After law enforcement officials executed search warrants at the business offices of A-1 Elegant Tours as part of an ongoing investigation into school bus safety in Newark, school board member Emanuel Capers, who aggressively targeted transportation companies that had too many violations in Paterson, said he has been vindicated.
“I’m glad the state cracked down,” said Capers later Friday. “Companies like these should not be driving our students.”
A-1 Elegant Tours received millions of dollars’ worth of business from the Paterson Public Schools over the years, but that changed when Capers began to spotlight the company’s numerous violations. In many cases, A-1 Elegant Tours was cited for having drivers without proper credentials, according to district records.
“We banned them for two years, but I think they should be banned forever,” said Capers. The school board banned the firm from bidding on routes for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.
On Friday, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office in conjunction with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey State Police, Motor Vehicle Commission, and Newark Police Department conducted an investigation into the company’s operations.
A-1 Elegant transports students in Newark and other school districts in New Jersey. Preliminary investigation revealed many drivers were operating school buses without proper credentials. Authorities conducted inspections at five locations in Newark.
Eight bus drivers, more than half of those detained, did not have proper credentials to drive school children. Two bus drivers and a bus aid had open warrants and were taken into custody, according to acting Essex County prosecutor Theodore Stephens.
Authorities said buses were intercepted after children were dropped off to minimize disruption of the school day. No children were harmed. In some instance alternative transportation had to be provided to students at the end of the school day.
Some students endured long waits as a result.
Moreover, some employees of A-1 Elegant told reporters the firm hadn’t paid them. Some claimed they had received paychecks that bounced.
Shelim Khalique, owner of the A-1 Elegant Tours, did not respond to a call for comment on Friday. He is the brother of councilman Shahin Khalique.
“If I don’t feel comfortable putting my children in that bus, I wouldn’t put anybody else’s children on that bus,” said Capers. “It was a big issue for me.”