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Safety issues and Councilman’s behavior are detailed in bus-bicycle incident investigation
Councilman Mike Grady is portrayed as an angry cyclist with a faulty memory, engaged in a road rage incident, in a lengthy investigation about a May 11, 2010, incident with a school bus driver.
A 22-page report by an attorney for the Mercer Island School District along with several additional pages of testimony, obtained by the Mercer Island Reporter, reveals details of the event previously not made public, including details about the Councilman’s profanity and behavior. Grady said that a bad pass and sudden turn by the bus nearly caused him to have a serious or even fatal accident.
The report finds that the bus driver, John Lamont, could have taken more care in passing Grady and spells out the need for more attention to cyclist safety along West Mercer Way. However, it was the aftermath of the incident along West Mercer Way that was primary cause for the investigation.
Written observations in the report, from witnesses at the school, including teachers, describe Grady, a public official, in a stunning display, enraged by the close call between the bus and his bicycle. Witnesses verify Grady’s angry response, the use of profanity and perceived threats to the driver.
The report also asserts Grady repeatedly changed his version of the incident afterward.
The report’s conclusions state that if another incident involving the school district and Grady occurs, the district should consider issuing a notice of trespass to Grady, banning him from school grounds.
The report delves into the well-publicized incident at West Mercer Elementary School when Grady, riding on a bicycle, felt he was endangered by a school bus that pulled in front of him and quickly made a left-hand turn into a school parking lot. The Councilman then followed the bus onto school grounds and confronted the driver.
Grady later apologized to Lamont, the school district and West Mercer students.
However, Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano subsequently commissioned the report, conducted by the Seattle law firm of Dionne & Rorick. The report, paid for with public money, entitled “Transportation Investigation,” offers recommendations to the district and supporting documents.
Plano said he had two reasons to initiate the investigation. “Since it was a school district bus driver, I wanted to find out if and how my employee was at fault and take corrective action. I also want to protect my employees from being mistreated,” he said. “A person can have an issue with a school employee but not one that is conducted with rage and profanity.”
There were two primary questions of fact to be addressed: Was the school bus driver acting in a reckless manner when he pulled in front of Grady, then suddenly turned? Next, what did Grady say and do when he followed the bus onto school grounds and confronted the driver?
The investigator, Lance Andree, worked with Grady, Lamont and others to reconstruct the bus-bicycle encounter along West Mercer Way.
The investigation found that the evidence did “not support a finding of reckless or negligent driving,” but reinforces legitimate concerns about bus-bike incidents on West Mercer. It also concluded the school bus driver could have made the turn with greater leeway for the cyclist. The report also recommends to the district that drivers receive additional training in using the West Mercer Island route.
Plano said he would require mandatory driver training regarding passing cyclists on Island roadways. He also pledged to work with Island police to monitor school bus speeds.
Witnesses who heard the confrontation between the City Councilman and the bus driver on the West Mercer campus included a school custodian, another bus driver and a pair of teachers inside a school room with the door open to the outside. Also within earshot were 50 elementary students in that classroom practicing for a school play.
“I stand by my comments in the file and those from the teachers at West Mercer Elementary. They are accurate.” Grady said. “Finally, there isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I had that day over.”
In the end, the district report uses strong language to describe Councilman Grady’s version of events, including his claim of a “near death experience.” The report states:
“Further, as set forth below, Grady’s accounts of other aspects of this incident were clearly exaggerated in several respects, including his characterizations of (the bus driver’s) behavior after the (bus) pass, which continued to evolve. …Again, this does not mean the pass should have been executed at that location or that Grady had no legitimate right to complain, but it does call into serious question whether Grady was truly as close to his own demise as he now claims.”
The cost to the school district for the investigation and report was $6,142.
Editor’s note: Mary L. Grady is not related to Councilman Grady.
See the original story here: Councilman apologizes | Talks with elementary students about angry confrontation with bus driver on May 11. Grady’s letter to the community can be found in the Letters category.