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CATS workers took joyride on bus

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BATON ROUGE - Capital Area Transit System employees hitched a ride in a company bus to New Orleans, and the system's in trouble with the federal government.

At Tuesday night's CATS Board of Directors meeting, newly appointed CEO Bob Mirabito advised  the company is not in compliance with the Federal Transportation Administration.

"CATS could be penalized," Mirabito said. "We provided a bus to take people to a Hornets game. Other examples is that a bus was used in a Christmas parade. All of those are in violations of FTA rules and regulations...I don't know if that was free or someone paid for it and that's the information we are getting right now."

More information into those instances will be release by the end of the month, Mirabito said.

Since CATS is a public agency, charter businesses must be allowed to bid on trips before CATS buses are used for private transit. That federal rule was not followed, Mirabito said.

To hold employees accountable, GPS tracking devices will also be installed on all CATS non-revenue vehicles as well. Mirabito did not discover any cases where those vehicles were being used inappropriately, but suspected they did, he said.

The bus system continues to stay under a cloud of controversy after $101,860 went missing from fare boxes and WBRZ News 2 revealed former CATS CFO Gary Owens kept $12,000 in last year's Touchdown Express money in a safe until July without depositing it.

Owens resigned effective Monday. He attended Tuesday's meeting and told the board that member Dalton Honore made him contract an IT company without following proper procedures.

"As for comparison purposes, you told me not to get any bids," Owens said referring to Honore.

Owens declined to comment further on his statements.

Honore called them false and blamed CATS current turmoil on Owens' past decisions.

"There was information regarding fare box issues. He withheld that information while I was there. There was information regarding tiger express money that was still on the premises. He withheld that information. Yet he wants to get in front of the board and make accusations," Honore said.



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