LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- From the time he joined Louisville's public transit system in 2017, former executive Director Ferdinand Risco "embarked on a pattern of behavior that can best be described as that of a sexual predator," according to an independent investigation of Risco's tenure with the city.
"This behavior resulted in untold emotional trauma to his many victims -- both employees at TARC and an outside contractor," the audit released on Wednesday concluded.
In addition, Risco was financially negligent, spending "many times that of his predecessor," according the audit, which found he traveled "extensively and lavishly on TARC funds" and entered into "questionable" contracts with friends and acquaintances that could have been handled by employees.
"There was little documentation of any sufficient oversight into Risco's activities," according to the audit, which was requested by the Louisville Metro Council and conducted by David J. Beyer of Pence & Whetzel PLLC.
The total financial costs to the city has been about $2 million dollars, the report concluded.
Risco resigned in February 2020 amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving multiple employees of Transit Authority of River City.
TARC has filed a half-million-dollar lawsuit against Risco, accusing him of fraud, malice and corruption. No criminal charges have been filed against Risco.
The lawsuit claims Risco targeted mostly black single mothers and traded high-dollar jobs and contracts for sex. It also alleges that he referred to what he called his "boom boom" room where wanted to have sex with TARC employees.
Three woman have settled with TARC for more than $500,000 in damages.
The report heavily criticizes the city and TARC board for failing to conduct a proper background check of Risco.
"Unfortunately, at no time during the initial hiring process was a formal background investigation conducted by anyone involved in the hiring process," according to the audit. "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."
For example, no one from TARC or Mayor Greg Fischer's office looked closely into Risco's previous employment at MARTA, Atlanta's public transportation system, which had evidence that Risco was involved in similar "troubling behavior."
"A through preemployment background check would have most likely uncovered Risco's penchant for maniacal style and penchant for harassing female employees," according to the audit. A closer check "would have prevented untold financial damage, emotional damage to so many, and the extensive negative impression of TARC and the City of Louisville."
This conclusion is contrary to an internal investigation by TARC completed in September 2020 that concluded "MARTA executives expressed no concerns or knowledge of such allegations. … For that reason, it is difficult to assign any blame for unknown, undocumented and undisclosed allegations."
Fischer is specifically named for a lack of vetting when Risco was promoted to executive director in April 2019.
"Those facts are definitely in dispute," Fischer said in a interview on Wednesday. "Other investigations have shown that his background was looked at when he was first hired at TARC. So if there's new information in this report that's been a long time in the making, we'll be happy to take a look at that."
While TARC union officials and employees requested a nationwide search to replace longtime leader Barry Barker, "both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were aware of the union officials' concerns, but their concerns seemed ignored or dismissed," according to the report. "Again, sufficient due diligence may have uncovered sufficient information to stop his promotion or at least pause the promotion process."
Since Risco's departure, "many changes have been implemented," the report concluded.
TARC put a number of new controls in place, including greater oversight from its board, a new code of conduct, a tip line to report harassment and workplace violations and a new office of the general counsel.
The audit noted it was "concerning that employees felt uncomfortable notifying the board" and that they felt "helpless."
The report was commissioned by the Louisville Metro Government Accountability Committee which is chaired by Councilman (D) Brrent Ackerson.
"I don't trust the fox to guard the chicken coop," Ackerson said of the need for an additional, independent investigation. "Plain and simple. We had trouble throughout this investigation with TARC's attorneys to share and get information."
And the report concluded more work needed to be done.
"Still there appear additional measures that should be considered to reduce the likelihood of this type of conduct occurring in the future."
This story may be updated.
Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.