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Drug Test Leads to Bus Driver’s Suspension After Studio City Crash

Times Staff Writer

The driver of a Rapid Transit District bus that struck a stationary RTD bus in Studio City on Friday, injuring 26 passengers, has been suspended because tests found a trace of marijuana in his urine, the RTD announced Monday.

It was the third accident in less than a month involving a bus driver who tested positive for drug use, and the second involving the RTD.

The driver, Clarence Brown, 31, of Panorama City, has been suspended from driving until he faces a disciplinary hearing Thursday, said RTD spokesman Mike Barnes.

The hearing will be held in private, attended only by a supervisor and a union representative. The hearing could lead to dismissal or suspension, Barnes said, but the RTD’s policy “at this point, is not automatic suspension for marijuana use. It is automatic for hard drugs, like cocaine, but they often get a second chance with marijuana, perhaps getting referred to an employee assistance program for counseling.”

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32 Employees Dismissed

Since Dec. 1, the RTD has dismissed 32 employees, “the vast majority of them drivers,” for use of hard drugs, Barnes said.

The RTD said earlier that traces of cocaine were found in urine tests on Vivian Harris, the driver of an RTD bus that collided with another in downtown Los Angeles on May 12, injuring 23. Harris was dismissed and charged with driving under the influence of a drug. She pleaded not guilty in Municipal Court.

Also on Monday, RTD management and the union representing drivers announced that they have scheduled meetings this week to examine district drug-testing policies.

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Earl Clark, United Transportation Union general manager, said the meetings would begin Wednesday or Thursday at the urging of Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who oversees the RTD.

“We will take a look at the existing drug policy for the district and see if there are areas which can be strengthened or broadened,” Clark said.

Minibus Mishap Blamed on Drug Use

Another recent bus mishap blamed on drug use involved the driver of an Alamo Rent-a-Car minibus who lost control at Los Angeles International Airport on May 14 and struck 15 other vehicles, injuring 24 people, police said. The driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of a drug.

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No charges had been brought against Brown, said Detective Frank Rodriguez, who is in charge of the accident follow-up unit of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic Bureau. Officers who investigated the crash Friday found no evidence that Brown or the other RTD driver were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he said.

“A trace may not be sufficient” evidence to bring charges of driving under the influence, he said, because small amounts of marijuana can appear in such tests months after it was consumed.

Drug Test Results Subpoenaed

He said he would decide after reviewing the RTD test results whether to refer the case to the city attorney’s office to consider prosecution. Barnes said it is RTD policy to require that drug test results be subpoenaed before they are turned over to police.

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Brown’s bus struck the rear of another RTD bus, which had stopped on Ventura Boulevard at Carpenter Avenue. The crash shattered the windshield of Brown’s bus and the rear window of the other.

There were no serious injuries. Most passengers were treated at the scene. Eleven who complained of neck and back pains were treated at two hospitals and released that day.


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