Mirabito named CATS CEO, but some want national search

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Interim CATS CEO Bob Mirabito presents a list of new routes during a recent Capital Area Transit System Board meeting. On Tuesday, the iterim tag was removed, making Mirabito the CEO. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Interim CATS CEO Bob Mirabito presents a list of new routes during a recent Capital Area Transit System Board meeting. On Tuesday, the iterim tag was removed, making Mirabito the CEO.

Some bemoan lack of search

Bob Mirabito was officially approved to be the new chief executive officer of the Capital Area Transit System on Tuesday, although some officials and transit advocates still have concerns about the board’s lack of commitment to a national search.

Members of the CATS Board on Tuesday expressed emphatic support and gratitude for Mirabito, who was hired as an interim CEO about six months ago despite a lack of transit experience before coming to CATS.

“He came in during a time of turbulence and provided a calming effect,” CATS board member Ken Perrett said.

Immediately after Mirabito came on, the CATS board was under fire for a series of controversies, including a board member accused of using CATS funds for his personal bills.

Jim Brandt, a CATS board member appointed last week, said he would abstain from the vote because he was new to the board. But he questioned whether the board had conducted a formal evaluation of Mirabito before deciding to extend the contract, and expressed his desire to have a national search to select a CEO.

His sentiments were echoed by David Aguillard, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Transit Coalition, who stated at the meeting that the board promised the public that it would conduct a national search.

Aguillard credited Mirabito for significant progress made since he joined the agency, but said CATS should conduct a national search within the next six months.

“Bob applied for and Bob was hired as an interim CEO,” Aguillard said. “To take a break and continue that contract now is fine, but don’t come out of halftime and change the rules and start playing a new game.”

Aside from Brandt’s abstention, the board voted unanimously in favor of the 13-month contract and $140,000 salary.

Board member Deborah Roe said the board never committed to holding a national search.

“In terms of that time frame we have a different perspective,” she said to Aguillard,of the idea of holding national search within six months. “A national search was never on the table, nor is it ever off the table.”

During the selection process to hire Mirabito as interim CEO, former board president Isaiah Marshall and board member Dalton Honore II had frequently stated the CATS board intended to hold a national search.

Some members of the Metro Council also expressed concern about the lack of a national search.

“They had the opportunity to hire someone who was the best and the brightest, someone with actual transportation experience and not what he’s just learned on the job in the last few months,” Councilman John Delgado said. “Again, we’re just taking whatever we can get and that just shows a lack of judgment and effort.”

Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said she thinks Mirabito has done an “OK job,” but would have preferred to see a leader with more transportation experience.

“It’s hard to determine if he’s done a good job because he’s executed stuff that was already in progress,” Marcelle said. “He seems like a good businessman, but is he the best person to run our transit system? I don’t know.”

On Tuesday, the CATS Board also awarded the $1.4 million program management contract to MV Transportation, a Dallas-based firm with more than 200 transit contracts around the world. The two-year contract will provide additional management staff and guidance to CATS as it navigates through its service expansion.