Accusations of mismanagement fly
Infighting among CATS board members reached fever pitch Tuesday night as Dalton Honoré II and Jared Loftus traded accusations of mismanagement.
At the stormy Capital Area Transit System board meeting, Loftus accused Honoré of subverting board protocols to award a $4,200 a month information technology contract to a company without board approval while he was served as acting administrator of the agency.
Honoré served as the administrator for about six weeks, starting in late April, after former CEO Brian Marshall resigned and before interim CEO Bob Mirabito was hired to head the parish bus system.
Gary Owens, who resigned Monday as the chief financial officer for CATS, attended Tuesday’s meeting and spoke about the information technology contract. He said Honoré instructed him not to put the contract out to bid, despite Owens’ objections.
Honoré said the IT contract was awarded legally and was done in haste because a new contract was needed immediately to ensure GPS bus tracking software could work.
Honoré, meanwhile, accused Loftus of turning a blind eye to thousands of dollars of fare box money that went missing while Loftus served as board president last year.
Honoré awarded an IT contract to Calvin Mills in May. According to emails provided by Loftus, Owens went back and forth with Honoré and former Board President Isaiah Marshall in June and July attempting to put the contract before two board committees for consideration.
However the contract was approved without ever going before the full CATS board or any committees of the board.
Honoré said board approval is required only for contracts that exceed $20,000. He said Mills is being paid monthly and has not yet hit the threshold.
But Loftus said the contract is open-ended.
In a July 3 email, Owens told Marshall, “It’s open ended, so it’s $50,400 on an annual basis. It’s our (standard operating procedure) to evaluate the approval requirements on the total exposure.”
Loftus noted that the contract also required a signature from both Honoré and Owens, but Owens never signed the contract.
Honoré told the board Owens negotiated the contract with Mills. But Owens disputed that account, saying he was told by Honoré that it was a “done deal” and that “Dalton would not entertain the process of getting bids or quotes.”
“I would not sign it because it was a terribly one-sided contract, in their favor, which didn’t go through any procurement process,” Owens said in an email after the meeting.
Ultimately the debate was stopped by other board members, who deemed the conversation inappropriate, and referred the matter to a committee meeting for further review.
After the meeting, Honoré said Loftus has been attempting to embarrass him for weeks.
“What I did was legal, what I did was proper, what I did was expedient,” Honoré said.
Honoré admitted handpicking Mills for the technology contract, saying he selected him because he knew of his work. He said they know each other from seeing each other at various professional conferences but stopped short of calling him a friend.
Owens resigned Monday, following the end of an internal investigation into an estimated $65,000 in missing fare box revenue over the past several months. He said he did not steal money, but acknowledged his responsibility as CFO to oversee CATS funds.
Honoré questioned whether Owens and Loftus, who was board president for a year ending in February, were sitting on information about the missing fare boxes.
“My real question is did (Loftus) know about it? How much did Mr. Owens know and how long?” Honoré said. “Sitting as chair, there’s information the chair may know that other board members may not possibly know.”
Loftus said it’s “disappointing when grown men like Mr. Honoré refuse to take responsibility for their unethical behavior.”
Speaking after the meeting, Loftus said he demanded more transparency as chairman and that “anything said to the contrary is intentionally inaccurate.”
Owens has said he reported the indications of missing fare box money to former CEO Brian Marshall.
Tuesday’s meeting was run by Honoré, who served temporarily as board president since Isaiah Marshall resigned.
The board voted unanimously at the meeting for Marston Fowler to serve as board president — a vote that almost didn’t happen because Honoré removed the action item to select a new board president from the agenda Monday.
Honoré said he attempted to stop the vote, only because he wanted to create a nominating committee that would recommend the new board president.
Board member Ryan Heck, who is a member of the Metro Council, asked the board to place the item back on the agenda. But earlier in the day, he wrote an email to the Metro Council informing him that Honoré’s actions had struck a nerve with him.
“Whether Mr. Honoré likes it or not, the chair position must be filled,” Heck wrote. “The item was to discuss filling the position, where a motion could be made from the floor to nominate someone. Why he would block this simple and needed task is beyond me.”
He went on to say that he is considering voting at next week’s council meeting in favor of Honoré’s removal from the CATS board.
“I had my misgivings about forcibly removing Mr. Honore from the CATS board, but if he continues this behavior, I will not,” Heck wrote.
Last month, Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe moved to put an item on the council agenda to remove both Marshall and Honoré for mismanagement.