BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Metro Council leader is calling for the head of CATS to step down.
Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle was joined by a dozen CATS employees, riders and union leaders Thursday morning outside City Hall in the call for the resignation of CEO Bob Mirabito.
"He has operated by fear and intimidation. In terms of the employees, he's violated their civil rights by suspending and terminating some people who have spoken out about the working conditions at CATS," said Marcelle.
The call for Mirabito to go was made after Marcelle said he ducked out of two meetings with her and then the final straw for her, she said, was when CATS suspended four employees who were protesting last week.
Marcelle added those employees had the right, as stated in their union contracts, to have that time off the clock.
"The employees are so afraid of not only administration, they can't come up and talk because they know they'll be fired."
"You tell me, is it right for us to continue to let these things go on behind closed doors," asked Naomi Guy, a CATS employee and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
In the middle of all the critics, you could also find Mirabito supporters like Debbie Marie, a CATS rider of 19 years.
"Little by little, he's replacing buses. He's very good. He is trying. I call what just happened today a bunch of back-stabbing hypocrites," said Marie.
Across downtown, John Delgado was not at Thursday's press conference, but he supports his fellow council member.
"When a public official like Ms. Marcelle goes to speak to an appointee or board member like Mr. Mirabito and they bar the door, they refuse her admittance when she's there to voice her constituents concerns over the issues I think that's incredibly disrespectful," said Delgado, a Baton Rouge Metro Council member.
In addition to their top concerns, Mirabito's critics also say there are safety and security concerns on the buses.
"Saturday, last week, bus number 136, an operator was turning the corner and the axle broke on that bus," said Guy.
"We are committed to making sure our riders remain the focus of all that we do as an agency," Donna Collins-Lewis, chair of the CATS Board, said in a written release. "Bob Mirabito has shown us through the improvements made over the past year that he has that same commitment. We have protocols and procedures in place to address any employee relations concerns that may rise to the surface. Any issues that occur will come to the board's attention in the proper manner, following those protocols."
CATS said there were no contract violations, contrasting what Marcelle and the employees at city hall are saying.
Marcelle says if Mirabito does not resign, she and her supporters will ask the board at CATS to take action.
Mirabito took over a struggling CATS two years ago and many people credit him for keeping the bus system afloat.
In his tenure, CATS has added a half-dozen new busses, new bus stops and nearly a dozen new routes, like the Garden District trolley. The bus system released a statement on the matter.