Transit officials admit mistakes in investigation into CATS bus driver

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

CATS bus driver accused of stopping on the job at a liquor store

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Transit officials admit they made mistakes after a bus driver was caught buying alcohol on the job, fired and later reinstated.

Internal documents and video show bus driver William Brown, in uniform, purchasing tequila and whiskey Oct. 2 at an ABC store while on duty.

TMOC General Manager Kirk Scott said he was immediately notified of the incident and he said he was shocked.

"We want to make sure that we are doing what we need to ensure public safety," Scott said.

TMOC fired Brown the day after the incident but was reinstated after a grievance hearing on Oct. 16.

When asked why TMOC allowed Brown back on the job, Scott said, "I really can't speak to the decision making in the situation, but it's all part of the grievance process."

At the grievance hearing, Brown was present, along with a TMOC Assistant General Manager and a representative from the bus drivers' union, United Transportation Union 1715.

Brown's wife, Cheryl Brown, was the representative present who works for TMOC as a bus driver and is listed as a vice chairperson on the union website, according to documents.

Scott said he could not offer an explanation for why Cheryl Brown was allowed to represent her husband at the hearing, instead of the UTU 1715 president, Kevin Moss.

"It's up to the union to appoint representatives," Scott said.

Channel 9 reached out to the UTU 1715 to ask if Brown's wife exerted undue influence during the hearing, or presented a possible conflict of interest, but UTU did not respond to requests for comment.

Documents also showed that during the hearing, TMOC management decided not to view the video that showed Brown making the purchases and taking a brown bag from the store back onto the bus.

Channel 9 asked Scott if any other drivers who had violated CATS/TMOC substance abuse policy had ever been reinstated.

"That's information I don't have. I've been here in Charlotte for three years, so I don't have the whole history of that issue. I can't speak to that," Scott said.

Officials said after Brown was back on the job for four days, a review of the incident by CATS and city officials led to Brown's second termination.

Scott said CATS and TMOC were reviewing why the supervisor who confronted Brown outside the ABC store did not administer a breath alcohol test, which is company policy.

He said they are also reviewing why Brown was allowed to leave the scene, behind the wheel of the bus, after he was caught purchasing the alcohol.

"If there's procedural, process, judgment, decision-making errors -- that does need to be corrected, so going forward, we have the process perfect," Scott said.

An attorney appointed by the UTU to represent Brown declined to comment on the case Friday.

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