What does it take to get fired from Muni?

I-Team exposé

We had to sue the city and Muni to get access to surveillance videos from the busses. One of the most stirring images from Thursday's report was of a lady in a wheelchair trying to board a bus, but the driver just pulls away. And it just makes you wonder, what does it take to get fired from Muni?

"No, it was outrageous. No one should ever be treated like that," says San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.

For Michela Alioto-Pier, it's not just about her job as San Francisco supervisor, it's personal.

"As a person with a disability, I was really saddened and frustrated. As a supervisor, I was a little ashamed that we're not doing a better job," says Alioto-Pier.

Alioto-Pier's talking about Anthony Jones, number two on the list of Muni bus drivers with the most complaints.

"He might be number two. I can't believe there's a number one, I thought that he would be number one," says disabled Muni rider Florence Hough.

Florence Hough has relied on Muni since a drunk driver crashed into her parked car and paralyzed her four years ago. She had her first encounter with Anthony Jones in June of 2006 when. He seems annoyed at having to lower the wheelchair ramp, saying I don't know what the heck they let you guys on here for anyhow." Hough doesn't appreciate the comment and says, "Y'all hear that? The driver said I ain't got no rights. Wait till I call Muni." A few minutes later, Jones tells Hough to get off the bus, and when she refuses, he puts it out of service. Hough calls Muni.

"He says from now on when I get on his bus, he will be sure not to pick me up. He says you damn wheelchairs get on my nerves," says Hough.

Four months later, Hough is waiting at the curb with her caregiver when Jones' bus pulls up again.

"The doors open, he looked at me, and I looked up at him. He closed the doors and took off with both of us standing there," says Hough.

That's also caught on video.

Jones: "Catch the next bus."

Hough: "Pardon me?"

Jones: "Catch the next one."

Hough: "Why?"

Jones: "I told you to."

Disability advocate, Marilyn Golden, says it's a clear violation of federal civil rights law under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.

"That's a perfect example of what the ADA means by harassment and retaliation and what the ADA intends to make illegal," says Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

And, she says, Muni is responsible.

"It's the transit agency's responsibility, such as Muni, to keep its employees from creating a harassing environment," says Hough.

Irwin Lum is president of the bus drivers' union.

"The union doesn't condone rude behavior, that's you know... discriminates or treats people different. I think the thing is there's a process to be followed by both management and the union," says Lum.

Muni boss Nat Ford says drivers such as Jones do get disciplined.

"If they're found to be performing not up to standard, we immediately take corrective action, do an investigation, and if the results are that they're at fault, then we take corrective action, and that may be in the form of discipline or training," says Nat Ford, Muni's executive director.

Florence Hough did file a complaint, Muni held a hearing and found the complaint to be valid, but Jones is still on the job. Muni won't tell us what discipline he received, if any, claiming it's a personnel issue.

"We need to know, we need to know," says Tatiana Kostanian, a member of the mayor's disability council.

Kostanian says the public has the right to know if drivers are getting proper discipline.

"To hide this within the files of the municipal railway system is not serving the public," says Kostanian.

Florence Hough says drivers need to be aware of the pain they can cause.

"It's the devastation that's left after the bus drives off. You know, you're standing there feeling some kind of way and you, you know what did I do? You know what I mean?" says Hough.

Supervisor Alioto-Pier wants answers. She had her staff call Nat Ford and Irwin Lum for a meeting early next week. We'll keep track of what happens.

We've posted the complete, uncut surveillance video from Florence Hough's case in our I-Team blog here.

You can also read more about our efforts to obtain Muni videos and watch uncut surveillance video from this story in the I-Team blog here. (We've also posted all of our uncut video in the media player above)

Stay tuned throughout the month of February for more stories from Muni's video vault.

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