SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Chatham Area Transit Board of Directors voted Tuesday to fire the new CEO.
By a 6-3 vote, CAT Executive Director and CEO Bacarra Mauldin was relieved of her duties effective immediately.
Mauldin was hired as the organization’s new CEO in June of 2020. She joined CAT from the New Orleans RTA.
CAT Board Chairman Deidrick Cody said he could not provide more details surrounding Mauldin’s removal because the issue is a personnel matter.
Board members WTOC spoke with say the board’s relationship with Mauldin had been discussed before. However, Vice Chairman Clinton Edminster says there was no reason given for her firing and he believes this action will have consequences for several in the community.
“I’m disappointed that we can’t recognize success and leadership when it comes to our town and I just hope we can really find it within ourselves to reconcile with what we’ve done and figure out a way to move forward,” said Edminster.
“When you’re dealing with a board and the votes are not on your end, the majority of the vote went the other way and they had a consensus of what they felt should happen for CAT. I’m just hoping that we didn’t allow a diamond to run away because of personal feelings,” said Alderman Detric Leggett.
Both Edminster and Leggett voted against removing Mauldin.
Chief Administrative Officer David Stearns was appointed by the board to serve as the interim CEO on a temporary basis. According to a news release from CAT, the board plans to meet again this week to appoint a long-term replacement.
Mauldin released a statement on Wednesday about the decision:
Mauldin says she’s been a target since her arrival last summer.
In a written statement, Mauldin says that’s because she was cleaning up the mess she found and for discovering inconsistencies in the way funding was being managed.
Mauldin began that written response by saying she’s served CAT honorably for the last seven months, that the service has had tremendous success despite the pandemic. But that apparently wasn’t enough to change the minds of six board members who wanted her gone.
In a two and a half page response, Mauldin pointed out CAT has made no lasting cuts to bus service and no employee layoffs during the pandemic, and that the budget is in the black.
She followed that by saying “what could only be characterized as a coordinated witch-hunt by a faction of the CAT Board of Directors,” her contract was terminated.
Mauldin says before her termination in a closed door executive session, she “was peppered with 32 questions ranging from my decisions to hire outside legal counsel to assist CAT with emergency COVID-related issues, disagreeing with a financial consultant’s recommendation that would have led to layoffs (a consultant that was forced upon the agency by a board member), and persistent rumors that my executive assistant was somehow my personal driver, the Board decided to terminate me immediately with absolutely no explanation or cause.”
Mauldin defended herself further saying she’s done “nothing illegal, untoward, malicious or unethical.”
Later in the response Mauldin says “The way in which this Board conducts business is self-destructive not only to the employees of CAT, but to Chatham County, Savannah and most importantly the riding public,” adding her “only regret is not listening to the other leaders in the transit industry who warned me of how troubled CAT is before accepting the CEO position.”
The news of Mauldin’s firing caught several local leaders off guard, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who gave his thoughts earlier today.
“I don’t know what to think of it. I mean, I hope that if there’s cause, it was good cause. I do know that public transportation is critical in our community, so whatever it is, we need to get it together,” Mayor Johnson said.