A Dunedin man sacked from his bus-driving job after more than 20 women voiced concerns about his allegedly inappropriate behaviour has kept his passenger endorsement and was until this week driving for a taxi company in the city.
Sources contacted the Otago Daily Times in recent weeks concerned the man was driving for a taxi company in Dunedin and continued to hold the P endorsement, despite being dismissed from the bus company after allegations about his behaviour surfaced in April.
The driver left the job on Wednesday after the ODT put questions regarding the allegations to both him and his employer.
He denied allegations of inappropriate conduct when contacted this week.
Dunedin artist Jacque Ruston (51), the original bus complainant, said the driver became notorious among women who regularly rode the route, to the point where the bus was often almost empty.
She alleged he refused to open the rear doors of the bus, forcing women to walk past him, where he would make suggestive and lewd comments. In one case he showed a woman pornography on his mobile phone.
Ruston alleged she was once touched against her will by the driver, as she stood outside the bus holding bags in both arms.
"He got off the bus, ran his hands down my face, down my arms."
She decided to go public this week after learning he was driving a taxi in the city.
At least 20 other women passed their stories about the driver to Ruston, giving permission to pass the complaints to the Otago Regional Council, which oversees Dunedin bus services.
The council compiled the complaints into a single document during the investigation in April, which led to his dismissal, she said.
Ruston was concerned the driver managed to keep his P endorsement, which required all drivers of buses, taxis or shuttles to be a "fit and proper person", following the complaints.
She filed a complaint with the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), after which she had two interviews with a staff member.
"I think the nub of it is that NZTA's interpretation of 'good character' is faulty," she said.
Asked why the man still held a P endorsement, NZTA spokeswoman Frances Adank said the agency sought out the original complainant after seeing media and social media coverage regarding the allegations.
"Once contacted, the complainant said that two other people would supply information to the transport agency to back up her allegations.
"Despite multiple attempts to contact these people and leaving messages on their phones, no responses were forthcoming."
Ruston said the women did not want to re-live their experiences when they had already made their statements to her.
The ODT was also made aware of another complaint against the driver in 2012.
Adank said it was investigated but there was "no evidence to take the complaint further".
The man, when contacted, denied all allegations and said he could not understand why Ruston or the other women had levelled the allegations against him, other than that they had an "agenda".
"I think this woman has got an agenda on her part. She does not want me to be working with the public."
Responding to claims he refused to open the rear door of the bus to force women to walk past him, he said the bus had a faulty rear door.
The owner of the taxi company said he employed the driver on a trial period and was unaware of the allegations at the time, but checked with the NZTA before employing him and it raised no issues.
Within hours of the ODT contacting both the taxi company and the driver on Wednesday regarding the allegations, the man resigned from the job driving a taxi van, just weeks into a trial period.