Bus system says drug policy applies to drivers, not bosses, after Nakamoto exposes exec with positive meth test
BATON ROUGE- The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is calling on the Baton Rouge bus system to rehire any employee who was terminated for a failed drug test. The demand comes 24-hours after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) is once again selectively enforcing its zero-tolerance drug policy.
"It's shameful that it's continuing," ATU Vice-President Anthony Garland said. "It's a practice. It's systemic."
CATS operates on a nearly $30 million budget, funded by tax dollars. John Cutrone is the comptroller at CATS and controls its money. According to documents obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit, he tested positive for illicit drugs.
CATS has known since January about Cutrone's failed drug test, and it appears the agency has done nothing. It's not the first time the bus system turned a blind eye to their zero-tolerance policy for a select few.
"We are in the process of getting individuals who have been terminated in the collective bargaining agreement, and we are going to ask CATS, bring them back to work," Garland said. "Let them go through a drug program, and the completion of that, give them a second chance."
Cutrone failed a random drug screen, testing positive for methamphetamine in January. CATS did a follow-up test nearly two weeks later with a split sample to confirm the first test. The results were the same, positive for meth.
The drug test gives people a little leeway. The amount considered a positive is 500. Cutrone's level of methamphetamine was 3,233.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked with numerous human resource professionals and those familiar with how drug testing works. All of them say there's nothing you can take over the counter or get via prescription that will cause you to test positive for methamphetamines.
That is also backed up by an internal CATS document sources provided to the WBRZ Investigative Unit.
"Methamphetamine does not have any medications or prescriptions to support an individual medical condition for taking this illegal drug or gives a reason for these drugs appearing in your body," the department noted.
"The CATS board knows what's going on," Garland said. "They are either incomplicit, complicit or both in these issues."
Two years ago, CATS did the same thing with another administrator. Garrick Rose was hired despite failing a drug test.
CEO Bill Deville gave a shaky explanation as to why he's selectively enforcing the agency's policies.
"We decided in 2018 to create a better policy that all employees would be subject to a drug-free policy," Deville said.
He refused to speak to the fact that the WBRZ Investigative Unit found Cutrone coming and going from work after his failed test. WBRZ asked how someone who failed a drug test could still be employed by CATS.
"That's why we are investigating," Deville said.
"You're investigating why he's here?" Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto asked in response.
"You're twisting words," Deville said. "I've got to go... I'm going to get back to you."
CATS Board President, Kahli Cohorn scheduled an interview with WBRZ about this issue, but 13 minutes before he canceled.
Instead, the board released the following statement Thursday evening:
"Capital Area Transit System (CATS) is shocked and disappointed that WBRZ would run a story about the drug test of one of CATS’ managerial employees. An employee’s drug test results are strictly protected as confidential pursuant to Louisiana law. An investigation is underway in an attempt to determine who released this confidential information to WBRZ. In the event that person is still employed by CATS, he or she will be terminated.
Regarding the drug test in question, such test was administered to CATS’ Comptroller in violation of CATS’ existing drug policy which authorizes random testing of only safety sensitive positions such as bus operators and mechanics. The Agency’s Comptroller does not serve in a safety sensitive position. The Human Resources employee who directed this random test to be administered to CATS’ Comptroller is no longer with the Agency.
As to your station’s allegations that the individual in question “failed” the drug test, Mr. Cutrone, the Comptroller, has steadfastly denied consuming or taking any illicit drugs of any type. Moreover, it has since been confirmed that CATS’ Comptroller had been prescribed Adderall for at least the last ten years. Certain medical professionals have opined, at least preliminarily, that Adderall can produce a false position result of amphetamine in a drug test. Further medical opinions in this regard are being pursued as CATS’ investigation progresses.
As of this point, Mr. John Cutrone remains employed by CATS pending the resolution of CATS’ investigation."
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