Troubled School District Over Budget on Bus Driver Overtime

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SACRAMENTO-

Bus #85 for the Twin Rivers Unified School District is a special education bus. Driver Luciano Mega has his first pick-up at around 6:30 in the morning.

So why is he sitting in the parking lot of a strip mall with the engine running at 5:15a.m., more than an hour before any students with board?

And it’s not just a question of the time on the clock, but also the pages on the calendar. Day after day, in that same parking lot, we found Bus #85 sitting and idling.

Meanwhile, the district is struggling. We did our homework and checked the budget for the same period. Special education buses are running in the red- more than $70,000 over budget for some line items. That’s enough to pay a teacher’s salary and then some.

On Feb. 7 at 11:45 a.m., all the kids on bus #85’s route are already in school. And again, Bus #85 is sitting in a parking lot.

The driver, Lu Mega, is nowhere to be seen until 59 minutes later. That’s when he comes walking out of a secondhand store, finger still holding a place in the book he’s obviously been reading.

Maybe it was his lunch break.

But his next stop is yet another parking lot where he sits for 50 minutes more, letting the afternoon drift by. And day-after-day it’s the same routine, or similar. That’s even though FOX40 sources tell us buses are supposed to be kept in the yard when they are out on routes.

At least it was convenient for me; when I wanted to ask the driver of Bus #85 what gives, I knew right where to find him. When I did approach his bus, I saw he’d kicked his shoes off, and was lying in a back passenger seat.

When I asked about the bus being parked so often in that strip mall in the mornings, at first Mega acted confused.

“No, I don’t know anything about that,” he said.

But later in our conversation, he admitted that it was him sitting in the running bus.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe I went to the restroom over there, before my pick-up,” Mega said.

We had never seen Mega using a restroom once in the morning hour when I watched him in the parking lot. So I had another question for him: was he making any overtime?

“No, of course not,” he said.

But remember that homework we did? It included getting copies of Mega’s ‘extra duty’ time sheets.

On Feb. 7, a day we saw him spend an hour in the first parking lot before his first pick-up, another 59 minutes sitting in another parking lot, and another 49 minutes sitting in a third parking lot, Mega claimed 45 minutes in ‘extra duty’ pay.

And on February 27th, Mega claimed three hours of “extra duty” while we watched him spend an hour sitting in the morning before his first pick-up, and half an hour waiting in this parking lot.

So, instead of his usual $20.42 an hour, his pay records indicate he was banking $30.36 during the overtime periods. All for doing a route that he says only takes him eight hours to do.

District records show month-after-month, Mega is claiming 28, 43 or 29.5 hours in extra pay.

Sometimes he earned that pay for added routes. But it’s unclear why he got overtime on the other days. Still, he’s making $850 to $1,200 dollars or more a month as a result.

We asked for an explanation from Deborah Davis, Director of Transportation Services for Twin Rivers Unified School District. She refused to tell us why Lu Mega got paid for “extra duty.” She also refused to tell us why he’s allowed to burn fuel, sitting in a parking lot long before his route starts.

Davis did give us this statement about district policy:

“The district takes complaints very seriously and works diligently to investigate every one of them. Our goal is to solve issues as soon as we can by identifying them and taking action.”

The only rule we could confirm with Mega, is that buses are not supposed to leave the yard early.

“I broke the rules by leaving early. But I’m not getting paid. It’s my own time, simple as that,” Mega said.

Broken rules in a broke school district. Twin Rivers is a school district that’s laid-off 296 people in the last three years, and sent out more than 100 provisional pink slips to workers in the same month that Mega made more than $1,200 in overtime.

So in the end, who is it that’s being taken for a ride?

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5 comments

  • Daver114

    You know what was a bigger waste of money? Fox40 paying Ben Deci to stalk this bus driver for a week.

  • wydell555

    So you did your homework huh? haven' you ever heard of a split shift? You have to be one dumb reporter. You find fault with a driver resting OFF THE CLOCK!!! so that he's fresh to take the students in his charge safely home. You have no concept of of how a transportation dept. works. Nor do you want to know because the routine day in and out that gets your children to and from school is not sensational enough. You should be ashamed of your self. You don't have the guts to do real homework.

  • crtsrow

    Here here to Fox 40 for investigating this obvious misuse of taxpayers dollars. I personally witness abuse of our dollars on a daily basis. I work for a private industry business that would not tolerate this sort of behavior to pad your pay check. I would be fired in an instant. Its to bad that your reporting will most likely not lead to any punishment for the bus driver nor the school district that obviously knows this is happening. I only wonder how many other drivers/employees of this and other districts take advantage of our money. No I really don't wonder, we the taxpaying public know whats happening. I know for a fact that these civil servant employee couldn't work a single day in the private industry sector, thus the reason there civil servants! Of course the negative comments already posted on this subject are employees of the district in question. Don't ask how I know for I will not reveal my sources.

  • crtsrow

    Oh by the way, to the one commenting about the driver being off the clock that is false. When you are in possession of a company vehicle you are responsible for said vehicle, therefore you have to be on the clock. Lets say the bus with the engine running just happens to pop in to gear, run someone over, hit another parked car or plow through a building, then the police come out to investigate, what would the driver responsible for the bus tell the police? Would he or she say, oh officer I'm not responsible for the damage this bus just caused, I'm off the clock. What if the bus driver got injured? I guess he or she wouldn't be covered under workmen's comp, there off the clock. Your statement is bogus and you know that driver was on the clock!!!!!

  • mmgrandma

    I used to work at Twin Rivers as a bus driver, and this report is spot on! What you don't know? Drivers expected to show up for work when school is out to sit in the break room and do nothing all day. When I worked there, I was constantly asking why we were expected to sit there when there were no children in school and the schools there are closing left and right. Twin Rivers needs to call in and have their transportation turned over to a contract company that pay their drivers for what they do, when they do it. The kids should be the most important thing, and they aren't.