Taken For a Ride

A trail of audits and an internal investigation suggest there may have been millions of dollars worth of loss and theft at the bus company over the years. Dick Lindgren says he found out the hard way that his bosses didn't want to know.

It has been more than four years since transit police were first assigned to investigate internal theft at the MTC. Since that time, the accusations have flown fast and furious. At this point, very little has been resolved, but if you take an objective scorecard on the situation, you get an idea of who is winning. Allyson Hartle and the other MTC commissioners have had their commission dissolved from beneath them, and the MCTO still does not solicit competitive bids on its legal contracts. Despite a string of damning audits and allegations, the person who has been publicly sanctioned most severely among senior management at MCTO is Paul Wallace, who is on his 15th month away from his job. Last month, the Minnesota state auditor released the latest report on inventory control systems at the bus company, citing a familiar litany of 17 specific weaknesses, including no stockkeepers on duty at the garages and Central Stores on the weekends, inadequately controlled keys, "generally free access to stockrooms," and a variety of problems with the computer system.

Meanwhile, after nearly 30 years in law-enforcement work, Richard Lindgren rolls his 56-year-old body out of bed in the morning and gets ready for his part-time job driving a schoolbus for a district he would rather not identify. "I like kids. And it's challenging in a way, a little different than I thought," he says. "I've got a situation hanging over me so that no other employer will let me get past the front door. This district thought enough of me to give me this job. I am happy about that and I think they are too." Then he chuckles sadly. "At least it's honest work."

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