Four vacancies on the board governing Baton Rouge’s Capital Area Transit System say a lot about turmoil on the board and the agency it oversees. But those vacancies are also a good opportunity for the Metro Council to fill the empty seats with strong leaders.
Isaiah Marshall, the board’s former chairman, resigned from the panel amid questions about his leadership. There’s thousands of dollars in missing fare money, and the board threw out a selection process for a private management firm after critics suggested it was rigged to favor a company with close political ties to the board. Montrell McCaleb left the board after being accused of using CATS funds to pay personal bills. Jared Loftus and Ryan Heck, two members who were pushing reform, also have left the panel.
CATS has an interim CEO, Robert Mirabito, who has no transit experience. Mirabito, whose background is in business and technology, seems to be focusing on bread-and-butter agency management issues such as fiscal reform. Mirabito has publicly disagreed with Metro Councilman John Delgado, who said he’d like to ask the Legislature to abolish the CATS board and turn its management over to the Metro Council.
We share Delgado’s exasperation with CATS’ recent troubles, but the Metro Council hasn’t developed a promising record as a steward of mass transit, either. Council members have a responsibility to appoint CATS board members who have a strong commitment to accountability and the public interest. The council’s track record on that score is mixed, to say the least.
Instead of doing away with CATS, officials should start paying more attention to the people they put in place to manage the agency. Filling the existing vacancies on the board with quality appointees is a good place to start.