The Chicago Transit Authority bus driver who was fired after running over a cyclist in River North earlier this year was working extra hours at the time of the nonfatal crash, according to records obtained by WTTW News, which show the driver racked up a huge amount of overtime in 2019 and potentially in years past.
Sunday Ajayi, 53, was fired from the CTA in July after the agency conducted an investigation into the June 6 crash. At the time of the incident, which left the cyclist with injuries to his arms, legs and torso, Ajayi had worked for just over two hours and was already on overtime, according to CTA records. The agency says he worked a total of six hours of overtime that week.
Prior to his firing, Ajayi worked 532 hours of overtime in 2019, according to CTA records – an average workweek of nearly 60 hours. Drivers who work more than 40 hours in a week are paid overtime at a rate of time and a half, which means Ajayi’s base hourly pay of $35.36 increased to $53.04 when he worked overtime. While Ajayi’s 2019 pay has not yet been released, over the last several years he’s been among the highest-paid CTA bus operators, earning $151,789 in 2018 and $117,998 in 2017.
In response to follow-up questions from WTTW News about how commonly its drivers work overtime and whether the agency is understaffed, the CTA said it “is staffed appropriately to provide 1.5 million bus and train rides each weekday” and that employees are not assigned overtime, indicating they choose to work extra hours. “The safety of CTA riders and its employees is the top priority governing all CTA operations. CTA workplace rules ensure that bus operators have at least eight hours off between shifts, in keeping with industry best practices. … (An) operator is only eligible for overtime work if the end of the overtime shift is more than eight hours from the beginning of their scheduled work the next day,” the agency said in a statement.
Ajayi and the CTA are currently facing a lawsuit from Joseph Morgan, the cyclist involved in the June incident. Morgan, then 24 years old, was cycling southbound on Wells Street in River North when he was struck by the bus Ajayi was driving. The crash was Ajayi’s third on the job since January 2018, CTA documents show.
According to his attorney, Morgan, now 25, sustained significant orthopedic and gastrointestinal injuries – necessitating a rerouted colon – as a result of the crash. In response to a lawsuit filed by Morgan, both the CTA and Ajayi have admitted in court filings that Ajayi “struck and (ran) over” Morgan and admitted “negligence in the operation of (the) vehicle,” but denied Morgan’s injuries and asked the court to dismiss the complaint.
Ajayi also racked up 18 traffic tickets between 1989 and 2005, court records show, three of which were issued after he became a CTA employee. (He was hired as a part-time bus operator in May 1998 before landing a full-time position in December 2000.) Those tickets cite speeding as much as 25 mph over the limit, unsafe driving, driving an uninsured vehicle and improper child restraints, among other infractions. While many of the tickets were dismissed or not prosecuted, records show Ajayi paid at least $475 to cover seven of them.
WTTW News asked the CTA earlier this year how it evaluates applicants’ driving histories during the hiring process, and what might disqualify someone from being hired. In a statement, CTA Media Relations said: “The CTA requires an official copy of the applicant’s court purposes driving abstract as issued by the Secretary of State. Each abstract is reviewed to ensure that the candidate’s driving record meets CTA standards. Those standards are uniform and include review of convictions, suspensions, supervisions, accidents, revocations and DUIs.” When asked to provide those uniform standards, Media Relations replied that “beyond the specific examples we provided, we do not have those details readily available.”
Ajayi and the CTA are facing another lawsuit related to a January 2018 crash. In that case, Ajayi rear-ended a car while driving a bus along King Drive near 95th Street, according to a lawsuit filed by Robert Crocker, the driver of the car. In response to Crocker’s suit, the CTA admitted its driver caused the crash, that he “carelessly and negligently failed to keep a proper lookout” and slow down to avoid the crash. It also denied Crocker’s injuries and asked for his suit to be dismissed.
Attempts to contact Ajayi have been unsuccessful.
This story has been updated to include a response from the CTA.