RICHMOND (WRIC)—An ABC 8News investigation that began with a viewer tip revealed that a man charged with safely transporting children to and from school is actually putting kids’ health at risk.
A viewer contacted Investigative Reporter A.J. Lagoe writing, “I hope you’re interested in investigating what I believe to be fraud on the part of a Chesterfield [County] government employee.”
The tipster reported seeing a government vehicle parked in a vacant lot day after day. The driver allegedly slept for most of the day and didn’t do any work. ABC 8News looked into the situation and found that the car is a government vehicle, but one that belongs to Middlesex County Public Schools, not Chesterfield County. While the driver did appear to be sleeping, something else caught Lagoe’s eye.
Lagoe watched the car for hours. Aside from occasionally moving his car around the parking lot and driving to a gas station once, the driver did no work. In the mid-afternoon, after smoking multiple cigarettes inside the vehicle, he drove a short distance to a school for students with special needs. He picked up a child and drove back to Middlesex County.
When Lagoe questioned Middlesex County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor about the situation, and was told that it is not uncommon for drivers to sleep in their cars in between transports.
“Our drivers are paid by the trip, and sometimes they have dead time in the middle of the day where they’re off the clock,” Taylor said.
But smoking in a vehicle that schoolchildren ride in is something Middlesex County parents and taxpayers alike find unacceptable.
“He shouldn’t be smoking around a child,” one concerned citizen said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke can cause children to develop ear infections, severe asthma attacks and respiratory infections, among other health risks.
Because personnel files in Virginia are not public, it is unknown exactly what happened to the smoking school driver, but Taylor guaranteed ABC 8News that it won’t happen again.
“It’s completely unacceptable,” Taylor told Lagoe. “When you alerted me to this, we took personnel action within 24 hours … people will not see this gentleman smoking in a vehicle again.”