Taxpayer money funds double pensions for CAT executives

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Top executives at Capital Area Transit get not one but two pensions funded by taxpayers.

That information was revealed in an audit as a result of right-to-know requests from Cumberland County.

Cumberland County commissioners are now asking the state’s auditor general to investigate CAT fully, saying the transit company is wasting taxpayers’ money and failing to serve.

“There were times where they would just drive past and not even stop or not show up at all,” Lindsay Lambert from Camp Hill said.

Lambert is all too familiar sitting and waiting at the CAT bus stop.

“Especially being a mom and having to be somewhere for appointments,” Lambert said. “It wasn’t sufficient.”

But it’s not just time CAT is accused of wasting.

“Transit authority is not operating efficiently and using taxpayer money–wasting taxpayer money,” Commissioner Vince DiFilippo said.

DiFilippo and the two other commissioners requested information about CAT’s pension plans after learning of a special pension for a handful of top executives.

“The cost of the executive pension at CAT is $25,000 per executive,” said Mike Clapsadl, a CAT board treasurer and a Cumberland County official.

That’s the sum of the regular CAT employee pension plus a second manager’s pension. It’s about five times more than other government pensions cost per person but funded the same way.

“It comes from the taxpayer,” Clapsadl said. “The riders, who are skewed toward the lower income and disabled, and Cumberland County, Dauphin County, and the City of Harrisburg are funding this pension.”

About $1 million comes from those three entities, which means about $2 per taxpayer unless you live in Harrisburg and pay both the city and county tax. Then consider $12 million in state tax dollars that go to CAT.

Plus, bus fare.

“There could be other things we’re unaware of,” DiFilippo said. “And that’s one of the reasons we’re asking Auditor General DePasquale to look into this.”

But CAT officials say this is not new news.

The board has also taken steps to freeze the pension plan.

“If I could get rid of the plan today, I would,” CAT general manager Tony Johnson said.

CAT says the pension plan under question was established in 1977 by the CAT board of directors to compensate key executive personnel formerly with Harrisburg Railways, who were not covered by an earlier employee pension plan.

“The plan has been included in CAT financial audits and operating budgets for decades,” board chairman Eric Bugaile said. “The board of directors from all three jurisdictions have voted for the plan repeatedly. Under my tenure as board chair, all of CAT financials have been audited without a single finding by the auditors, and the board has voted repeatedly to approve those audits and budgets.”

Clapsadl says the right-to-know request for board documents show the executive pension was not discussed at meetings since 1979.

Cumberland County is looking to regionalize with York’s Rabbittransit, which officials say could save millions.

The county is also looking to receive the remaining two-thirds of documents which have not been provided since an official request in November 2016.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.

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