RTD Says Driver Took His Work Home : His Private Charter Bus Is Impounded, Checked for Stolen Parts

Times Staff Writers

A Rapid Transit District bus driver whose private charter bus was equipped with RTD parts has been arrested on suspicion of grand theft, police said Wednesday.

RTD Police Chief James Burgess said that as a result of a two-month undercover investigation, the driver, Vernon Glenn Holloway, 45, an 11-year RTD veteran, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and his charter bus was impounded so that authorities could thoroughly inspect it for stolen parts.

An RTD maintenance supervisor, Franklin Jack, also was sent home from work but continues to be paid pending an administrative hearing. Burgess declined to discuss details of Jack's alleged involvement. Both Holloway and Jack were assigned to the district's Glendale division, officials said.

An off-duty RTD mechanic is believed to have worked on Holloway's bus, Burgess said, but he is not currently a suspect in the case.

However, Burgess said the investigation, which was prompted by a tip from an RTD employee, is continuing and additional arrests could be made.

The police chief said Holloway is one of a number of RTD drivers who operate or work for charter bus services in their off duty hours. In addition, mechanics frequently moonlight on outside repair jobs and Burgess acknowledged that "a certain amount of (RTD) parts definitely are interchangeable" with other buses and trucks. Burgess stressed, however, that no employee would be investigated simply for holding an outside job.

Holloway and Jack could not be reached for comment.

However, Holloway's brother-in-law, Sylvester Lacy, said the RTD driver was "a real Christian young man. As far as crooked stuff, I don't think he would do it."

Holloway's arrest come in the wake of an announcement by RTD officials that the district is searching for about $384,000 worth of parts that had been listed as being in a "warehouse" that existed only in RTD computers. The district wrote off as lost another $191,000 in parts and said another $425,000 in missing parts had been mistakenly listed as being in the non-existent warehouse.

District officials said that the "phantom warehouse" was used as an accounting device where they could list parts that employees were unable to locate either because they were misplaced, lost or stolen.

But RTD officials said Wednesday that it was too soon to say whether the parts found on Holloway's bus were among those listed as being in the controversial phantom warehouse.

Holloway's bus was being held at an RTD storage yard. Burgess said a preliminary inspection of the bus, conducted with Holloway's permission, turned up about $1,400 worth of RTD parts. He said he is now determining if a search warrant is needed to go beyond the preliminary inspection authorized by Holloway.

The suspect parts initially identified, including an air-conditioner compressor and fan assembly, came from a stock room at one of the RTD's maintenance divisions.

"We anticipate we'll find some additional (RTD) parts," said Burgess, adding that the identification numbers had been removed from the engine and other parts on the bus.

Computer Tracks Parts

The transit agency uses a sophisticated computer system to keep track of more than $20 million in parts for its 2,771 buses. The system is supposed to trace a part from the time it is purchased until it is installed on a bus.

Burgess said that because identifying marks were removed or changed on some of the impounded bus' parts, it was not immediately known where they were supposed to be in the RTD system.

State records show that Holloway has operated a one-bus charter service know as Holloway Trails since 1982. There are no safety violations immediately apparent on his record, according to the state Public Utilities Commission. Department of Motor Vehicle officials said Holloway had received only one moving violation in the last three years, for making an illegal turn in Nevada.

Stored in Altadena

Holloway stored the bus behind the Altadena Eagles Hall, where manager Clete Schenk said Holloway worked on the bus himself. Members of the fraternal organization had occasionally chartered the bus for outings, including trips to Tijuana and Anaheim, Schenk said.

It is not known how much is stolen annually from RTD's huge system of parts warehouses, but Burgess said there is an ongoing investigation of possible pilferage.

The Times last month revealed that RTD officials had created the phantom warehouse where $1.2 million in missing parts were "stored."

Burgess said now that RTD has begun to clean up the records, his investigators will be concentrating on tracking down the missing parts. "We have an ongoing investigation to determine if any of the items that were missing may have been misappropriated," he said.

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