BATON ROUGE — The Capital Area Transit System (CATS) is once again making questionable decisions with who runs the agency.
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Board members tell WBRZ that CATS hired Keith Cunningham as the agency’s acting CAO a few days ago. Cunningham recently worked for the Louisiana Housing Corporation where he was sued by an employee accusing him of sexual harassment. Cunningham was fired from his job when the allegations came to light last year.
The lawsuit was originally filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, but moved to federal court last year. A few weeks ago, the Cunningham employee alleging sexual harassment received her notice of right to sue from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the EEOC, someone hoping to bring a lawsuit under federal law alleging discrimination must first file a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC will then grant permission after concluding its own investigation, in the form of a notice of right to sue, to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
In the lawsuit, the employee alleges that Cunningham made repeated sexual advances to her, forced her to meet him alone in his office and attempted to touch her breasts. The lawsuit says the woman refused all of Cunningham’s repeated sexual advances and reported it to agency attorneys, board members and Cunningham’s direct supervisor. The trial continued, Cunningham’s sexual harassment did not end when complaints were filed.
Cunningham’s hiring by CATS comes after the WBRZ investigative unit revealed that CATS had overdue the agency’s health insurance premiums. Its conductor, John Cutrone, also tested positive for methamphetamine in January, and the bus system refused to enforce its zero-tolerance drug-free policy. Cutrone continued to be employed by CATS.
Situations are getting more and more frustrating for people who depend on the bus system, like passenger Roy Thomas. Thomas told WBRZ on Wednesday he’s been riding the bus all his life and what’s happening is just embarrassing.
“[CATS does] messed up stuff,” Thomas said. “They have other people who are ready and have potential. You need to hire them and get rid of the mother f****** you all have…real conversations.
Members of the CATS Board of Directors echo these sentiments.
“I believe in giving people a second chance, but I don’t believe in hiring Mr. Cunningham,” said a board member, who did not want to be identified. “It’s not a good idea to have someone employed in a managerial position with a federal sexual harassment lawsuit pending. With all the negative issues that continue to crop up at CATS, it’s another eye with black butter.”
CATS did not respond to requests for comment before the story aired, but sent the statement shortly before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Mr. Keith Cunningham started working with CATS on March 24 of this year. He mainly assists the CEO in the functions of the position of Managing Director.
Recent reports have shared details of the charges brought against Mr. Cunningham in March 2021 while serving as executive director of the Louisiana Housing Corporation. Unfortunately, the reports lacked all the facts and context of the case. A third-party investigation company, retained by LHC, conducted a thorough and detailed investigation and, finding no conclusive evidence to support the allegations, issued a no-conclusion report. CATS plays a vital role in the success of our communities.
Our team looks forward to continuing to serve residents of the Capital Region and delivering on our promises to expand and improve services in the years to come.