Chief: Criminal investigation into LATS is ongoing, nothing forgotten
MOUNT CARMEL - The criminal investigation into the former operations of the Lower Anthracite Transportation Systems (LATS), requested by borough council in May, continues, Police Chief Todd Owens said.
"At this point, the only thing I will say is that it is still an active investigation and nothing has been forgotten and nothing is being hidden from the public," Owens said in response to a request for an update.
"The alleged misappropriations that are being investigated occurred over many years, and this is not a crime show on TV where the crime is solved in an hour," he added.
As a procedural matter, he said he won't discuss an active investigation until it's completed.
In May, borough council unanimously approved a request for Owens to launch the investigations into the bus system, specifically the operations and management of the former subcontractor King Coal Tours, former borough transit coordinator Gerald Matzura and the former borough transit manager Joseph K. Bass.
Jonathan Else, vice president of operations for King Coal, Bass and Matzura declined comment Monday.
Erin Waters-Trasatt, deputy press secretary for PennDOT, the state department that oversees LATS, said she had no update at this time. She said the department has not been presented with any new information by the borough.
Numbers don't jive
There are discrepancies for LATS bills submitted by Kulpmont-based King Coal, borough records show, including charges for fuel that is not used in the LATS buses and for tires and parts that don't fit the buses. The borough also believes some labor charges are excessive.
When borough officials began questioning the discrepancies in July 2012, King Coal began lowering monthly bills, from approximately $35,000 in July and August 2012 to $17,272 in January.
King Coal eventually ended its contract with the borough in January, and council approved the Shamokin-based Catawese Coach Lines to finish out the 2012-13 fiscal year.
LATS cost Catawese $21,871 to run in August, $12,185 in September, $13,634 in October and $11,954 in November. The numbers were higher in August due to a run to Knoebels Amusement Resort having been added for the summer.
Owens in May said the task to investigate may require forensics and computer experts and assistance from state or federal agencies.
PennDOT provides LATS funding from federal and state sources, including the Lottery Senior Citizen Free Transit Fund, and requires reports on the operation. The borough, which is awarded grant money, enters into a contract with a bus service provider, and reimburses that company for its expenses in operating the system. LATS owns its fleet of four buses.