A year ago, on April 27, Assistant D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Superintendent Kenneth Milner was cruising east on Riggs Road NE in a D.C. government Mercury Grand Marquis. According to a police report, Milner blew through a red light at North Capitol Street and side-swiped Pallittia Davis’ 1989 Ford Probe, then crashed into a big black Caddy driven by 76-year-old Thomas McLucas, who was coming from the other direction.
At first, no one appeared to have been injured in the three-car crash. But the next day, Davis went to the hospital for muscle spasms in her back and neck. The doctors put her on bed rest for five days and prescribed a regimen of physical therapy.
A year later, Davis’ medical bills remain unpaid, and her car is still undrivable; McLucas’ Cadillac needs a paint job as well, but neither of them has seen a dime from the city. Davis has a lawyer trying to grind through the red tape to get her medical bills paid and her car fixed. McLucas says he has called Milner’s office five or six times trying to recoup the $850 he spent to fix his car, “but nobody ever bothers to get back to me.”
McLucas claims that Milner was flashing a red emergency light on the dashboard of his car when it struck him. “At the time, I didn’t raise no hell or nothing because I thought he might have been a policeman on a call. He was evidently just flashing that light.”
While Milner admits that he was driving a car equipped with an emergency light, he says he wasn’t using it, and there is no mention of it in the police report. “The lights were not on. Nor was the siren on,” says Milner. (D.C. law prohibits the use of emergency equipment by non–public safety officials.)
He also denies running the red light. “I was sitting at that light. When it changed, I went through that light, and I was hit by someone, which caused me to hit another car,” Milner says.
Despite Milner’s assertions, a police officer gave him a citation at the scene of the accident for running a stoplight, but Milner insists, “When I went to court, they threw the case out.”
The Bureau of Traffic Adjudication would not release information related to Milner’s ticket, saying it is not public information and can only be accessed with a subpoena. But the police report indicates that two witnesses besides the driver at the scene also reported seeing Milner run the light. (One of the witnesses was an MPD reserve officer from the 5th Police District.) McLucas and Davis both say Milner ran the red light. And the damages to Milner’s car are consistent with the accident report and with statements by the other drivers.
But Milner says he’s not responsible for paying for the other damaged cars, and says that Davis and McLucas should look to their own insurers. The city is self-insured and the Office of the Corporation Counsel is handling the claims.
Milner says he is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to respond to school emergencies. Hence, he’s authorized to drive a city car to his residence in Camp Springs, Md., which is where he says he was headed the night of the accident. Neither Milner nor DCPS spokesperson Beverly Lofton would comment on whether Milner was reprimanded for crashing the car. “Accidents happen,” says Lofton.
Meanwhile, Milner’s wreckage has been sitting among a fleet of yellow school buses in the DCPS repair lot at 5th and Rhode Island Avenue NE for nearly a year. Nothing has been done to repair the car—or the damage it caused.—Stephanie Mencimer