Council may vote on removing CATS board president

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe is calling for the removal of bus system board President Isaiah Marshall.

Loupe said Monday he had asked Councilman Ryan Heck, who is a Capital Area Transit System board member, to request Marshall’s resignation and Marshall refused.

The council is expected to vote on whether to begin the removal process on Aug. 14, Council Administrator Casey Cashio said.

The agenda item “expresses the Metropolitan Council’s intention to remove Isaiah Marshall from the Capital Area Transit Board for neglect of duty and/or misconduct in office.”

The council will first have to vote to approve giving Marshall notice of its intention to remove him. If approved, Marshall can resign, or else will be assigned a hearing date before the Metro Council at which he can appeal his proposed removal.

The hearing can be public or private, at Marshall’s discretion.

Loupe’s call for Marshall’s removal came one day before the full CATS board was expected to vote on whether to award local engineering firm SJB Group a $1.5 million, 18-month transit management firm. CATS meets at 4:30 p.m. at the BREC Administration Building to vote on the issue.

A committee appointed by Marshall recommended the SJB Group receive the contract following an evaluation process that has been called into question by some CATS board members, Metro Council members and community advocates.

Those questioning the process voiced concerns about the perception that the scales were unfairly tipped in favor of frontrunner SJB Group over the three other firms that applied.

“It’s flawed; it was not done properly,” Loupe said. “Somebody made a mistake and the best thing would be to redo the process but it doesn’t look like he (Marshall) wants that to happen.”

A six-person selection committee, chosen by Marshall, scored four firms in various categories based on presentations and submitted proposals. One evaluator, Jason Wilson, a Baton Rouge Airport Manager, gave zeros to three out of four of the firms that applied. SJB was the only company that did not receive a zero score.

No other evaluators awarded scores of zero and critics have said Wilson’s scores appear to have unfairly skewed the results.

Loupe questioned Marshall’s refusal to address issues raised about Wilson’s scores and the impact on the contact award process.

“I don’t think anything was intentional,” Loupe said, “but he’s not recognizing what everyone else in the room seems to recognize.”

The six-person selection committee had four board members serving on it, although board members have not in the past sat on such selection committees.

Marshall also chose the members of the CATS management committee that recommended forwarding the choice of SJB Group to the CATS board for a vote.

Some Metro Council members said last week that they would like to see the full CATS board removed.

Marshall, who was voted CATS board president in February, has been quoted as saying he would not resign. He did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

Loupe said removing other board members is an option that he considers “still on the table.”

Heck and Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, also a CATS board member, declined comment for this article. However, Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who does not serve of the CATS board, said she has seen no concrete evidence of wrongdoing by Marshall that would warrant his removal.

“We do business all the time where the votes come very close,” Wicker said. “But we don’t go back and redo the process because we didn’t like the outcome. I just want to make sure it was done right and in the proper setting.”

Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards said she would not comment on Marshall or on the criticisms of the selection process.

However, she issued a news release Monday afternoon calling for a Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. July 23 at Southern University’s College of Business to discuss CATS.

“This in essence is a call for a time out or intermission from all of the escalating rhetoric and negativity associated with CATS,” Edwards said in the release.

She said the meeting would provide “an opportunity to put things back into historical context, provide information to the community directly that is not being filtered through the media or special interests and look for appropriate next steps” in the process of implementing planned improvements to the bus system.

Marshall, who has been on the CATS board since 2009, was voted president in February.

The CATS board has taken an active role in bus service operations since it crafted an 10.8-mill tax plan that passed last April.

The transit management firm is expected to help the bus agency with the technical aspects necessary to deliver on service promises made, which include changing routes and expanding and increasing service to provide a more-efficient and reliable experience for riders.