CATS board OKs Mirabito’s hiring

Robert Mirabito
Robert Mirabito

The board that oversees the Capital Area Transit System on Wednesday approved hiring Robert Mirabito to lead the agency as it moves forward this year to overhaul its services.

The agreement is subject to negotiations between Mirabito and the CATS board’s president and vice president, who will iron out final terms of the contract.

The board instructed President Isaiah Marshall and Vice President Dalton Honoré II to set a $125,000 limit on Mirabito’s salary, which was former Chief Executive Officer Brian Marshall’s base pay at the time of his resignation in April.

Since Mirabito is serving as interim CEO and is not expected to work a full year, his salary would be pro-rated.

Marshall, who had led CATS since 2010, resigned amid public criticism that the agency wasn’t making enough progress quickly enough to deliver promised service improvements.

Mirabito, a businessman with a background in health care, telecommunications and internet services, said he’s excited about the opportunity to tackle a new challenge.

He said he plans to focus on technology, reaching customers and employees, and building bus shelters at stops during the six to nine months he will serve as interim CEO.

“Riders want their buses to run on time, they want to know when the bus is going to be at their stop and they want a clean bus with a courteous bus driver,” he said. “That lays out what exactly needs to be done.”

Board members said they would like Mirabito to start by June 17, but ideally as soon as he signs the contract.

Running CATS will be Mirabito’s first job in the public sector managing an agency receiving taxpayer dollars. But he said he’ll treat the job no differently from his other jobs in the private sector.

“At any company I’ve worked for, I have treated the employer dollars as if they are my own,” he said. “I wouldn’t spend it unwisely whether it was taxpayer money or shareholder money.”

Mirabito served most recently as chief information officer for the Baton Rouge Radiology Group, but his position was eliminated last June. He said he’s hopeful he can transition the interim position at CATS into a permanent job.

Mirabito, who lacks experience in transportation management, will get some help next month when CATS selects its program management firm.

The program manager will specialize in transportation and be responsible for implementation of the service expansion promised in an April 2012 tax election.

CATS has promised to deliver shorter wait times, more routes and buses, a functioning bus-tracking smart phone app, and shelters at bus stops by the first quarter of 2014.

Isaiah Marshall said Mirabito should act as a “conduit” between program managers, the administrative staff and the board.

The board on Wednesday also changed a spending policy making it easier and faster to sign off on agency contracts.

Previously, any contract more than $20,000 required full board approval. The board voted Wednesday to change to $60,000 the threshold for contracts requiring board approval.

Honoré initially sought to change the threshold to $100,000, but the board decided on a lower amount.

Honoré said several contracts are expected to be signed as the agency implements more changes over the next few months.

He said that waiting for the board to meet every month for final approval can stall projects.

Board member Jared Loftus cast the sole vote against the change.

“It’s important that we deliver in a timely manner, but it’s more important that we deliver quality,” Loftus said. “It’s a slippery slope.”

By comparison, the threshold for city-parish contracts requiring Metro Council approval in East Baton Rouge Parish is $17,500.