CATC Sues City of Casper Over Takeover
The Casper Area Transportation Coalition this week filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Casper a year after the city took over the bus service.
The complaint alleges that Casper violated CATC's fourth and fourteenth amendment rights by illegally entering the CATC offices on Jan. 28, 2021, and taking documents, bank fobs, and keys.
Judith Studer, attorney for CATC, said the issues arose in 2020 when funding to CATC was provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and the city no longer provided matching funds.
Studer said that part of the condition for the CARES Act funding was that CATC had to pay back the amount of the money they collected through fares, however, according to the complaint, CATC was not informed that the fares needed to be paid back.
The complaint alleges that after learning about this, CATC attempted to pay back the city the excess money, but was ignored by City Manager Carter Napier.
Studer said that because of that error, the city used that as an excuse to takeover CATC.
According to the complaint, the city also had issues with the former executive director of CATC, John Jones for giving raises to CATC employees, and that the city forced CATC to place Jones and their bookkeeper on administrative leave.
Studer said that since the city took over CATC, it has been less efficient and cutting routes.
"It would seem the city wanted an excuse to take over public transportation, but we really can't tell," Studer said. "No one communicated from the city. What the city came out with last year, oh 'it was going to be less expensive and better.' Well, what we're learning is it's more expensive and it's not as efficient. They're cutting routes and that type of thing."
At the Feb. 15 council meeting, Cathy Swinsky and Linda Smith, women who work for U.S. Renal Care, a dialysis center, spoke about the issues they have with how the city is running the CATC system.
"Since May 2021, patients have been requesting to be taken off treatment early 18 times in order for them to get a ride back from Assist, back to their home," Swinsky said. "There's also been four times Assist dropped a patient off late, causing them again to have missed or early off treatment. There's also been five times where they haven't been able to make their treatment at all due to closure, either the city has closed like on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve, so that's also been a problem."
The city has 21 days to respond to the complaint.
John Henly, city attorney for Casper, said that a complaint has been filed, but that they have not yet been served, and that the city would provide no further comment.