Updated:ATLANTA,None — An investigation into the personnel files of MARTA drivers revealed some drivers, sent for retraining because of rider complaints, have a lengthy record of past troubles.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher filed an open records request for a list of drivers who were recently retrained by MARTA. The list Belcher received included roughly three-dozen names out of 1,400 total drivers.
Belcher's request came after MARTA fired a driver in May who was accused of dragged a woman caught in the bus door for 60 feet. That driver's record showed a history of accidents, attendance problems and complaints about rudeness.
"Some of these drivers here have poor customer service skills. They don't realize they are public servants," said one rider who talked to Belcher at the Lindbergh MARTA station.
One of the drivers sent for retraining is Rekitta McCain, a five year employee of the transit agency. McCain has nine verbal or written warnings for violating MARTA's attendance policy, including six in a just a 14 month period.
Her record also contained a 2009 passenger complaint that said McCain "started cursing at a patron … and telling him to get out of her (expletive) face." The complaint states McCain used every profanity she could think of.
McCain, who earned $44,000 last year, was ordered to retraining last year along with more than 30 others.
"None of them had any individual complaint that was particularly egregious, but it was just a consistent pattern of interactions with customers that weren't what we wanted," said Mary Ann Jackson, MARTA's assistant general manager for bus operations.
Belcher also randomly pulled the file of Joseph Kelley Jr. who was sent to retraining.
Records show Kelley was cited for insubordination as far back as 1996, and had more complaints even recently. The most serious was a public argument with another driver for which Kelley received a two-week suspension in 2009. Documents showed two other suspensions, plus six separate times Kelley was counseled orally or in in writing -- all in less than six years.
One of those suspensions involved "discourteous/rude customer complaints" against Kelley, who earned more than $72,000.
Jackson said occasional bad behavior by a small number of bus drivers is universal in the bus business because of the stressful nature of the job.
"Not only are you interacting with the public, but you're dealing with traffic at the same time, trying to manage what's going on inside your bus and outside the bus. It's a stressful job." Jackson said.
"And some passengers are jerks sometimes, aren't they?" Belcher asked.
"Sometimes they are," Jackson responded.
Jackson said the union agreement allows drivers to have six occurrences of unexcused absences in any one-year period. Drivers with less than six get a warning. The president of the union that represents the drivers postponed an interview with Belcher and did not reschedule.