Bus system fires leader who was recorded talking about millions in missing money
BATON ROUGE- The Capital Area Transit System (CATS) parted ways with Chief Administrative Officer Pearlina Thomas in a brief, three-sentence letter this week.
Sources provided that letter to the WBRZ Investigative Unit. It was written and signed by CEO Bill Deville.
"Thank you for your services. Effective immediately, this memo is to notify you that I have decided to go in another direction. Your services are no longer required," the letter reads.
Thomas came under fire last October when an audio recording surfaced where she claimed $5 million was missing from the bus company. The conversation in the recording is between Thomas and former employee Elijah Pipersberg. Pipersburg oversaw policy at the bus system and references CATS CEO Bill Deville in the recording.
"What has he [Deville] fixed since he's been here without you?" Pipersberg is heard asking.
A woman responds in the recording. WBRZ confirmed through multiple sources the voice is Pearlina Thomas.
"Ahh, covering up the bulls*** from the previous board members and financial folks worth $5 million gone missing," the female voice says.
Following the WBRZ Investigative Unit publishing the recording, Thomas did an interview to clear the air.
"Poor choice of words," Thomas said. "It wasn't 5 million, and he didn't cover it up. I was trying to remember the context of which that happened, and I can't. In 2018, there were some things going on where it was miscoded and the agency wasn't doing timely drawdowns of our federal funds."
WBRZ asked what she meant in the recording, with the number $5 million being so precise. Thomas again insisted no money is missing.
"I take full responsibility for what I said," Thomas said. "Even though I misspoke. It was inappropriate, and it was a huge learning lesson for me and that the delineation of authority of our organization is important."
The WBRZ Investigative Unit asked CATS about Thomas' termination. A spokesman said he could not comment because this is a personnel matter.
Thomas declined to comment at this time, citing the advice of her attorney.
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