2 bus drivers reinstated despite Metro objection

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Metro officials, dismayed by an arbitration decision that has reinstated two fired bus drivers -- one involved in a fatal accident and another who punched a police officer dressed as McGruff the Crime Dog -- are seeking to persuade one of the drivers to take another job.

On Wednesday, the Washington Examiner reported that the workers were returning to Metro.

But Metro officials said they do not think that Ronald Taylor, who was driving the bus that struck a taxi Sept. 26, 2008, and killed a father of two, should return to Metro as a bus driver.

"We are looking at placing him in another non-sensitive safety job," said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue was unresolved. "I expect a decision to be made very soon."

Taylor was not charged with any crime or cited by police on any traffic violation, but Metro fired him Oct. 10, 2008, after an internal investigation found that he had violated Metrobus rules.

"We believe he ran a red light, which resulted in a major preventable accident," Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Arbitrator David Vaughn decided there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that Taylor ran a red light because he did not think an eyewitness account was credible, Metro officials said.

Taylor, whom Vaughn awarded full back pay, is prepared to return to work this month, but Metro has placed him on paid administrative leave.

Metro officials also objected to the reinstatement of Shawn Brim, who pulled his bus over near Spring Road and 14th Street NW on Feb. 28, 2009, disembarked and punched in the head an off-duty police officer dressed as McGruff the Crime Dog, who educates children about crime prevention.

Metro fired Brim on March 6, 2009. "We . . . terminated him for violating workplace rules, as there shall be no workplace violence," Farbstein said. Brim was found guilty of simple assault in D.C. Superior Court and received a 15-day suspended sentence and six months of probation.

But Vaughn, the arbitrator, decided that Brim's actions, although illegal and inappropriate, were not undertaken with malicious intent. Vaughn based his decision on witness statements, including those of the police officer, Tyrone Hardy, Metro officials said.

Vaughn reduced Brim's penalty to a 30-day suspension and awarded him back pay for the rest of the time. Farbstein did not know the value of back pay awarded in either case.

"The fact that the arbitrator would put them back in the driver's seat is shocking to us," Farbstein said of the drivers.

Brim has undergone retraining and is expected to resume work at Metro as a bus driver, she said. He "exercised extremely poor judgment," she said, and should not return to work regardless of whether he can drive a bus safely.

The bus drivers filed grievances, which resulted in the arbitration by a neutral party. Metro cannot appeal the decisions, Farbstein said.

"We do not believe the arbitrator was arbitrary or capricious or that his decision violates any laws," she said.

The union declined to comment.

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