite several positive employment reviews, exemplary service and no drug test failures, the driver was asked to resign last week. Disclosure does not guarantee bus drivers will keep their jobs.
"They reported it, but we still have to look at what the offense was," Currin says. And if it's drugs Currin says they're not driving. Period. Some of the 12 drivers will soon be back in the drivers seat. But, not the man who hit his wife a relief to parents.
"If somebody's got a temper that bad, Kids aren't going to be good all the time, they're going to get rowdy."
The check bouncers?
"Should she keep her bus drivers job? Augustine: yeah, if she's paying it back."
and the woman who didn't return a rental car?
"As long as they get my kids home when they're supposed to be home and they return them, I'm okay." -->
A 1997 policy requires all Wake County employees to disclose past convictions before hire, and to report any arrests and convictions after they are hired. Currin says the policy was not clear to many of his drivers.
As a result of this investigation, he is going to have every driver sign a copy of the policy saying they understand it and that will be kept in their file. Failure to report an arrest or traffic citation is grounds for immediate dismissal.
The human resources director for Wake County Schools admits a mistake was made in 1995. The driver with the drug conviction should not have been hired. The driver does have an attorney, and he is considering some type of lawsuit to get his job back. What did you think about this story?Send us feedback.