Two Metro Bus Drivers Fired, One for Alleged Kidnapping and Another for Suspended License

By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 15, 2009

Metro fired two bus drivers this week: a man for allegedly kidnapping a passenger, and a woman for driving with a suspended license at the time of an on-duty accident, the transit agency announced Friday afternoon. The man said he plans to aggressively challenge his termination.

The announcement of the disciplinary action was a reminder of how much Metro has struggled with a series of embarrassing incidents in recent weeks at a time when the riding public is very conscious of all aspects of service in the wake of the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine people.

On July 25, an argument broke out between driver Michael E. Robinson, 41, and an unnamed female passenger on a D14 bus in Prince George's County, authorities said. When the woman requested a stop to get off the bus, spokeswoman Angela Gates said a few days later, Robinson refused to open the doors until she handed over her camera. When the passenger refused, Gates said, Robinson pulled over and called Metro Transit Police to report that he was holding a disorderly passenger.

Robinson, who has worked for Metro since 2007, said Friday that he did nothing wrong. He said the passenger threatened to have her son kill him. He complained that it took an hour for police to arrive.

After officers arrived and took statements, they decided that Robinson had inappropriately detained the passenger and arrested him. He is facing a felony kidnapping charge that carries a sentence of up to 30 years. That case is pending.

"We've had drivers shot, stabbed and everything like that," Robinson said. "I'm not breaking any laws. I'm protecting myself because Metro won't do it."

Carletta S. Douglas, 37, who was driving a bus on the 92 route toward the Congress Heights Metro station, was fired after being charged July 30 with driving on a suspended license, a traffic offense that carries a $500 fine.

A car had pulled from the curb lane and struck Douglas's bus, which was transporting 35 passengers, officials said. The car's driver was charged with failure to yield the right of way. But D.C. police also discovered that Douglas's license had been suspended May 27.

Douglas, who had worked for Metro since April 2000, could not be reached for comment Friday.

After Robinson was charged with kidnapping, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. announced that his staff would revisit all rules related to employee behavior and disciplinary procedures. That review is ongoing.

Robinson said he will appeal his termination but has no plans to work for Metro again.

The agency also said that a bus driver who was photographed holding her cellphone July 28, an image circulated on local blogs, has returned to duty. She was reinstated after investigators concluded that she was talking with central control on her cellphone and was not operating the bus at the time.

On July 13, Metro implemented a zero-tolerance policy, forbidding operators to use mobile devices to call or text in non-emergency situations, but the unnamed driver's behavior was deemed acceptable. Nonetheless, the agency's news release said, "she has been re-instructed regarding operating procedures."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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