I-TEAM: Why JTA bus drivers get back behind wheel despite violations

By Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The News4Jax I-TEAM is learning more about the process keeping city bus drivers behind the wheel despite safety violations.

As a pat of the collective bargaining agreement with transit unions, Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus operators who are with the union have the right to appeal their firing or any discipline. It’s ultimately up to JTA managers if they want to change or deny a driver's appeal to keep their job. ​

The News4Jax I-TEAM found a JTA bus operator who was hired back after a grievance hearing. According to her JTA personnel file, she was first fired in May of 2018 after backing the bus into a fence at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, an accident JTA said was preventable.  JTA also said the driver had numerous prior accidents that were preventable. 

The Amalgamated Transit Union filed a grievance and the JTA agreed to give her a six month probation with a promise not to get into anymore preventable incidents while on probation. She did that, but the driver's personnel file shows in April 2019 she was fired again after making a wide left turn that damaged a curb, knocked down a sign, and damaged the bus on top of "numerous class B violations." 

According to JTA, the driver's union appealed her firing again and she was still employed with the JTA. The JTA released this statement concerning the driver's status:

"As part of Step 1 of the collective bargaining agreement grievance process, the manager employed with JTA at the time provided his assessment as part of the process. The case then was contested to Step 2 where it was determined that the opportunity for additional training and oversight of this driver would be granted over the next 60 days with a final evaluation taking place upon conclusion in July.  
In response, her overtime hours were scaled back and she did participate in additional retraining from April 29 through May 9. Following that training we continued to monitor her abilities. Ms. Coretti participated in a 60-day review with a behind the wheel trainer that concluded on Friday.
Based on the results of that review, it was determined that she was still not performing her duties to the highest abilities. She has been placed on hold-off status at this time.​"

Jean Silney is another driver who was fired and rehired by JTA. Silney is the operator involved in a crash where Jeanie Rozar was entangled, run over and killed by a JTA bus. 

Silney was first fired by the JTA for nearly running over his supervisor’s foot with a bus. Less than a month later, JTA amended Silney's termination to a "heavy suspension." This was after the Amalgamated Transit Union filed a grievance.

He was fired for the second and final time after his bus hit Rozar.

The I-TEAM found the same supervisor was involved in hiring back both of the bus drivers. He has since resigned. 

JTA CEO Nat Ford was asked if he believed the supervisors were making the right decisions in the grievance hearings. 

"I think we review our supervisors decisions all the time. They also go through safety training and over the last several years they have receive a lot of training on accident investigation," Ford said. "We are constantly in improvement mode as far as improving things and moving things forward, but our record, I think at the end of the day, speaks for itself. We have a very safe population of drivers and operators here and it’s proving itself out.  All of our safety statistics are heading in the right direction."

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