The company that runs the county's traffic school is under scrutiny from the newest county supervisor because one of its top officials was recently convicted of bribing a New York state labor commissioner.
Because of that conviction, Orange County should take a hard look before renewing the National Traffic Safety Institute's contract, said newly elected Supervisor Lou Correa.
"When the contract comes up for renewal, I will personally look at it very carefully," said Correa, who will be sworn in next month. "Given the issues raised about the company, I want to see if there are any other problems with them, and I want to take a closer look at their qualifications to run the traffic school."
The company has operated a traffic school for the county since 1995. Drivers in the school, who attend because of traffic citations, pay a $28.50 registration fee. The company keeps $17 and covers classroom material, instructors and security, because classes are held in county courthouses.
Superior Court officials extended the contract in October, one month after President and Chief Operating Officer John Segreti was sentenced in White Plains, N.Y., to 57 months in federal prison for bribing then-New York State Commissioner of Labor James McGowan.
The traffic school is now based in Tucson, after moving in 2003 from Staten Island, N.Y. The three-year contract, awarded four years ago, was extended twice for 12 months each. Alan Slater, the court's chief executive officer, said a contract provision allows the court to extend the one-year terms without review from the Board of Supervisors.
Slater said judges and court administrators were aware of Segreti's legal problems when they extended the contract. He defended the extension, saying the firm has a good track record in Orange County.
"The people at National Traffic Safety Institute quickly took action to terminate him when the allegations surfaced," Slater said. "They've maintained a high-quality program for us."
The new contract will be up for bids in the spring, and Slater said it would not surprise him if the company was among the bidders.
The criminal investigation of Segreti arose from allegations going back to 1998. According to press reports, McGowan used his position to mandate that driver education courses be included in the state's welfare-to-work program and that National Traffic Safety Institute receive the contract.
"McGowan steered and attempted to steer hundreds of thousands of state and federal grant dollars to the Segreti companies," according to a U.S. attorney's office.
Segreti, of Colts Neck, N.J., had bribed McGowan with more than $12,000 and other favors, such as paying for membership at a golf club and a trip to Disney World. Segreti had also agreed to hire McGowan after his term as commissioner ended. McGowan got 37 months in prison.