Broward County audit critical of airport shuttle service involved in fatal crash

Jun. 23--The company that provides airport transit services keeps poor maintenance records and may have overcharged taxpayers, in addition to breaking state safety laws, county auditors concluded in a report this week. Broward County...


Jun. 23--The company that provides airport transit services keeps poor maintenance records and may have overcharged taxpayers, in addition to breaking state safety laws, county auditors concluded in a report this week.

Broward County officials have been scrutinizing their contract with ShuttlePort, an Illinois-based private company that runs bus services at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, ever since a Feb. 18 head-on crash between two airport buses that killed two people and injured eight.

That night, Jackson Aristide, 55, was driving his bus on the wrong side of an airport road when it collided with another bus driven by George Pitter, 64, the Broward Sheriff's Office said. Pitter and a passenger, Jameer Fyzool, 71, died in the collision.

The crash led to the discovery of several problems at ShuttlePort, including a failure to check drivers' backgrounds. Several people were able to drive buses despite driving records that should have disqualified them.

And the company was fined in May for failing to meet state laws that require regular drug and alcohol testing of employees.

County auditors uncovered several other issues:

--ShuttlePort failed to properly document maintenance and repairs, leading to possible overcharges.

--There is a $20,424 maintenance charge that can't be accounted for.

--One person is in charge of all aspects of payroll, leaving the company vulnerable to errors and wrongdoing.

--ShuttlePort doesn't have an inventory of the tires it maintains.

--The Broward County Aviation Department has done a lax job of reviewing ShuttlePort invoices.

ShuttlePort officials could not be reached for comment Friday. The county aviation department, in a written response to the audit, generally agreed with the finding and said it was trying to gather the resources to improve invoice oversight.

In May, the Florida Department of Transportation fined the company $5,000, the maximum allowed, for the violations of state safety laws. Aristide was cited for failing to maintain a single lane. ShuttlePort has said that they reassigned or fired 34 drivers whose driving records violated the county contract. Aristide has since been fired.

The families of Pitter and Fyzool have retained Boca Raton attorney Carlos Bodden. Bodden on Friday said he was still investigating the crash.

The $64 million airport transit contract is up for renewal in October. The county commission is scheduled to review the audit on Tuesday.

Brian Haas can be reached at bhaas@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4597.

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