PEORIA — The mothers of two different special-needs teens have sued the city's paratransit system, saying their children were dropped off in the wrong places and left alone.
The suits, filed late Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Peoria, allege two different CityLift drivers, on June 4 and 18, "unlawfully abandoned a special needs child who was the care of the CityLift program."
One of those incidents has already received attention in the media and led to a driver being arrested on a misdemeanor charge. The other incident was previously unknown. In that case, the mother of a 15-year-old boy contracted with CityLift to transport her child to a summer camp run by the Heart of Illinois Special Recreation Association. The child was picked up from his house at 7:30 a.m. and taken to Living Waters Church, 7229 N. Knoxville Ave., instead of the camp, a violation of its own policies that require a child to be delivered to the specified adult in charge, the suit alleges.
The driver drove off and left the child outside the church, which was closed, where he sat for two hours before being picked up by his mother. That's similar to an incident that happened about two weeks later when 13-year-old Marcus Mize, also a special needs child, was found walking a few miles outside of Morton on a rural road when he was supposed to be dropped off at her East Bluff home.
"There is something seriously wrong with CityLift," said the families' attorney, Andy Hale of Chicago. "How on earth does a special needs boy get dropped off and abandoned at a gas station in Morton? And this was not a one off. Another one of our clients was supposed to be taken to camp but was instead dropped off and left at a church.
"What is going on? We need answers and through this lawsuit we are going to get to the bottom of all this," Hale said.
An attempt to reach a representative of MV Transportation, the company that operates CityLift, wasn't immediately successful. CityLift is the city of Peoria's paratransit service for the disabled and elderly.
The suits, which both mirror each other, name MV Transportation an the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District as defendants. Named in the suit involving Mize is his driver, Andre J. Walker, who was arrested but not yet charged — according to Peoria County Circuit Court records — with child endangerment.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.