School districts left in dark as bus camera company closes

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School districts that signed on to the school bus camera program being pitched by Dallas County Schools are being left in the dark as the technology company that provided the cameras has closed down.

Force Multiplier Solutions, a Dallas-based security technology company, teamed up with DCS in 2012 to sell cameras that snap a picture of motorists who pass stopped school buses in violation of state law.

Under a deal pitched to districts via BusGuard, a joint venture between the two, districts got the cameras for free and received a share of the tickets issued to motorists.

Force Multiplier has taken its web sites down, DCS is being dissolved and a new company has come in claiming it now owns the cameras.

Eanes ISD signed onto a deal for the cameras in early 2016. In late September 2017, a check for its share of the fines was overdue.

“We reached out to BusGuard but we weren’t able to get hold of anyone for a while,” district spokeswoman Claudia McWhorter said.

A BusGuard representative came to visit district officials in December, accompanied by someone from a new company, BusPatrol.

“They said BusPatrol was taking over the intellectual property, which they said were the cameras, from BusGuard,” McWhorter said. “We were also told that the money may be tied up legally.“

BusPatrol, records show, formed in July in Virginia and has the same Virginia and Quebec, Canada addresses as Force Multiplier did. The Dallas address, once listed on the Force Multiplier site, is now gone.

The contact on BusPatrol’s website, David Poirier, said he could not answer questions.

Poirier in March 2017 gave a presentation on bus camera technology at a school superintendent’s conference as the president and COO of Force Multiplier Solutions.

Voters in Dallas County voted in November to dissolve DCS as the agency, which provided bus service and crossing guards to several districts around the Dallas area, had become increasingly debt ridden. Much of the debt is attributed to the failings of the bus camera service.

Numerous districts took advantage of the offer to outfit their buses with cameras. They would get the technology for free, then get a cut  — 12.5 to 20 percent — of the $300 traffic fine assessed on violators. DCS, which formed a company Texserve to administer the deals, would make its money through its roughly 80 percent of the fines.

Amidst the closure of DCS and a federal complaint issued in December alleging a Texas company, reported to be Force Multiplier, “sold cameras and related services for school buses…entered into various contracts and a licensing agreement with a Texas state agency acting through its superintendent…Under these contracts and the licensing agreement, the state agency purchased millions of dollars of camera equipment…”

“It appears that BusPatrol assumed the duties of Force Multiplier,” said acting DCS CEO Alan King, who is coordinating the dissolution of the agency. “All the employees of [Force Multiplier] went to work for BusPatrol.”

King said that in January 2017, as the alleged malfeasance came to light, DCS signed a deal to pay Force Multiplier $200,000 a month to run the stop arm camera program in Dallas. In return, King said, Force Multiplier would pay $400,000 back to the district.

“Force Multiplier breached that agreement in June and quit sending money,” he said. “Now, BusPatrol is assuming those duties in Dallas. They presented us with an invoice and we don’t even have a contract with them.”

DCS agreed on Monday to halt the stop arm program. It operated locally with the help of the city of Dallas, which provided the court and law enforcement needed to issue tickets to violators.

Out of the county, though, operations are being done without the permission of DCS, creating a potential legal situation. Unless something is worked out without DCS, cameras will need to be retrieved and contracts terminated.

“We are going to be calling these districts to determine what needs to do with each agreement,” King said. “We are working with our attorneys to determine what type of action to take, which could include desist orders and terminations orders.”

 

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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