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Bus system CEO accepts large car allowance one year after agency canceled them

2 years 4 months 6 hours ago Wednesday, October 27 2021 Oct 27, 2021 October 27, 2021 9:40 PM October 27, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - The Capital Area Transit System (CATS) CEO Bill Deville accepted thousands of dollars in a car and phone allowance last year, despite the agency canceling car allowances for 13 of its highest paid employees the year before.

Deville earns nearly $191,000 per year, and his gross salary every two weeks is $7,339. In May of 2020, he received $19,000 during a routine pay period.

CATS claimed that the reimbursement was necessary because a payroll error caused Deville to be underpaid. WBRZ asked why Deville took home a car allowance a year after CATS canceled them. The cancellation came after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed that CATS was paying $45,000 to 13 of their top employees to keep them off the bus. Similar transit agencies like the RTA in New Orleans said it did not pay car allowances to its employees.

"He has a contract with CATS," CATS board member and treasurer Matt Thomas said. "The contract specifies he is to get an allotment to cover his basic expenses of $700 per month. That's what the contract states."

But, despite that contract, CATS also said he's no longer collecting the car allowance. WBRZ asked why he accepted the public money last year. Thomas said it was part of the contract that he signed back in 2016. Thomas said the car allowance was for the years 2016 to 2019, before CATS canceled them for everyone. 

The newest revelation comes a week after a leaked audio recording showed CATS second-in-command Pearlina Thomas talking about millions in missing money. Thomas told us she misspoke.

"I take full responsibility for what I said," Thomas said. "Even though I misspoke, it was inappropriate. It was a huge learning lesson for me and that the delineation of authority of our organization is important."

Ultimately audits revealed no money was missing from CATS.

However, there were issues with the finances that were so problematic, auditors had to help rectify the situation.

"We ended up paying them three times more than what we pay them for an audit," Thomas said. "Because they had to put so many man-hours to fix it."

Five years ago, Deville was hired for $150,000. Over that time, his salary has increased by nearly $41,000.

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