UPDATE: Kochanowski Degrades UWSP Students While at City Job
Kochanowski was observed on transit bus video recordings calling UWSP students “college brats…dumber, more spoiled, less respectful. Half these kids aren’t going to amount to nothing.”
City Times Staff
Just one day before the Feb. 17 primary election, city officials have released information relating to the termination of Alex Kochanowski, who was fired last month from his job as a city bus driver.
Kochanowski had been one of the six candidates in the mayoral primary but withdrew from the race in early February. His name remains on Tuesday’s ballot because he did return completed nomination papers.
Kochanowski is also an elected member of the Stevens Point School Board, having been elected last April.
According to city documents, Kochanowski had received several oral and written warnings relating to his job performance between May, 2013 and September, 2014 for violations including arriving late for work, deviating from the city’s bus route and eating while operating the bus, during which he would temporarily remove his hands from the steering wheel and avert his eyes from the roadway.
After receiving two written warnings in one calendar year, Kochanowski was suspended for one day without pay for being late for his assigned shift last May.
City records indicate Kochanowski was observed on seven occasions during one shift in September removing his hands from the steering wheel of the bus he drove and retrieve food from a bag of food he placed on the floor. Eating while on duty, as well as removing his hands from the steering wheel while the bus is in motion, is a violation of the city’s employment policy.
The records also indicate that last October, Kochanowski told Transit Manager Susan Lemke that he suffered a medical condition- which he referred to as a “blood sugar issue”- and needed to eat regularly. City records show Kochanowski alleging he would become “delirious” if he did not eat every 20 minutes while driving the bus.
In November the city sent Kochanowski to Ministry Medical for testing, and to determine whether Kochanowski could safely operate the Point Plus buses. City records show those tests concluded Kochanowski had no such medical condition, though on one occasion a nurse there did note Kochanowski experienced “mental fogginess” and difficulty with “word-finding”.
In September, city leaders found audio and video evidence of Kochanowski campaigning while on duty on several occasions, and transcribed several of those conversations for release. In each recorded instance, Kochanowski initiated the conversation.
Last May, the records indicate he also violated city policy by initiating what was described as an “inappropriate conversation” with a passenger on a bus he drove during which he “degraded and insulted” UWSP students. Kochanowski was observed on transit bus video recordings calling UWSP students “college brats…dumber, more spoiled, less respectful. Half these kids aren’t going to amount to nothing.”
According to city officials, transit buses have six installed cameras to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers and are reviewed regularly.
Joel Lemke, director for the departments of utilities and transportation, declined to give comment on any specific employee, but did say all city employees are “made very aware” of the video and audio monitoring.
City Times made an open records request to determine the reason behind Kochanowski’s termination in late January. At that time Kochanowski was still campaigning in the city’s mayoral race.
City Attorney Andrew Beveridge released the records Monday morning, following a mandatory waiting period to allow Kochanowski an opportunity to challenge the records release. No such challenge was made.