‘Ghost’ School Buses in Chicago?


CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago Public Schools fired an administrator for blowing the whistle on “ghost” school buses that cost taxpayers millions of dollars, the former transportation director claims in court.
     Jeffrey Hubert sued Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday in Cook County Court.
     After being hired in January 2013 as a director of student transportation services and a director of contract management, Hubert says, he “discovered numerous improper and illegal activities.”
     “For example, Hubert discovered that the school bus vendors that CPS contracted with were colluding in their bidding contracts amongst themselves and with CPS,” inflating the number of buses running, and the number of children who were supposedly riding them, according to the complaint.
     “The school bus vendors, with the knowledge of CPS, were purposely disabling the GPS and video camera systems of the buses, and CPS refused to enforce its right pursuant to the contracts with the bus vendors, costing CPS millions of dollars,” the complaint states.
     Hubert says that 20 percent of CPS bus routes could not be confirmed by GPS, but the school district approved payment anyway.
     “The vendors colluded to inflate their bid prices by millions of dollars in anticipation of potentially having to pay the liquidated damages,” according to the complaint. “Hubert attempted to enforce the liquidated damages provisions in the vendors’ contracts, which would have led to the assessment of substantial penalties for these infractions – potentially millions of dollars – against the vendors. Hubert was opposed in his attempts not only by the vendors, but also by [Paul] Osland and others at the CPS who prevented Hubert from enforcing the liquidated damages provisions.”
     Osland, Hubert’s director supervisor, was the school district’s executive director of student transportation and a member of the team implementing a request for proposals for new contracts with school bus vendors in 2013, according to the lawsuit. Osland is not a party to the complaint.
     Hubert claims that the bus vendors “colluded on the bidding process in order to synchronize their bids to the detriment of CPS” and that the collusion and ghost riders cost the district millions of dollars.
     In addition, he says, the vendors violated their contracts because the school buses were on time on 60 percent of the time. “These late buses had dramatic and negative impact on the students who relied on the buses due to the disruption and delay of the start times of thousands of classrooms, adding up to millions of instructional hours being lost,” he says in the complaint.
     Hubert says he reported it all to the Chicago Public Schools Inspector General, to the Department of Justice and the FBI, and that the school district fired him in retaliation in February 2015.
     He seeks reinstatement, lost wages, damages for retaliatory discharge and whistleblower violations, plus costs of suit.
     He is represented by Michael J. Scotti III with Roetzel & Andress.

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