-By Seth Daniel
City officials and School Department officials conceded this week that they don’t conduct basic driver’s license checks of employees that operate city-owned vehicles.
And one city employee was driving a city vehicle nearly every day for two years without a valid license.
The issue came to light this week when court records revealed that School Department employee Michael Ciarlone had been driving for nearly two years without a valid Massachusetts’ driver’s license. During that time, he routinely operated city-owned vehicles and even was given the privilege of having a take home vehicle.
Ciarlone’s situation came to light due to an incident that is being deliberated in the courts right now, one in which he allegedly was driving a city-owned vehicle and ran over a Beachmont man during a disagreement that got physical. In that case, he is charged with a number of offenses, including driving without being licensed.
Within the public file for that case was Ciarlone’s driver’s license status, which indicated that his license expired in February 2009. With the incident happening on January 14, 2011, that meant that Ciarlone was driving city-owned vehicles every day for 23 months without a license.
It appears that Ciarlone knew of his license status because just 10 days before the accident, on January 4, 2011, he applied for and was granted a Massachusetts ID Card from the Registry.
“This probably bodes for us to be checking licenses for everybody who drives City vehicles,” said Superintendent Paul Dakin last Friday. “We don’t. It’s something you would never think of. On Monday, I am going to implement a policy where we require copies of all driver’s licenses every year. We should have all the licenses checked by next week. It’s certainly a must do now.”
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said that City does check certain employees who drive vehicles – such as Police, Fire and Department of Public Works (DPW) employees.
However, he said there is no formal policy of the City to check or retain copies of a driver’s license for those employees operating City vehicles.
“That seems like something we will have to discuss with Dr. Dakin about implementing at the next School Committee meeting,” said the mayor. “I would think that is something we ought to do. It seems like something we could do rather easily…For our employees, yes, we ought to ensure they are properly licensed.”
Both said they would consider implementing an immediate change that requires license checks annually for city employees that drive city vehicles.
Both also said they had no idea if the problem was widespread or just isolated to Ciarlone.
Ciarlone’s attorney in the criminal matter, Attorney Gerry D’Ambrosio, said that his client was not licensed at the time, but has cleared up the matter.
He said that the license expired due to a build up of parking tickets that had to be paid off before it could be activated.
“Our official position is, indeed, his license had lapsed and then was never renewed due to a number of motor vehicle infractions by family members that Michael had to clear up before renewing his license,” said D’Ambrosio. “It had not been revoked or not renewed for any other reason than that. There were no criminal violations or speeding tickets or anything that would bar him from renewing his license.”
Hearings on Ciarlone’s criminal case continued this week at Chelsea District Court.