Ethical Questions Raised About San Marcos Bus Ticket Process

Residents are raising questions about a company that tickets San Marcos drivers who are recorded on camera illegally passing school buses and also presides over hearings that decide if those tickets stand.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that drivers who want to contest a ruling by the company, called Dallas County Schools, can appeal to go before a municipal judge.

Only three of the 54 tickets that were contested through December of last year went to court.

The drivers say they did not know that a company representative ruled at their hearing, or that a majority of the revenue that is generated from those $300 tickets goes to the company.

"They are making a killing giving out tickets to people randomly. It's extremely unprofessional and unethical behavior," said Marci Garcia, a 68-year-old Kyle resident who lost during her first hearing and then appealed with a municipal judge.

Assistant Superintendent Susan Falvo said that it offers a shortcut for obvious cases to avoid the inconvenience of a trial for the driver and to reduce court costs.

Kathy Hansen, San Marcos school board president, said that she didn't know Dallas County Schools was presiding over the first-level hearings and that she would speak to the superintendent about it. The cities of Dallas and Elgin both contract Dallas County Schools for their school bus cameras, but use their own officials to preside over first-level proceedings.

"I would hope that whoever is doing it with Dallas County Schools is going to be fair and impartial, but I can't guarantee that because I don't know that person," she said.

Dallas County Schools, which started as a school district in 1855 before surrounding independent school districts formed, is a public company that provides technology, instructional media, psychology and other services to districts across Texas.

In 2014, Dallas County Schools purchased the licensing for the cameras used on the school buses. As of Jan. 9, the city and the school district have received about $15, 400 each from the tickets. Dallas County Schools has received about $123,000.

Austin just completed a pilot program with Dallas County Schools to see if it will implement the camera system during the next school year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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