An official for Mobility Transit Services LLC met accusations from two Augusta Commission members that his firm might be shortchanging city bus driver trainees with a morsel of company news Monday: Mobility has a new president, and he’s Florida taxicab mogul Cullan Meathe.
Mobility, whose only transit contract is with Augusta, “felt it was time for a change” in leadership, said Augusta General Manager Mike Rosson.
“Changes don’t have to be for the worse,” he said.
Meathe, invisible during negotiations with the city that began more than a year ago, is better to lead Mobility now “because the Florida office is really overseeing and running that contract,” said former Mobility President and CEO Kevin Adams, of Knoxville, Tenn.
Adams, who is being replaced by Meathe, said he remains an owner in Mobility, while Meathe “has been involved from the beginning.”
Meathe has a trail of liens and judgments against him and various transportation companies he owns in Florida and Michigan, according to records on file with the Florida Department of State and published reports. Meathe is named as a party in 31 federal lawsuits filed in Florida, Georgia and Michigan district courts, although all but six of them are closed.
In 2011, a judgment against his Palm Beach Transportation Group ordered the firm to pay $881,675; a 2008 judgment for a fuel company ordered the firm to pay $250,513.
Palm Beach Transportation Group’s headquarters is at the same address, 1635 Meathe Drive in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Mobility Transit Services LLC was incorporated in 2010.
Adams said Meathe’s appearance has nothing to do with the firm’s performance in Augusta. He said he was unaware of any liens or judgments filed against Meathe.
“You’d have to talk to Cullan Meathe about that,” Adams said.
Meathe, who did not return a call seeking comment, is listed as principal agent and chief executive of dozens of transportation-related firms in Florida, including taxicab companies in St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, according to Florida Department of State records.
His Grand Floridian Marine Leasing LLC, also at 1635 Meathe Drive, was ordered to pay a 2011 judgment of more than $3.7 million.
Meathe’s largest legal issue, however, appears to be a $43 million federal lawsuit from the Bank of Montreal. In 2010, Meathe told the Florida Times-Union that allegations in the suit claiming he used loan money as his “personal checking account” were “poppycock” and said former managers at some of his Florida companies were responsible for taking out the loans. The Times-Union later reported that the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Money concerns were raised with Mobility by Augusta Commission members Monday during a work session on the city’s transit contract. Commissioner Bill Lockett said Mobility’s delay in reimbursing driver-trainees a $25 per diem and the firm’s late payments to Augusta vendors gave the perception of “a fly-by-night operation,” but he did not point to Meathe’s background.
Lockett and Commissioner Alvin Mason have been on the losing end of a commission effort to privatize certain services over the past year, spearheaded by Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles. Last year, the city contracted with Mobility in addition to a private firm to run the city golf course.
Rosson disputed some of the details Lockett presented, including his firm’s ability to train a bus driver in two weeks.
Mason said the firm’s inability to maintain certain staffing levels might indicate a breach but sought to take the conversation behind closed doors at Tuesday’s meeting, which general counsel Andrew MacKenzie agreed was appropriate.
Mason, a Department of Defense employee at Fort Gordon, said the contract itself was the problem.
“I do this for a living every day for the federal government,” he said. “This is a bad contract.”