CFO: Second CATS board member told of fund misuse

A second member of the board that oversees CATS was told about an alleged misuse of funds by Montrell McCaleb more than a month before it was reported to authorities, according to the agency’s chief financial officer.

Capital Area Transit System CFO Gary Owens confirmed he told board member Dalton Honoré II in a May 30 phone call that board member McCaleb appeared to have used nearly $1,500 of agency funds to pay his cellphone and satellite TV bill.

Honoré disputed Owens’ version of the conversation, saying he was only told generally about problems with an account, not that it involved a CATS board member.

CATS board President Isaiah Marshall had been informed about the issue involving McCaleb’s bills being charged to the agency even earlier, but the apparent misuse of funds wasn’t reported to authorities until July 19, after the media inquired about the funds.

Marshall, who resigned late Thursday, has been criticized for not reporting the issue to his fellow board and to authorities for two months, after being informed on May 17. He has said he wanted the issue to be investigated internally before it was handed over to the authorities.

Chandler Loupe, who chairs the Metro Council, said he thinks Marshall “made the correct decision. I intend to proceed with my effort to remove Mr. Honoré and would likewise encourage him to resign.”

Honoré, who filled in as an administrative leader at CATS before Robert Mirabito was hired as interim CEO, disputed Owens’ account that Owens had informed him of McCaleb’s actions.

“When my accusers are accusing me, they need to make sure they know the facts,” Honoré said.

A May 30 email exchange obtained by The Advocate indicates Owens and Honoré had a telephone conversation on that date.

In the May 30 email, Marshall asked Owens, “Gary, Have you talk with Dalton? I don’t want him to be blind sided.”

Owens responded 18 minutes later saying, “I have not, but will call him now.”

Reached for comment by phone, Owens confirmed he had a “20 to 25 minute conversation” with Honoré on May 30 to “bring him up to speed” on the allegations against McCaleb.

Owens declined further comment.

When it was first reported July 18 that McCaleb had misused agency funds, Honoré told The Advocate he was shocked by the news and was hearing it for the first time from a reporter.

He said he recalled a conversation with Owens in which he was only told about “irregularities with the account.”

On Thursday, Honoré maintained that Owens never told him a board member was involved in the alleged misuse of agency funds, and blamed Owens for not being forthcoming with information.

“Why would he not have volunteered the information?” Honoré said. “He failed to volunteer to tell me, and glossed over the details.”

Owens uncovered the improper payments made to McCaleb’s accounts and reported them to the bank and to Marshall and board attorney Creighton Abadie on May 17.

Honoré also criticized Owens for not providing him and other board members with information earlier about missing fare box revenues in recent months.

Mirabito, the interim CEO, announced at a news conference Monday that fare box revenues had gone unaccounted for for several months, and that he was investigating the issue. He said he’s trying to determine if it was theft or a software problem.

Owens said he had previously been investigating the situation with former CEO Brian Marshall when they first noticed steep increases of missing funds last year.

“The bigger question today I would have to ask is why wasn’t he (Owens) forthcoming about this incident? Why wasn’t he forthcoming about the shortages of the fare box?” Honoré said, adding that he thought the missing fare box revenue was a “way bigger” issue than the funds alleged to have been misused by McCaleb.

McCaleb resigned after the allegations were brought to light by the media, but has maintained he did nothing wrong.

Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe is seeking Metro Council action to remove both Honoré and Marshall from the CATS board.

Both have said publicly that they will not resign.