Bob Mirabito said he has no plans to step down as head of the Capital Area Transit System, despite calls last week from the employee union and Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle seeking his resignation.
Mirabito said Thursday that he has done nothing wrong, has no regrets about his actions and has only helped propel the agency toward measurable, tangible improvements.
Mirabito has been leader of CATS for about 20 months, but in the past two weeks, he’s been publicly criticized by his own employees who accused him of forcing them to drive unsafe buses, endangering the lives of riders and the driving public.
Two weeks ago, union workers staged a protest outside of the CATS terminal on Florida Boulevard, holding signs criticizing Mirabito and his staff.
Marcelle intervened last week, holding a news conference and calling Mirabito a poor leader who disrespects his employees and manages with “fear and intimidation.”
Mirabito, in an interview Thursday, described himself as friendly and fair. But what’s most important, he said, is that CATS is improving under his watch.
From January 2014 to January 2015, CATS’ monthly revenue increased by about $50,000 from bus fare revenue.
Ridership increased to 230,000 trips in January 2015, up from 171,000 trips in January 2014. This past month, CATS buses were on time 77 percent of the time, which is its best performance month yet, Mirabito said.
Eighty covered bus shelters will be refurbished by the end of the month, and 31 have been constructed. He said he expects CATS will be able to start work on the remaining 60 bus shelters once the state gives the agency control of the grant money to start working.
Bus shelters, however, have been a point of contention for CATS advocates who were initially promised 100 new covered bus shelters would be built by March 2014 as a result of the dedicated property tax approved by voters in 2012.
Mirabito acknowledged CATS has a problem with its aging fleet, which affects reliability because of frequent breakdowns. He said bus breakdowns are down a little because he’s increased maintenance work. Last quarter, there was an average of 4.5 bus breakdowns a day, which is a slight improvement from 6.5 breakdowns a day from the previous quarter.
He also noted that on Friday, about 220 employees received a merit bonus of $350, if they had not been disciplined or been involved in a vehicle collision.
“We have our challenges, but I do think we’re heading in the right direction,” Mirabito said.
As for the worker protests, Mirabito said only 40 percent of CATS employees are union members and he thinks the vast majority of his employees support him.
Some union workers who participated in the public protests were subsequently suspended, which they said is a violation of their union contract because they are permitted to protest while off of the clock. Mirabito said any disciplinary action that happened was unrelated to the protest.
Marcelle took issue with Mirabito for refusing to meet with her and denying her entrance into a meeting last week to meet with employees.
She said last week, “What does he have to hide?”
Mirabito said he canceled a meeting with Marcelle because he was sick and that he didn’t allow her to come to the meeting with employees because it was private and none of the employees admitted to inviting her.
“I look forward to the opportunity to meeting with her and sharing information about what we’re doing,” he said.
Ultimately, Mirabito said he feels employees are just upset and uncomfortable that he’s making changes.
“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “You have to be able to move the agency forward.”
CATS board Chairwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said there is a union process in place to determine if employees have been unfairly treated and that will determine whether anything wrong was done.
She declined to comment about accusations from employees that Mirabito was disrespectful or that buses were dangerous. But she said she is supportive of Mirabito’s work.
“There are a lot of things we need to take care of in our fleet, but those things will come in time,” she said. “It’s not a perfect system, but it’s come a long way.”