Background Checks in Action: Louisville

The value of employment screening is highlighted in Louisville, Kentucky where a background check for the head of a transit authority could have saved a lot of personal pain and public money.

Ferdinand Risco was the head of the Transit Authority of River City (“TARC” or “Transit Authority”), a job he started in started in February 2017.  Shortly after he was hired, “Risco embarked on a pattern of behavior that can best be described as that of a sexual predator. This behavior resulted in untold emotional trauma to his many victims—both employees at TARC and an outside contractor.”  Investigation Into Hiring and Conduct of Former TARC Executive Director, Investigation initiated by the Louisville Metro Council, May 9, 2021 (“TARC Report”), at 5.  His sexual predation operated parallel to his financial schemes.  The money he misdirected “could have been better used to support the operations of TARC and, thereby, benefit the many low-income, elderly and disabled TARC consumers dependent on TARC for transportation.” 

The Transit Authority of River City is a critical bus network for Greater Louisville that moves people all day long to and from jobs, school, and shopping.  People count on TARC to deliver safe, efficient rides, but the public did not count on TARC’s former director abusing TARC’s people or its funds.  All of this could have been avoided if only the Transit Authority did a criminal background check.  “Had a thorough background investigation been conducted, it is quite likely that sufficient negative information would have been developed to prevent this calamity from ever occurring.” TARC Report, at 5.  

In 2021, the Louisville Metro Council launched an investigation of Risco’s conduct following complaints.  The investigation found that “[s]ignificant numbers of TARC employees were victimized”, “TARC incurred substantial financial losses”, and “TARC’S reputation as well as Metro Louisville’s was irreparably tarnished.”  TARC Report, at 8. 

Much of Risco’s prior conduct that would likely have disqualified him from a job at TARC came when Risco worked at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (“MARTA”).

The TARC report added that “a thorough preemployment background check would have most likely uncovered Risco’s penchant for maniacal management style and penchant for harassing female employees.” TARC Report, at 26.

Following Risco’s resignation from his post at TARC in February 2020, TARC filed suit against Risco seeking $500,000 to recover funds lost due as a result of “fraud, malice and corruption.”  The lawsuit alleged that “in most cases, chose to target young African American females who were single mothers and financially dependent upon TARC and Risco for their wherewithal,” the lawsuit states. “In that regard, upon information and belief, Risco targeted women for victimization who would not likely report his abuse.” TARC files half-million-dollar lawsuit against former executive director over sexual misconduct allegations, WDRB.com, Aug. 18, 2020.