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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

School and police admit mistakes allowed bus driver charged with drunk driving to stay on the job

Tammi Smith was charged with drunk driving in July. She continued driving a school bus until mid-November.

Questions continue over how a school bus driver charged with drunk driving in July was allowed to stay on the job for four months, transporting children to and from school.

As 10TV reported Thursday, police say Tammi Smith tested more than three times the legal limit.

She was suspended Thursday from her job with North Fork Local Schools in Licking County.

A police error allowed her to keep her license and her job. But now the school district is also admitting it was wrong.

Tammi Smith was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated on July 10, after a police officer and witness report her driving erratically and dangerously.

"Drunk," said the witness, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. "Oh yeah. She was hammered."

A Breathalyzer test pegged her at .253, more than three times the legal limit.

She was charged, released to her husband, and given a court date. And then she went back to work driving children for North Fork Local Schools.

Glenn McEntyre: "When somebody tests over the limit, what happens to their license?"
Chief Cameron Dailey: "It gets suspended."

Cameron Dailey is the Utica Chief of Police.

Glenn McEntyre: "The way that license suspension would have happened, there would have had to be a box checked on this report?"
Chief Cameron Dailey: "Correct."
Glenn McEntyre: "That didn't happen."
Chief Cameron Dailey: "Correct...I was the officer. That was my fault."
Glenn McEntyre: "Because that suspension didn't happen- this woman is a school bus driver- she was allowed to continue driving a school bus for several months after this arrest. How do you feel about that?"
Chief Cameron Dailey: "Not comfortable with it."

North Fork Local Schools Superintendent Scott Hartley says had Smith's license been suspended, he would have received an automatic notification.

But since that didn't happen, he says he didn't learn of her arrest until three months later- in October.

"My first reaction was, get her on administrative leave," said Hartley. "But all the advice I had gotten was, until her license is suspended, she becomes uninsurable, or there's a conviction, there wasn't anything that i could do."

But Ohio Law says exactly the opposite.

In the case of a bus driver "arrested, summoned, or indicted" for OVI, "The superintendent...shall suspend that person from all duties that require the care, custody, or control of a child during the pendency of the criminal action."

Scott Hartley: "It looks like that would have been what I could have used to move forward very quickly."
Glenn McEntyre: "But this was not something that you were aware of prior to our conversation?"
Scott Hartley: "Nope. I was never directed to this revised code, no."
Glenn McEntyre: "What do you say about that today?"
Scott Hartley: "I wish I was. And we would have dealt with it at the time. Because this is what I was looking for back in October."
Glenn McEntyre: "And now it appears there was some error on the part of the people advising you as well."
Scott Hartley: "Right. This whole thing is a comedy of errors."
Glenn McEntyre: "How concerning is that when we're talking about such a potentially serious matter?"
Scott Hartley: "It's very concerning. Because of the simple fact of school safety, kids and their safety in vehicles. We pride ourselves on making sure kids are safe here. And when these things occur, we want to make sure that we are doing what we have to do, to ensure that safety."

Thursday the Ohio Department of Education suspended the driving certification for Tammi Smith, and North Fork Schools placed her on unpaid leave pending the outcome of her legal case. Smith declined comment.