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INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: CATS supervisor fails drug test, hired anyway

5 months 1 week 6 days ago Tuesday, June 04 2019 Jun 4, 2019 June 04, 2019 3:34 PM June 04, 2019 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- Despite the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) claiming it has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs, the WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered a supervisor at the bus system failed a drug test and was hired anyway.

The favoritism shown for Garrick Rose is especially concerning because, over the past year and a half, the WBRZ Investigative Unit learned CATS fired and chose not to hire at least 10 people for failing drug tests.

Sources say all potential hires get a letter rescinding an employment offer if the pre-employment drug test is failed. It appears Garrick Rose is the exception.

A source provided the WBRZ Investigative Unit with a copy of Rose's drug test results showing he failed a pre-employment drug screen. The test shows Rose was positive for marijuana last July before he was hired. After not contesting the results, we learned that CATS leaders apparently wanted to hire Rose so badly, he was given a redo. When Rose retested a month later, he passed.

CATS leaders have repeatedly refused to do an on-camera interview about controversial topics pertaining to the bus system.

Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto caught up with CATS officials, including Garrick Rose and the leader of the bus system Bill Deville, at their public board meeting in May.

When asked about the failed drug test, Rose refused to answer any questions, saying only, "Leave me alone."

Then, during a break in the meeting, Rose approached Nakamoto and said, "Possession of stolen medical records is a violation of HIPAA. You've committed a felony."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked with our legal team. They said HIPAA, a law that protects patients' privacy, applies to doctors' offices and those responsible for medical records, not the media. Since any personal identifying information for Rose has been redacted, our attorneys said there's no problem showing the public what CATS didn't want them to see.

When Rose refused to answer questions about his failed test, we went to CATS CEO Bill Deville, who was caught by surprise.

NAKAMOTO: Hey Bill. You got a second to talk to us? We're doing a story on Garrick. He apparently failed a pre-employment drug screen and got hired anyway.

DEVILLE: Are you serious?

NAKAMOTO: You didn't know about that?

DEVILLE: You're talking personnel. I cannot talk personnel.

Nakamoto then asked about the other failed drug tests that resulted in ten people either being fired or not hired but did not get a second chance like Garrick Rose.

"You're wrong," Deville replied.

Despite pointing out the numbers being referenced came from CATS own public information officer, Deville refused to cooperate and answer questions.

Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft routinely defends people who have problems with their employers. She said the way CATS went about this is problematic.

"You can't selectively enforce a policy as it relates to hiring and not hiring individuals," Craft said. "Particularly a drug policy and when you're dealing with an entity that's a public agency certainly our taxpayer dollars pay for its existence, it heightens it to an area where civil rights of the individual are involved."

The problems with the drug tests have been the latest controversies for CATS. The WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered this month CATS was using taxpayer money to pay 13 of the highest-paid employees a car allowance, even though the bus system in New Orleans doesn't. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office, which issues best practices for public entities, also doesn't offer a car allowance for any of its employees.

CATS ended the car allowance practice following our story but again refused to sit down for an on-camera interview. With no one answering questions, serious concerns are being raised over transparency.

It's important to note that this story is not intended to single out someone who tests positive for marijuana. Instead, it's about a public entity not following its own procedures.

CATS operates on a $23 million budget per year. According to their strategic plan, they want to increase that by $10 million in the next few years.

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