Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington fired the director of Pine Bluff Transit Tuesday for “unauthorized use of a city vehicle” after transit employees and their families traveled to Memphis last month on the city’s new trolley bus.


The director, Charlina Lacy, told the Commercial Monday the department typically holds an annual employee appreciation event at Saracen Landing. But she said she authorized a trip to Memphis the weekend before Father’s Day, on June 19. The department originally intended to take one of its buses, Lacy said, but she okayed use of the new trolley at the suggestion of an employee. It was the first such trip for the department, Lacy said. The group of about 20 people ate at a pizza restaurant before going back to Pine Bluff.


“Like I told the mayor, that was just something that came to me,” Lacy said. “We utilize our buses for other events for other people. Other departments utilize our vans for events out of state. We don’t charge anything. I just thought it was a good gesture for us to do it for transit [employees] to recognize their efforts, because we can’t give them raises.”


Lacy said the employees did not pay for the gas for the roughly 300-mile round trip. She was not sure whether funds for the gas came from city, state or federal accounts. Lacy said she regretted authorizing use of the trolley for the trip and promised never to do it again. Lacy said she had told the mayor of the trip beforehand, but Washington said she first learned of the trip about two weeks ago while she was in Miami for a national conference of mayors.


“That’s a no,” Washington said when asked if she was told of the trip beforehand. “It was not [an] authorized use of transit equipment.”


Washington said she issued a termination letter to Lacy after conducting an investigation into the matter. In the letter, Washington said she notified Lacy that she had violated section 8.8 of the City of Pine Bluff Non-Uniformed Employee Handbook, which deals with unauthorized use of city vehicles. The employees paid for their meals at the restaurant, Washington said.


The city recently received the bright red, trolley-styled bus after its previous one fell into disrepair. Much of the department’s budget is supplied by federal transportation funding.


Lacy was hired as director of Pine Bluff Transit in 2013, according to a previous Commercial article. Previously she worked in the police department.