SOUTHINGTON — A bill before the state legislature would require school contractors to notify education officials when employees are arrested.
State Rep. Liz Linehan, a Democrat representing Cheshire, Southington and Wallingford, proposed the legislation following the arrest of a Southington bus driver on charges of sexually assaulting a girl over an eight-year period.
The New Britain Transportation driver, Wolcott resident Joseph Addona, was charged with first-degree sexual assault in December. According to police the girl was a family acquaintance and not a student.
Attorney Ioannis Kaloidis, who represents Addona, told the Republican-American the allegations are "completely false and unfounded" and that his client will be vindicated in court.
Addona had resigned from the bus company a month before his arrest, according to Peter Agostini, president and CEO of New Britain Transportation.
Linehan said the Southington school district was never notified of the arrest.
“That the Board of Education was never informed that a school bus driver was arrested for sexual abuse is terrifying to every parent of young children,” she said. “Firing the individual isn’t the end of it – the school district needs to be promptly notified so they in turn can notify the parents and conduct a full investigation.”
Brian Goralski, Southington education board chairman, said he’s in favor of the bill. He didn’t discuss details of the arrest, but said it was handled “responsibly and effectively” by school staff.
“I believe that employer should have communicated with us better than they did,” Goralski said.
Agostini said the bus company was “the last to know” Addona was arrested since he had left the company a month earlier.
According to the legislation, any company contracted by the schools must notify the district when an employee who is in direct contact with students is arrested. The company is to include the charges and a description of the incident if possible. It doesn’t include any penalties for non-compliance.
The bill, HB 5334, is before the General Assembly’s education committee. Southington school superintendent Tim Connellan submitted testimony in support of the legislation.
Linehan said the bus company should have contacted the school district when officials knew Addona was under investigation.
“Police notified New Britain transportation. At that point New Britain Transportation should have notified Southington public schools,” she said.
Agostini said his company did know of the investigation, but could not have provided Southington schools with much information since police hadn’t released the charges.
“We tried to pull this information as much as we could but it wasn’t readily available,” he said.
While Agostini supports the bill, he said there are fairness issues involved with reporting investigations into employees that haven’t been arrested.
“You’re innocent until proven guilty,” Agostini said.
State Rep. John Fusco, a Republican representing Southington, said he understood the bill’s intent but also wanted to “uphold due process before reporting claims that may affect an individual’s employment.”