MEDINA, Ohio (WJW) – A bus driver for Medina City Schools has been terminated and arrested after failing a random alcohol test after his morning bus routes on Nov. 15.
Police say Herbert Ferguson was among those chosen to undergo a random breathalyzer test administered by a company under contract from the district.
Police Chief Edward Kinney says Ferguson first tested .135 and a second test was higher at .138. Both are more than double the .04 threshold for CDL drivers.
“I was shocked. This is my 35th year in this business and this is a first for me,” said the district’s transportation manager Rob Travis.
“I take it personally hard and very seriously and we are approaching this matter just like that, and that’s why we have involved the Medina police. That’s why we have taken the steps to make sure our community is notified of the situation,” said Medina City Schools Superintendent Aaron Sable.
Police say Ferguson admitted that he had been drinking before and during his routes that morning, which began at 6:45 a,m.
The district says police informed them he had spiked a sports drink with vodka.
“Initially he was charged with one count of child endangering just so he could be incarcerated. Additional charges will be filed. As a matter of a fact, several have been filed today. Six additional counts of child endangering, as well as an OVI charge, operating a vehicle while intoxicated,” said Kinney.
“We perform random drug testing of our drivers on a quarterly basis. It’s actually part of the requirements by the Department of Transportation. Quite honestly, it’s something we would do even if it wasn’t a requirement,” said Sable.
Even on the morning that Ferguson reportedly failed the two tests, the district said there was no indication that he was intoxicated.
“Our interactions with him in the morning when he comes in picks up his keys, interacts with the dispatcher, there was no indications that there was anything wrong. Went and performed his run and did everything he was supposed to do, came back and was pulled for a random testing and I think it became very shocking, very quickly that he was intoxicated,” said Travis. “Good guy. Made a horrible mistake but no issues with him as an employee. He gets along well with the kids. He’s been known to sing songs with them on the bus.”
The district’s bus drivers met on Thursday morning when they were told that new measures are being considered which could include more frequent drug and alcohol testing as a result of this incident.
“Pretty somber. They are pretty upset and rightfully so. They are now going to be under scrutiny for something they didn’t do. They take great pride in their work and the safety of the children,” said Travis “This reflects poorly on all of us, not only in transportation, but the district because it doesn’t rise to the level that we strive to provide transportation service at.”
Sable says while the district, along with many others across the state, are in need of additional drivers, they are not compromising to make sure that all of the seats are filled.
“Not at all. We have a very thorough process for hiring our bus drivers. Just to get a license to driver a bus is above and beyond just getting a regular CDL to drive a semi truck to do regular shipments that you see on the highway,” said Sable.
Police say municipal court records show Ferguson was arrested on a DUI charge in 1987, but that was reduced to a charge of reckless operation of which he was convicted
The district says it routinely turns down three driver candidates for every one that advances through their process, which includes a state and federal background check, a drug and alcohol test and a check of their driving record for the previous 10 years.
“We are in an industry that is highly regulated and we are always looking to do things better,” said Travis.
“This is an egregious breach of trust in the community, breach of trust for the protection of the students as well as the parents who expect their students to be delivered safely to and from school,” said Kinney. “Again, this bus driver exercised horrible judgement in this situation and he will be held accountable for it.”