Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank Police and Fire Headquarters
A death in the Burbank city jail
More strange events in Burbank. First, over the weekend, an inmate reportedly was found hanging in his jail cell. It was reported on Jim Carlile’s blog and then on The Burbank Leader website that 60-year-old John Alfred Flores’ body was discovered on Easter.
Flores, a domestic violence suspect, was jailed after an incident Sunday morning. Early reports are calling it a suicide. The Los Angeles Coroner will release the official cause of death after its investigation.
I went looking for a press release about the inmate death on the Burbank city website, but couldn’t find one as of Tuesday morning. Gee, what’s with that? It’s not like a death in a Burbank jail cell is routine or business as usual.
Suspicious bus accident prompts investigation by city officials
Add another probe to the list of investigations going on in Burbank. Last month on March 20, it was first reported here about talk around town, particularly among city employees, about a strange bus accident in Burbank involving a city bus and a bunch of school children.
The accident happened back on January 15, 2010 at Olive Avenue and Orchard Drive. It was a minor collision between a bus and another vehicle. No injuries. The thing that sparked the talk is that the bus was apparently a regular city bus, not one designated to carry school children. From what I heard, the California Highway Patrol, which handles all school bus accidents, refused to touch this one because of the type of bus involved. So is this some kind of cost cutting measure by the city that’s putting children’s lives at risk?
I asked the City Manager Mike Flad about this accident and he told me to contact Interim Community Development Director, Greg Herrmann. This is where it really gets interesting. I sent Herrmann an e-mail on March 30, 2010, asking about the bus accident.
Dear Greg Herrmann,
I have some questions about a traffic accident involving a Burbank city bus. City Manager Mike Flad recommended I contact you. The accident occurred on January 15, 2010 at Olive Avenue and Orchard Drive. There were 21 school children on that bus who were picked up earlier at Emerson Elementary and Jordan Middle School. I am told this was not proper school bus, not a “Got Wheels” bus, not a youth bus, and not a pupil activity bus. That is the reason the California Highway Patrol, called to the scene, refused to write-up the collision. I understand all accidents involving school buses are handled by the CHP.
The driver, Duane Beekman, was not licensed to drive a school bus. First, why was a regular Burbank transit bus being used to carry school children? How often is this happening in the city of Burbank? Are parents aware that their children are riding on a bus that does not qualify as a school bus?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Greg Herrmann’s e-mail response on March 31, 2010:
My information on this incident is that it was a Got Wheels! bus operating on its normal fixed route, which circles through the city stopping at fixed stops like libraries, parks and recreation facilities and other after-school and weekend destinations. While it may in fact have picked up a number of kids at the fixed stops near Emerson and Jordon, it was not a “school bus” in the sense that it collected the riders at the schools and delivered them at their residence. The Got Wheels! system operates the same as any other public transit bus, except that it is only available to youth whose parents have pre-registered for the service.
You ask below why a regular Burbank transit bus is being used to carry schoolchildren? Again, my understanding is that it was a Got Wheels! bus that was being used, which is our normal operating vehicle for this youth-dedicated route. The Got Wheels! buses are the same basic vehicle that is used for the Senior & Disabled service, except that they have the Got Wheels! insignia in addition to the BurbankBus designation that all City transit vehicles display.
I hope that this information adequately responds to your questions. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.
Community Development Department
City of Burbank
Since Herrmann’s information contradicted what I had heard, I sent a second e-mail on March 31, 2010:
So I have to ask you again, if this was indeed a regular Burbank bus being used to transport children?
I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
I have referred your interpretation of the incident to our City Attorney office for a legal opinion. I have also suggested that they investigate how a confidential police report was made available to the public.
Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove –Burbank City Hall
Herrmann’s second response is one we’ve seen all too much of lately by Burbank city officials. It’s the “circle the wagons and go on the attack” reaction, rather than dealing with a problem or situation. Where is the concern for the community, specifically the children? I haven’t seen the police report on the accident, but it must really contain some damaging details to prompt the city officials to try to track down and “punish” those who were concerned enough to talk about it.
By the way, according to what I’ve heard, the Burbank City Attorney’s Office has been aware of this accident for some time.