DES MOINES, Iowa — Officials in Iowa are warning school districts that anyone who falsifies state-mandated school bus repairs is more likely to face criminal charges than in years past due to the state’s new reinspection process, the Des Moines Register reports.
The warnings come after the arrests of two district transportation officials who allegedly lied to the state that problems with buses in their fleets had been repaired.
In one of the cases, Douglas Anthony Wessling resigned as the transportation director of Galva-Holstein Community School District after state inspectors were notified by a driver at the district that at least one bus was still being used, despite a state inspection that cited that a service door with broken glass had gone unrepaired past the 30 days granted by the state, Iowa Department of Education spokeswoman Staci Hupp told the news outlet.
The broken glass restricted vision, according to Max Christensen, Iowa’s state pupil transportation director.
“It’s ridiculous,” Christensen told the Des Moines Register. “Here it was just a cracked window and the man lost his job over it, and who knows what’s going to happen to him legally and his reputation.”
Upon further inspection, state officials found two other buses that had issues that had not been repaired, despite Wessling notifying the state otherwise. He was arrested on three counts of tampering with records, which is an aggravated misdemeanor.
Dave Kwikkel, superintendent of Galva-Holstein Community School District, said the situation should serve as a warning to other districts.
In an earlier case, former Colfax-Mingo Community School District Transportation Director Dennis Gibson was arrested on five counts of felonious misconduct in office, which are Class D felonies. Gibson, who resigned shortly after the discovery, received two years’ probation and a $750 fine for one of the charges. The other four were dismissed, according to the Des Moines Register.
This news comes in the wake of changes made in Iowa for its school bus inspection program. In June, the state’s school bus inspection fee increased from $28 to $40 per vehicle, which enabled the Iowa Department of Education’s transportation office to hire a third school bus inspector, Tom Simpson.
Officials said in September that with the addition of Simpson, the Department of Education will now be able to do call-back inspections on vehicles with serious deficiencies in an effort to ensure that proper repairs are being completed in a timely manner.