Private investigators monitor Dayton RTA staff on sick leave, CEO says

RTA officials and union are in contract negotiations and a strike date has been set.

Greater Dayton RTA last month used private investigators to monitor employees alleged to be faking illness, according to interviews with transit authority executives and union leaders.

RTA said the practice is necessary to protect taxpayer dollars from employees who are intentionally abusing their paid sick days, especially on Mondays and Fridays. Labor officials allege the investigations targeted union employees ahead of a strike its members have voted to begin Jan. 9 if a new contract for drivers and mechanics is not reached.

Transit officials argue the union is bringing up the issue as a distraction ahead of the strike. Both parties acknowledge a new absenteeism policy is already agreed upon in a new contract.

“Yes, we use surveillance at times,” said RTA chief executive Mark Donaghy. “We use every tool in the tool kit. If we think someone is feigning illness, we are very aggressive with that.”

Using Ohio’s public records law, the Dayton Daily News asked RTA to provide invoices for the third-party surveillance. RTA responded with three December invoices from Columbus-based Infoquest LTD totaling $1,150 for “surveillance.” RTA redacted — or blacked out — the names of the employees, but did not immediately provide the newspaper with legal justification for the redaction.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1385 President Glenn Salyer said he is aware of three employees dismissed in December — wrongfully, he said — under the practice he alleges bus executives recently disclosed.

“They’ve had investigators out following people who would call in and say they were not able to come to work, but 8 or 9 hours later they would go and follow them and say, ‘he called in sick but here he is going to the store,’” Salyer said. “I asked them, ‘I don’t think you’re a doctor, so how can you make that analysis over videotape?’”

Donaghy said he didn’t know how many employees had been dismissed, but said the practice is not secret. He disagreed with Salyer’s assertion the practice is newly-established.

“Glen is either completely ignorant or has stated an absolute lie,” Donaghy said, noting the agency has used surveillance for as long as there’s been equipment to do so. “He knows we’ve been doing this a long time. The only thing new is in the last several months attendance has been low here.”

Salyer said the current sick leave policy is not negotiated with the union, but employees who call in sick more than 15 times in six months are terminated.

Salyer and Donaghy are tasked with negotiating a new contract between RTA and ATU over the next few days. If a contract is not reached by midnight Monday, more than 400 ATU drivers and mechanics will strike. The parties have acknowledged pay increases, back pay and insurance costs are disputed.

NewsCenter 7’s John Bedell contributed to this report.

RTA constructs fencing around downtown garage

Greater Dayton RTA began securing assets Tuesday ahead of a proposed Jan. 9 strike, most visibly constructing fencing around the regional transit authority’s Longworth Street garage.

RTA said the fencing is to protect the property and buses from vandalism in the event a collective bargaining agreement is not reached.

A “strike plan” obtained by the newspaper shows RTA executives will be among the authority’s backup drivers for essential operations during the strike.

Chief Operations Officer Jim Napier, Chief Customer & Business Development Officer Brandon Policicchio and Chief Performance Officer Gene Rhodes are among the individuals on a “qualified operators list” of employees who may be required to drive a bus during the strike.

The Dayton Daily News obtained the document using Ohio public records law. Much of the document, including the list of qualified operators, was redacted — or blacked out — by the transit authority without explanation. Using a computer program called an optical character reader, the news organizations were able to access and read the information blacked-out by RTA.

Other information blacked out by RTA but accessed by the newspaper includes a list of third-party companies the bus authority could use to run Project Mobility. The companies include All USA Taxi, Dayton Fast Cab and Choices in Community Living.

Staff Writers Kyle Nagel and Will Garbe contributed reporting.

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