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Two Federal Lawsuits Filed Against CityLift

CityLink / CityLift

Two federal lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Peoria after two teenagers with special needs were reportedly dropped off at the wrong location by the CityLift transit service in separate incidents last month.

WCBU previously reported on one of the incidents, wherein a 13-year-old boy with autism was dropped off at a Morton gas station instead of his Peoria home following summer camp on June 18.

The teenager was supposed to be home by 4 p.m., but was instead found hours later wandering a county road near Morton by a Good Samaritan, about 4 miles from where he was dropped off. The teenager was returned home to his family around 7 p.m. that evening.

One of the conditions of CityLift's program is to only release the teenager to a family member to ensure his safety. CityLift contracts with MV Transportation of California for bus driving services. Bus driver Andre Walker said he had dropped the 13-year-old off at his Peoria home and watched him walk inside. 

Walker was arrested on June 20 by the Peoria Police Department on a charge of endangering the life or health of a child. That case has not proceeded into Peoria County Circuit Court at this time. It is unclear if Walker is still employed with MV Transportation. 

A second lawsuit alleges a similar, previously undisclosed incident on June 4. A 15-year-old special needs teenager was getting ready to attend the same summer camp in Peoria put on by the Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association.

Instead of taking the teen to the summer camp, a CityLift driver instead dropped him off at the Living Waters Church, 7229 N. Knoxville around 7:30 a.m. The church was not located near the summer camp. The 15-year-old waited two hours before calling his mom and asking where the other kids were, the lawsuit alleges. His mother then left work to pick him up. 

A condition of the 15-year-old's ridership stipulated he would only be released to employees of the summer camp for his safety. It is unclear which MV Transportation employee was driving the CityLift bus on June 4. 

The law firm of Hale & Monico is representing the plaintiffs in both cases. They allege the rights of both teenagers under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated and are suing for damages. The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial. 

“It just raises a whole host of questions about where are they getting these drivers, what kind of training are they giving them, what kind of procedures are in place to make sure that these kids are getting to where they’re supposed to go?” asked Hale. 

MV Transportation and the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District are listed as defendants in both lawsuits. GPMTD declined comment. MV Transportation has not replied to our request for comment. 

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.