Keolis Transit North America is desperate for bus drivers. It was even more desperate during the three strikes last year when union members lodged demonstrations against the company.
The France-based company allegedly hired a tier-3 sex offender to drive buses, which appears to be in violation of the company’s contract with the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC).
“They hired him during our strike. That’s very alarming,” said Gary Watson, president of Teamsters Local 533.
This Is Reno contacted both Keolis and RTC officials about the matter to determine what their policies were. Neither would make a direct statement about the situation.
“Keolis does not provide details on personnel matters,” said Jenny Fahlbush, Keolis’ VP of marketing.
RTC spokesperson Lauren Ball said RTC values its passenger safety but hiring decisions are made by Keolis.
“The RTC has measures in place to help ensure the safety of our passengers and contracted transit staff, including security officers at RTC transit stations. Cameras and audio-recording devices are also in place on all of the RTC’s transit vehicles,” she said. “Employment decisions belong to the employer. RTC does not employ the bus drivers for the transit system.”
RTC pointed to its contract with Keolis that indicates the company must do criminal background checks and shall not hire those with felony convictions.
“The Contractor shall also conduct pre-employment criminal background checks on all prospective employees and shall not … knowingly hire any individual with a felony conviction or other offense that makes such individual unsuitable for work on services under this Contract,” the contract notes.
Ball would not comment on whether RTC followed up on this hire, calling it a “hypothetical situation.”
Watson said the individual is still an employee.
“Keolis does the hiring within RTC guidelines, and they have to do background checks,” he said. “RTC has a right to remove any person that they deem unfit for the bus system. They have done that in the past.”
Watson said one employee had a DUI in 2019 and is still awaiting arbitration with Keolis.
“It was reduced to a careless driving charge, and we’re still waiting to get her job back,” he said. “RTC removed her from service because they didn’t deem her fit.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.