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Augusta city bus company has new boss

Mobility official announces hire to commissioners

Monday, April 16, 2012 8:15 PM
Last updated Tuesday, April 17, 2012 6:59 AM
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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.”

ON TODAY’S AGENDA

Augusta Commission will discuss:

• The contract with Mobility at a legal meeting today before its 5 p.m. regular meeting

• An update from Global Spectrum Regional Manager Douglas Higgon

• Discussion of an alcohol application for Tyrone Davis at Cloud Nine Neighborhood Bar & Grill

• Consideration of a contract with Automatic Data Processing to do the city’s payroll and human resources

• Repayment of $344,233 to U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development for federal funds HUD deemed were misspent

Comments (7) Add comment
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Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 04/16/12 - 09:30 pm
0
0
From the article: “I do this

From the article:

“I do this for a living every day for the federal government,” Commissioner Alvin Mason said. “This is a bad contract.”

If you saw the video sound-bite on local news TV, it sounded more like, “This is a baa - a - a - a - ad contract.” Commissioner Mason is obviously in campaign mode for mayor, and he's trying to set a wide stage.

Give the company a break, Alvin. They just got started. The busses are rolling. The bills will get paid.

The problem, as I see it, is that Bill Lockett is acting more like a union representative than a manager. He wants every single former city employee to be guaranteed continued employment in the private company. The contract does not guarantee that. The contract gives each former city employee a chance to prove worthy. If they can't cut it, they must be cut. The city budget needs to get leaner, leaner, leaner and more lean.

Augustans for sane government need to contact their commissioners and tell them to let Mobility Transit Services have a chance to stabilize the system. All objective metrics show that the busses are moving more efficiently, cleaner, on time, and with pleasant driver attitudes. Mobility Transit Services is not perfect, but they are way better than what was there before.

Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 04/16/12 - 09:35 pm
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P.S. Commissioner Mason, if

P.S. Commissioner Mason, if you think the contract with Mobility Transit Services is a baa - a - a - ad contract; just wait until you see the bills and the expense statements that flow into the city from Riverfront LLC under the Marriott parking deck management contract and the TEE Center management contract. We will be talking serious money then.

jbenny2010
272
Points
jbenny2010 04/17/12 - 05:47 am
4
0
How about we spend more time

How about we spend more time in the beginning researching companies before we give them free reign? Why do our commissioners find out about problems after the fact? I think the fact that Mobility only has one contract (ours) was a problem from the beginning. Somebody saw dollar signs and somebody was crazy enough to fill the money bags. SMH! We have to vote in competent people who are more concerned about the citizens they represent than lining their pockets.

bluelight
28
Points
bluelight 04/17/12 - 07:52 am
4
0
There has to be justification

There has to be justification for so many lawsuits being filed against this one individual and his companies. Time for the city to terminate this deal. No more privatization, Commissioners need to step up to the plate and solve problems, not pawn them off on others.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 04/17/12 - 08:31 am
3
0
LL we understand that you

LL we understand that you don't particularly care for Mason, but in a sense he is correct. We shouldn't have to pay your bills. But the bigger issue is that these public transit systems don't work. They don't generate any money. Its subsitidized by the Feds and like public housing intended for older folks which in this area prefer to drive.

toppergem
125
Points
toppergem 04/17/12 - 08:59 am
2
0
More bad decisions being made

More bad decisions being made by people who know absolutely nothing about how to run a business or how to spend money wisely. This do-do has not hit the fan yet...just wait on it...it will be coming soon!

Bouganvillea
0
Points
Bouganvillea 04/17/12 - 12:47 pm
1
0
Little Lamb.. I think you are
Unpublished

Little Lamb.. I think you are the one jumping to conclusions. From everything I have read and seen about this company.. it appears to be some fly by night operation.. a big red flag should be that Augusta is their only transit contract. Dont you want to hire a contractor with some trackrecord and other clients to compare notes on? There is nothing wrong with contracting services out.. but you have to do your research and know who you are dealing with. This company has not paid vendors repeatedly and they started going after the city. That's a big problem among numerous other issues. I'm frankly getting sick of this "oh Alvin Mason must be in campaign mode" mantra just because he dares to ask some tough questions and wants more oversight. Maybe if we had more commissioners willing to do that we would have hired a more reputable company and we wouldn't have built a $12 million parking deck on land we don't own.

Bouganvillea
0
Points
Bouganvillea 04/17/12 - 12:51 pm
0
1
I notice that Little Lamb
Unpublished

I notice that Little Lamb constantly criticizes Fred Russell for his poor performance as an administrator,.. and LL is absolutely right on that. Fred Russell should have been shown the door a long time ago. But then LL turns around and accuses the commissioners who are trying to hold Russell and other incompetents accountable as "in campaign mode" or grandstanding. So which is it LL? Is it because the commissioners who are asking the tough questions are black?

Bouganvillea
0
Points
Bouganvillea 04/17/12 - 01:58 pm
0
1
Why is it whenever Joe Bowles
Unpublished

Why is it whenever Joe Bowles questions something he is never attacked as "being in campaign mode for mayor".. I dont even believe Al Mason will run for mayor. I think Hardie Davis Jr. has more an eye on that position. But it has been discussed that Joe Bowles may be a candidate for mayor in 2014.. so why is he never accused of "being in campaign mode?"

Little Lamb
49036
Points
Little Lamb 04/17/12 - 02:37 pm
1
0
I knew that Bill Lockett was

I knew that Bill Lockett was 100% against privatizing the transit department, but I can't remember how Mason voted. Still the contract passed with six or more votes; now we need to allow some time to get the inevitable kinks smoothed out. You would have had some hiccups even if Berkshire Hathaway was running the bus system.

What should happen is that the commissioners should hold Fred Russell's feet to the fire to make the management company accountable to city government. That is what Russell's job is. For the commissioners (two or three or all ten) to micromanage a bus contract would frustrate the stew out of any private company. Mason will ask for this, Locket for that, Brigham for these, and Smith for those.

The buck should stop at Russell.

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