CATS CFO resigns after audit into missing money from fare boxes

CATS CFO Gary Owens
CATS CFO Gary Owens
CATS CFO Gary Owens resignation letter (click the image to enlarge)
CATS CFO Gary Owens resignation letter (click the image to enlarge)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Another shakeup within the beleaguered Capital Area Transit System or CATS was announced Monday, as the organization's Chief Financial Officer Gary Owens stepped down.

The news was presented by CEO Bob Mirabito in a special afternoon press conference. According to Mirabito, Owens tendered his resignation Monday morning and CATS will seek the assistance of a temporary CFO until a new head can be hired. The news comes after the recent resignations of former board president Isaiah Marshall and board member Montrell McCalab, as well as Brian Marshall who was the CEO of CATS. Brian Marshall resigned in April.

Four weeks ago, CATS board members made the public aware of a reconciliation problem with the fare boxes. Mirabito says the discrepancy with the fare box money could be due to one of three things: theft, a computer glitch, or a combination of both.

In July, Mirabito released three years worth of figures detailing the variances between money on hand, and the reports for CATS fare boxes.

Sometimes the differences fell within the normal range expected for error. Other times the differences were in the thousands and one month, April 2013, the difference was $10,955.

"It could be any one of the three issues I identified at the original press conference but the probability of theft becomes a lot greater since we've had a clean audit for the last four weeks," said Mirabito.

During the news conference, Mirabito said: "Our four week audit results were within the one percent variance stated by the manufacturer. While some of our equipment was in disrepair, it did not impact the results of our audit. Additionally, we spent many hours analyzing data and video and have not found anything that significantly impacted our reconciliation issue.

Therefore, we have taken the following steps:

1) Repaired our vault receiver

2) Re-keyed our vault receiver

3) Added additional cameras in the counting room

4) Put a process in place to remove all cash from the buses daily, as opposed to weekdays.

5) Assign responsibility for insuring any fare box probed was emptied into our vault receiver.

6) Any variance over 1 percent will trigger an audit.

7) Notified the District Attorney and the State Legislative Auditor of our results.

"As the CEO of this agency, it is incumbent upon me to assure the public that we are working hard every day to fix what is broken," said Mirabito.

"My team and I sincerely understand the frustrations that many have felt over the way CATS has been run in the past. I am here to tell you that we are doing our very best to make your transit system more accountable and more efficient. To me, it is not just our job; it is what the public deserves."

Last week in the Metro Council meeting, Councilman Buddy Amoroso has asked for the seven current CATS board members to resign and also asked for a strict set of guidelines to follow in appointing their replacements.

The motion to have the current CATS board members resign was deferred for 60 days. The motion to place strict guidelines to appoint replacements passed and went into effect immediately.

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