The Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Committee Personnel Committee decided Thursday to suspend Saracen Landing manager Trudy Redus for two weeks without pay and place her on a 12-month disciplinary probation period after an accident in a city vehicle.
Redus had an accident April 28 in a golf-cart- or mule-style utility vehicle owned by the Parks Department. Her son Trey Redus was also on the vehicle and was injured in the accident.
If in the following year there is another accident or other incident involving Redus, it will be up to department Director Angela Parker’s discretion as to whether she will be fired immediately, the committee concluded.
According to a report by Parker, Redus was instructed after the accident to take a drug test as required by city policy, but failed to do so. Parker also stated in the report that at one point on April 28, Redus said she had already taken the test, although it later turned out that she had not.
According to the city’s drug and alcohol policy manual, an employee who fails to report to testing immediately after being told to do so “will be terminated” because the “city of Pine Bluff has adopted a policy of zero tolerance.”
Redus was not present at the meeting to present her version of the events surrounding the accident. Redus was not in the office Friday and a message left at her home Friday afternoon was not immediately returned.
Trudy Redus is married to Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.
Parks Commissioners Jeffrey Pulliam and Teki Jimenez make up the Personnel Committee. They discussed the matter in a closed-door executive session with Parker for an hour and a half Friday morning.
According to a Pine Bluff Police Department report, Redus was driving east in the Saracen Landing parking lot at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday with Trey in the passenger seat. Redus reached down to pick up something, pulled to the right and struck a light pole in the parking lot. Trey fell out of the vehicle and cut his head, according to the report.
Two Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies — Courtney Kelly and Lafayette Woods Jr. — transported Redus and Trey in Kelly’s patrol car to the Jefferson Regional Medical Center emergency room, according to the report.
The vehicle, a Toro Workman MDX, was one of several new vehicles the department purchased recently with funds from the city tax increase approved by voters in February 2011. Parker said the vehicle cost about $10,000.
According to the police report, it sustained damage that appeared to include a bent front axle and a broken brush guard. Parker had obtained one quote by Friday on a cost estimate for repairing the vehicle: $4,042. Because the amount exceeds a certain threshold, the department will be required to solicit bids for the repair work, so the actual final cost may differ.
Saracen Landing was host to the Harbor City Festival & Cook-off starting at 10 a.m. April 28.
Redus was hired as Saracen Landing manager in September 2010 by the Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Commission, one of the city’s independent commissions. Carl Redus does not have direct supervisory powers over the department, but appoints the commissioners who do and suggests to the City Council how much in sales tax dollars the department should get for its budget.
According to Parker’s report on the incident, she did not witness the accident but spoke to Redus by phone soon afterward when Redus and Trey were at the hospital. Parker reported that she and maintenance supervisor Kevin Smith did a visual inspection of the Workman to assess the damage, and it could not be driven.
The city’s employee handbook drug testing policy states that an employee may be required by a supervisor to take a drug test after an accident, regardless of whether anyone is injured. Elsewhere in the city’s drug and alcohol manual, it states that all involved employees will be tested immediately after an accident if the accident meets one of several criteria, including if “damage to a city-owned or leased vehicle is estimated in good faith by a supervisor to equal or succeed $500 or requires the vehicle to be towed from the scene.”
The policy manual also includes a list of “prohibited conduct” related to drug testing. The list includes refusing to submit to testing, failing to provide adequate breath or urine for the test, engaging in conduct that clearly obstructs the testing process (like providing a contaminated or substituted sample), failing to report to a testing site immediately after being told to do so or refusing to cooperate with the personnel administering the test.
“Consequences of prohibited conduct: The city of Pine Bluff has adopted a policy of zero tolerance if an employee engages in prohibited conduct,” the policy states. “The employee who does so will be terminated.”
Parker reported that City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott was at the event, so Parker was able to consult her in person about whether Redus should be required to take a drug test. Hadden-Scott consulted with Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers and Human Resources Director Vickie Conaway, who both advised that a drug test was required.
Parker reported that she called Redus at 12:23 p.m., did not reach her, but Redus called back at 1:43 p.m., at which time Parker asked her to take the drug test. At 2:45 p.m., Parker reported that Redus called back and said she had taken care of the drug test and that HR could get the results in the next week.
Parker reported that she did not communicate with Redus again until 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. Monday.
“She then told me she had been in contact with HR to determine what should be done about the drug test,” Parker stated in the report. “I said, ‘I thought you took the test Saturday?’ She said, ‘No, they refused to give me one and told me that they didn’t know what to check for.’ She said she told them to just check for all drugs, prescription or illegal, but they said they couldn’t.”
Parker reported that she called Conaway, who told her she had not spoken to Redus since 2 p.m. Saturday and the conversation concluded with Redus saying she would take the test.
Parker reported that on Tuesday she spoke with an emergency room nurse who had spoken with Redus about the drug test on Saturday.
“Trudy asked her the following questions: 1) Since this accident happened in a company vehicle, do you think I should take a drug test? 2) Do you think people will be questioning that?” Parker stated in the report.
The nurse told Parker that Redus had not said anything about a supervisor directing her to take the test, but rather that Redus had asked the nurse for her opinion. The nurse said it is not her job to tell anyone they should take a test or not.
“I told her that Trudy told me that they refused to give her a drug test because they said that she didn’t have a supervisor with her and they didn’t know the scope of the test,” Parker stated in the report. “She told me that was a serious misrepresentation of their communication. The nurse said we give them a cup to provide a urine sample, then send the specimen to Healthcare Plus. She said she wouldn’t even have had a discussion about the scope of the test. For future reference, I asked whether I needed to send a supervisor with an employee to be drug tested. She said that the hospital would simply call us for our approval.”
Parker said she has not found anything in her research to suggest the department has a written policy concerning whether non-employees are allowed in department-owned vehicles.