CATS CEO Bill Deville fired

Board members fired the CEO of the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) Wednesday, June 29 after stripping him of his title and all his duties in April.
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 5:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2022 at 7:19 PM CDT

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Board members fired the CEO of the Capital Area Transit System (CATS) Wednesday, June 29 after stripping him of his title and all his duties in April.

This decision was made during a special board meeting held Wednesday, June 29. It was a 7-2 vote in favor of the termination. Dwana Williams will serve as interim CEO for CATS.

“I am honored by the Board’s decision to place their trust in my ability to lead CATS into this new chapter,” said Ms. Williams. “Being involved in public transit is more than just a job; it is a calling- a calling I was fortunate to recognize early in my career. Over the years, I have been blessed to see firsthand the way lives and communities can be changed when our neighbors have access to safe and reliable public transit. As interim CEO, I promise to do all I can to ensure that CATS continues to connect the residents of Baton Rouge and Baker to the people and places that matter.”

The CATS Board of Commissioners chose to move on from Chief Executive Officer Bill Deville at a special board meeting on Monday, April 11.

Seven members voted yes on a motion to strip Deville of his duties and title. One member voted no.

The position of CEO oversees the organization and its roughly $36 million budget.

“I have lost confidence in Bill, I haven’t seen the leadership that position that I would expect to see in an organization like this,” said Patrick Downs, CATS Board of Commissioners member.

On the agenda for the special board meeting, it said members would be considering terminating the CEO’s contract. But instead of just downright firing him, the board chose a different path while the organization transitioned at this time.

“If we’re going to be paying salary for Bill for a year and a half at this point, up to $300,000 dollars, then it would be good for him to work with us,” said Matt Thomas, Treasurer of the CATS Board of Commissioners.

“We retained him as an employee. So I didn’t say we essentially fired him, we removed his title as CEO,” said Kahli Cohran, President of the CATS Board of Commissioners.

Deville still remained under contract and got paid during this time. He was reassigned in an advisory capacity of sorts, with new responsibilities.

“That (responsibilities) will be defined. I mean I didn’t say no responsibilities, those will be defined. So, I’m not saying that there’s no responsibilities obviously,” said Cohran.

It was even hard for us to understand at first as well.

“So basically, Bill (Deville) could drive a bus for CATS, but he’s not going to be CEO,” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhe’.

“Again, I’ll refrain my comments until that’s further defined,” said Cohran.

At its meeting about a month prior, the board went into executive session, to discuss the ‘Character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of CATS CEO.’

The Capital Area Transit System’s Board of Commissioners chose to move on from Chief Executive Officer Bill Deville at a special board meeting on Monday.

Deville had been the Chief Executive Officer for CATS since September of 2016.

Back in November of 2021, voters in parts of Baton Rouge and Baker renewed a 10-year property tax millage that has helped fund the mass transit system for the past ten years.

“And we got to look out for the people, because it’s not about us, it’s about the people,” said Linda Perkins, the Vice President for the CATS Board of Commissioners.

While the average person may not really care who’s in charge of CATS, they just want their bus to pick them up in time.

“When an agency has reached a point where they are thinking about termination, I think it’s important to have a succession plan. So what I would hope is there is a clear succession plan in terms of what happens next. I think the taxpayers deserve that,” said Councilman Lamont Cole, EBR Mayor Pro Tem.

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