Thursday, June 11, 2015

Unsafe at Any Speed? Sunshine Bus Company Lacks Customer, Worker Protections

The Sunshine Bus Company, which receives some $1,000,000 in annual federal and state aid, does not have a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number and is not registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration -- its safety reports are not online on other USDOT or county websites. While other COA-operated bus lines elsewhere in America, are FMCSA-regulated, our Sunshine Bus Company eschews federal regulation. Its manager had never heard of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation and referred me to the county, which claimed exception as not being in "interstate commerce." They may be wrong no that.

Meanwhile, fraught with delusions adequacy and exemption from federal law, the overrated Sunshine Bus Company:
A. Lacks service to much of the urban area of St. Johns County;
B. Lacks service to the St. Augustine Beach branch of the St. Johns County Public Library or St. Augustine Beach Post Office;
C. Lacks frequent service (only five trips per day in any direction);
D. Dangerously requires people going to some locations, such as County offices to walk long, unsafe distances acrossU.S. 1 on returning trips, and lacks a safety culture and consumer confidence.
E. Benefits from a no-bid contract with St. Johns County. It is ripe for competitive bidding to find a better contractor for the County.
County Attorney Patrick McCormack's office, responding to my Open Records requests, also confirms:
1. The Sunshine Bus Company has no employee whistleblower protection policy and has never notified employees of their whistleblower rights under the Surface Transportation Amendments Act, 49 U.S.C. 31105 to file whistleblower complaints with OSHA and have cases heard by a U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge. Drivers could be asked to drive with cracked windshields, bald tires, bad brakes or other unsafe conditions without any protection if they complain. (County response to my Open Records Request No. 2015-142 & 144)
2. The Sunshine Bus Company has no forms for employees to report unsafe conditions -- no Conditions Adverse to Quality Reports or other forms exist. (County response to my Open Records Request No. 2015-141).
3. Sunshine Bus Company has no forms for employees to make suggestions or report concerns and no spreadsheet summarizing employee suggestions or concerns. (County response to my Open Records Request No. 2015-146).
4. The Sunshine Bus Company allowed its fictitious name registration to expire in 2005 and the County can supply no documentation as to the reason. (County response to my Open Records Request No. 2015-143).

The Sunshine Bus Company is a division of the St. Johns County Council on Aging, beneficiary of a contractual arrangement with the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners. COA has long been headed by ex-Mayor of St. Augustine JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR., who brazenly told citizen Thomas Reynolds in November 2014 that COA is a "private company," with no duty to share is records, a lie, which former COA Executive Director Cathy Brown said is untrue. Still waiting on COA to respond to any records requests. Still waiting for actual records (rather than admissions and denials) from our $17 million St. Johns County Government Offices, a/k/a "the Palace" or "Taj Mahal."

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