A second Metro Mobility bus driver was fired for a sexual encounter involving a developmentally disabled passenger, authorities confirmed Friday.
The incident occurred June 25 when the driver arranged an off-duty outing that ended in St. Paul with him having sex with the woman he had met while transporting her in a Metro Mobility bus, according to her mother. The 34-year-old victim has the mental capacity of a fourth- or fifth-grader, wears leg braces and has difficulty communicating, her mother said.
“You can’t look at her and not know she’s vulnerable,” the mother told the Star Tribune in an interview Thursday. “He talked her into having sex.”
The woman’s ride to school that morning was changed, the mother said, and she was delivered to a restaurant near the driver’s house. He picked her up there before the sexual encounter, the mother added.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office did not bring charges against the man, but the Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Mobility, and the contractor providing the service confirmed that he was fired following the incident.
Michael Richter, president and chief financial officer of Transit Team Inc., said in a statement that the firm “decided to end our employment relationship with the accused driver because of the allegations.”
Dennis Gerhardstein, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office, said, “Our office declined to file charges because of insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the criminal intent required by the law.” However, in a Sept. 17 letter to the alleged victim, the office advised that she could seek a restraining order against the 33-year-old driver.
Except in rare instances, the Star Tribune does not name people alleged to be victims of sexual assault.
A different Metro Mobility driver was charged last week with sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman after he picked her up from a group home in Maple Grove.
That driver, 44-year-old Segundo D. Aucapina, used an umbrella to shield the crime from the vehicle’s surveillance camera, police said. Aucapina, of Minneapolis, remains in jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Transit Team officials said last week that they had ended their “employment relationship” with Aucapina, who was hired about seven months ago.
The Met Council oversees Metro Mobility — a service providing 2 million rides a year for the elderly and disabled. The council owns the Metro Mobility buses, and leases them to various contractors.
Both incidents allegedly involved drivers for Minneapolis-based Transit Team, which recently won a five-year, $179 million contract from the Met Council to supply transit services in Minneapolis and the western suburbs.
“Transit Team has always maintained a strict written policy regarding professional boundaries,” Richter said. “Drivers are not to have any personal relationships with our passengers while on or off the job.” He noted that these boundaries are discussed during training and during monthly safety meetings.
Met Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge confirmed that the driver was not on duty when the incident occurred and that it did not occur on a council-owned vehicle.
“At the time this incident was reported to us, Metro Mobility followed up with both service providers, emphasizing the need to convey to drivers that relationships with customers, outside of strictly service/work-related, will not be tolerated,” she said in an e-mail.
In the wake of Aucapina’s arrest, Met Council officials said they are auditing privately held Transit Team’s records to ensure that the company has complied with pre-employment hiring procedures and training requirements. The council relies on its contractors to conduct criminal background and safety checks on applicants for driver positions.
“We’re going back and looking at all of the documentation that Transit Team has,” said Andrew Krueger, senior manager for Metro Mobility. “Transit Team has said they’ve followed all the laws. We’re doing an internal audit to make sure that has been done, and we’re going to randomly check other employee files to ensure we’re taking all of the steps necessary so we can try to prevent this kind of thing.”
Transit Team officials said last week that Aucapina’s pre-hire criminal check was clean.
“We are certain that following the completion of the audit, the council will determine Transit Team meets all statutory pre-employment hiring and training requirements,” Richter said Friday.