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Coast hires former Dallas transit official to overlook finances

The Sun News

Coast RTA has recruited a former transit finance executive from Dallas Area Rapid Transit to temporarily serve as its finance officer to make sure, among other things, its leveraging as much of its federal dollars as it should be.

Mike Levitan, who is now retired, was in charge of the general and capital budget for Dallas Area Rapid Transit and is working through this weekend examining the books of Coast — something Horry County officials have wanted for more than a year. Levitan, who will be the first financial officer with previous transit experience in at least the last five years to look at Coast’s books, replaces Julie Norton-Dew who resigned shortly before Brian Piascik took over as the transit’s new chief financial officer earlier this month.

“Essentially he’s coming in as a temporary CFO,” Piascik said. “He’s somebody I trust, a good friend of mine. He was actually someone I was going to bring in regardless, if we had an existing CFO here or not.”

Piascik, who comes from the Dallas area, worked with Levitan previously.

Piascik had a very public courting by Coast RTA and Horry County in his journey from URS Corp. to Coast. It was prematurely announced that Piascik was the Coast board’s choice for its next leader, but the decision was not run by Horry County Council, which was a requirement made by council for the transit to receive $1.05 million in county funds annually.

As details of Piascik’s contract were being hashed out, Norton-Dew took a tongue lashing from Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, who criticized Norton-Dew for not having an audit ready for the county, which was asked for last summer. Lazarus encouraged Coast’s board to “clean house” either before Piascik started or as his first order of business. Norton-Dew resigned shortly after.

Levitan was working with a $500 million budget in Dallas, and Coast works on a budget a little more than $5 million. Piascik is sure he will be a great benefit to Coast.

“I want him to make sure we’re leveraging federal dollars the way we need to be in terms of matching funds,” Piascik said. “He’s going to help me find a new CFO and help interview candidates.”

Piasick hopes to have a permanent replacement for the agency’s chief financial officer by the end of the summer, which is when the Federal Transit Administration will conduct a financial management oversight of Coast’s books. Piascik said the financial management oversight should suffice for the county’s request of a forensic audit.

“That’s now my forensic audit that the county’s been asking for,” Piascik said.

Piascik said Levitan is a contracted employee who will make up to $50,000 in the temporary role. If the work exceeds $50,000, Piascik said he would renegotiate the contract with Levitan.

“I think a lot of what he’ll do will be remote,” Piascik said. “He’ll be here on an irregular basis. I just want him to understand the books, be able to train this new person so they don’t come in cold like I have. I’m really excited about him getting here.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.

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