Audit: CATS leaders may have broken state laws
BATON ROUGE - A report from the Legislative Auditor shows the Baton Rouge bus system failed to collect and deposit money from fares and paid employees for time they did not work.
The discrepancies came over an 18 month period starting in 2012. During that time, the report says bus fares totaling $79,496 were not deposited in the bank. Bus passes valued at $78,648 were also used with no corresponding revenue being either collected or deposited in the bank.
The report says management for the Capital Area Transit System was aware of cash fare shortfalls but failed to take actions to prevent repeated shortages. The audit says procedures and equipment were lacking and employees were poorly trained. Because of the problems, state law may have been violated.
"We have no secrets which is why I'm sitting here with you today," CEO Bob Mirabito said. "Going forward, CATS will be above board in everything they do."
The audit also showed two payroll periods where CATS improperly paid employees $35,459 for hours not worked and leave not earned. Overall payroll practices were not consistent with written guidelines and inadequate records were kept.
The payroll issues involved former CEO Brian Marshall and former CFO Gary Owens. Mirabito said it would be up to the board if it would collect money from Marshall. He disagreed with the audit findings that suggested Owens was paid for hours and vacation that he didn't earn.
The highlighted problems came before a management change for CATS. Current management says they welcome the findings, having asked the Legislative Auditor to investigate. They say this audit along with one from the federal transit administration will help CATS be a better steward of public funds.
People who voted for the tax and support the bus system say although the audit is disheartening, they stand behind the system.
"I'm still a supporter of CATS because I believe in a good public transportation for the city," Margie Campane said.
Riders weren't so happy to hear that money was misplaced.
"It's upsetting because there are people in this city that need this bus system, and if you're pocketing money you don't care about people of Baton Rouge," CATS Rider Mark Williams said.