Hiring of school bus drivers faces study Drunken-driving arrest spurs review

April 14, 1997|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

Anne Arundel County school administrators will review procedures for hiring bus drivers in the wake of the arrest on charges of drunken driving of a driver who allegedly had a hit-and-run accident Friday and left two empty malt liquor bottles aboard the bus.

"It's an unforgivable incident," said Winship Wheatley, supervisor of transportation for the county schools. "I think parents should be concerned, and we are, too."

But Wheatley said a preliminary review of the driving record of Robert Edward Manokey, which includes a 1995 violation and a temporary license suspension, turned up nothing that would automatically have disqualified him.

"There's nothing in the record that jumps out at you," Wheatley said. "We'll take a closer look to see what happened in this case. And we'll take another look at our procedures to see if there's anything we could do better."

Manokey, 34, was being held yesterday at Anne Arundel County Detention Center in lieu of $2,500 bail, a jail officer said.

Manokey, who had been driving a school bus since January, was arrested Friday outside Mills-Parole Elementary School, where he had just picked up a load of children for the ride home.

Earlier the same afternoon, Manokey had picked up students at Annapolis High School, West Annapolis Elementary and Germantown Elementary, apparently delivering them to their stops without incident, Wheatley said.

But at some point, with no riders aboard, Manokey allegedly sideswiped a 1979 Chrysler LeBaron parked on Washington Street, knocking it onto the sidewalk and leaving telltale yellow DTC paint, police said.

According to court and state Motor Vehicle Administration records, Manokey, of the 200 block of Farragut Court, was cited in September 1995, for failing to obey a traffic signal, as well as for failing to provide his license and registration on demand. He was assessed one point for the violation.

Last year, his license was suspended for two months after he failed to appear for a court hearing, according to MVA records.

In addition, in 1991, Manokey was found guilty in Baltimore of theft and malicious destruction of property, receiving a suspended sentence, according to court records.

Wheatley said the MVA record would not have disqualified Manokey from working as a school bus driver. State regulations require that a driver have not more than two points on his record, he said. Arundel's certification process includes a physical examination, drug and alcohol testing and a driving record review.

"There's nothing in Manokey's record that would indicate a drinking or driving problem," Wheatley said. Criminal records are not routinely checked, he said.

After a bystander on Washington Street called police to report that she had seen a school bus leaving the scene of an accident, police went to the nearby headquarters of Lonergan's Charter Service on Boucher Avenue, Annapolis police said.

A manager there told them one bus had not returned from its afternoon route, so the manager contacted the driver by radio. Police overheard the driver's "slow and hesitant speech" and tracked the bus down at Mills-Parole, police said.

The students were removed from the bus. Manokey refused to take a sobriety test and walked away from officers when told he was under arrest, police said. He was subdued by police and they charged him with leaving the scene of an accident and resisting arrest, in addition to driving while intoxicated.

Manokey was one of eight county school bus drivers employed by Lonergan's, which is one of about 50 contractors providing transportation for county students. Attempts to reach officials of Lonergan's were unsuccessful last night.

Wheatley emphasized how unusual the incident was, saying it was the first such arrest of a driver on the job he could recall in 22 years with the school system.

"I've got 808 people on our rosters as drivers and bus attendants," he said. "If these allegations are true, I hope this one bad apple doesn't reflect on all the rest of our drivers."

Pub Date: 4/14/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.