Call comes on drastic dip in senior ridership numbers

Last updated: July 22. 2013 11:50PM - 4137 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6388

Luzerne County Councilman Edward Brominski has asked the state Attorney General's Office to investigate a drastic decline in county Transportation Authority senior citizen bus rider counts.
Luzerne County Councilman Edward Brominski has asked the state Attorney General's Office to investigate a drastic decline in county Transportation Authority senior citizen bus rider counts.
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Luzerne County Councilman Edward Brominski said he has asked the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate his report of “ghost riders” at the county transportation authority.

Brominski publicly disclosed last July that some former authority board members and bus drivers told him drivers were ordered to pad senior citizen bus rider counts to boost state reimbursement by hitting a counter button extra times.

The councilman points to a significant decline in senior riders since he exposed the matter. Newly released figures show there were 19,675 senior riders this June, compared to 71,754 in June 2012, he said.

“That’s a 52,000 difference. How does that happen?” Brominski said Monday.

Brominski told state Attorney General Kathleen Kane the authority has repeatedly denied the numbers were purposefully inflated.

“Any assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated as I seem to be fighting this battle alone, and you are the only person of ‘grit’ that I feel will assist me,” Brominski wrote.

Attorney General spokesman Dennis Fisher said the office does not confirm or deny investigations.

Authority Executive Director Stanley Strelish said in May an internal investigation revealed some bus drivers were improperly counting senior citizen passengers as they both boarded and got off buses, causing inaccurate counts.

However, Strelish has repeatedly and vehemently denied Brominski’s assertion that he instructed drivers to over-count.

Strelish said Monday he initiated the acquisition of an automated rider counting system more than two years ago — long before the issue was raised by Brominski — because he wanted to ensure accurate passenger logging. That system should be operational in two months, and all drivers have been trained on the proper counting of passengers, he said.

Strelish said he accepts responsibility if past driver training was insufficient but said investigators will find no attempts to fudge numbers or other wrongdoing on his part.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and state Office of Inspector General launched investigations in response to media reports on the matter. PennDOT has found no wrongdoing, but an investigation continues.

“Anyone is welcome to come in and look at what they want — the FBI, the CIA. This place is wide open to anyone,” Strelish said.

He said he believes attacks against him originated with people who don’t support efficiencies and procedures he has implemented. He said he once tried to eliminate an unneeded maintenance position when someone retired, and a former board member pushed to keep the position and hire his relative.

He declined to name the board member, but said the man already had two brothers-in-law and a son working at the authority at that time.

“I guess this is just one of the reasons why I’m not liked. I’m trying my best to sit back and take the beating, but it’s getting so old,” Strelish said. “I have turned this place around completely.”

Brominski also has been publicly questioning if an authority personnel committee approved Strelish’s hiring and compensation without a vote of the full authority board at a public meeting. He said the authority has not responded to the county’s request for documentation.

Strelish said his hiring and pay were publicly approved after a full authority vote as required, and he said he has the meeting minutes to prove it.

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