Emails obtained by WBRZ show CATS exec on warpath, crazed hunt for leaks amid Nakamoto reports on bus system
BATON ROUGE - A string of emails obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit following lengthy investigations into problems at the Capital Area Transit System shows the lengths CEO Bill Deville went to prevent the public from getting information.
Before Investigative Unit reports this summer, Deville knew stories on the bus system were imminent. WBRZ reports showed CATS was paying some employees a lucrative monthly car allowance. That allowance was vacated following WBRZ reports. In another story, reporting found CATS ignored its zero-tolerance policies for drugs and hired someone who failed a drug test. That same luxury was not given to other employees who failed.
Following the reports on television and online, the WBRZ Investigative Unit requested all emails between the CEO and those involved in the stories. The emails showed the bus system leader wasn't honest when interviewed on camera for one of the reports and went through a lot of trouble to block leaks of information from the bus company.
An email dated May 9, 2019, sent by Deville at 8:28 p.m. shows Deville wrote: "We may wait to see [what WBRZ's] next move will be... We may have another tool in our toolbox going forward when follow up questions come our way."
It's unclear what Deville was referring to, but he was not transparent in follow-up stories this summer.
Emails also show Deville was aware of a bus system supervisor being hired despite a failed drug test - something he acted shocked to hear when questioned in a WBRZ report.
"Are you serious?" Deville responded when asked him about the hiring process for Garrick Rose, the employee at the center of one of the stories.
Rose, WBRZ uncovered, failed a drug test and was allowed to re-take the test. That's something no other employees or prospective employees were offered if they failed. Rose was hired after passing another drug test one month later.
Rose would not answer questions about the situation, only responding possession of stolen medical records is a violation of HIPAA.
The drug test was leaked to WBRZ, and thus HIPAA does not apply, TV station attorneys said.
Rose's hiring went against CATS policies and also was not the same thing that happened to 10 other employees who were either terminated or not hired.
"You can't selectively enforce a policy as it relates to hiring and not hiring individuals, particularly a drug policy," Attorney Jill Craft said. "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."
Emails show Deville was aware of the investigative report about the failed drug test.
Before the story was reported, an email dated May 9, 2019, from bus system communication person Amie McNaylor shows she told him that 10 other employees were fired or not hired for failing drug tests. Deville responds, "I'm ok with those facts."
When Deville was asked about the 10other employees later on TV by WBRZ, he responded: "You're wrong."
Other emails obtained by WBRZ show how frustrated Deville was with information being leaked to the Investigative Unit, and the lengths he went to stop tips from being made to WBRZ.
April 24, 2019, at 5:11 pm, Deville requested that an audit get done. He wanted hard drives, equipment, search history on desktops, laptops, emails and copiers from the past 45 days. He also had tech people check phone logs with incoming and outgoing calls to the numbers beginning with 225-336 - the numbers assigned to WBRZ phone lines.
Deville writes, "We need to have this completed posthaste."
CATS said it removed all emails that it considered a personnel issue before releasing them.