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County leaders call for Island Transit director to resign
Two county commissioners, the mayor of Oak Harbor and a city councilman say they want Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose to resign.
In recent weeks, the transit agency has revealed that its money has been mismanaged for several years, the finance manager was fired in May and routes are being cut. While some believe resignation is the only option for Rose, others are waiting to see the results of the state audit that begins Aug. 11.
“She has failed to do the most critical part of the job because the financial problems have been going on for years,” said Aubrey Vaughan, the appointed Island County commissioner. “She has accepted the responsibility, and it is time for her to do the honorable thing.
“It is not about personalities, it is not about egos and it is not about politics. It is about what is best for Island Transit and the people of Island County.”
Rose said Monday that she has no intention of resigning and that she is eager to see the results of the investigation.
“I want to get to the end of the audit and see what happened,” Rose said.
Vaughan, who took office in June, gave a statement about the Island Transit controversy at the county commissioners regular meeting Monday. Vaughan also called for the resignation of Island Transit Board chairman Bob Clay.
“If public confidence is to be restored, the board should restructure,” Vaughan said. “Mr. Clay should step down. The board should vote in a new chairperson with real-world business experience and someone with no ties to Island Transit.
“The public needs to see real changes. Changes that will restore confidence.”
Vaughan, who now serves on the Island Transit board with Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, said that at his first meeting last week, he was told that the financial data placed before them to review was still not correct.
“I’m not sure what the board is getting, what they have gotten or if it’s correct,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan said members of the Transit board, including Price Johnson, who has served on the board for five years, “have let us down.”
Commissioner Jill Johnson, who was attending a family wedding Monday, said via telephone that she, too, would like to see Rose step down.
“The main reason Martha needs to step aside is that she has lost the public’s trust,” Johnson said. “When you are a steward of public funds and accept a position where your job is to serve the public, and you break their trust, you have to step aside.
“No one individual is more important than the public’s trust.”
Price Johnson also gave a statement Monday saying that she is “upset by the terrible situation” and that the Transit board was “misinformed.” But she did not ask Rose to resign.
“It is concerning to me that this past year’s audit and outside CPA review failed to discover the deception,” Price Johnson said.
Both Price Johnson and Vaughan called for increased financial oversight and transparency in making financial documents available to the public.
Vaughan also called for a criminal investigation.
Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley said if he were in a position to make the decision, he would removed Rose from her job “in a heartbeat.”
“I’m all about accountability,” Dudley said. “If that were to happen here at the City of Oak Harbor, if the city dollars were that mismanaged, I would step down. The lack of financial forethought is appalling.”
If Rose does not step down of her own accord, her future is in the hands of the five-member Transit board, which comprises Price Johnson, Vaughan, Clay, Jim Campbell and Jim Sundberg.
Campbell makes the second board member along with Vaughan who believes Rose should be removed.
“I think she’s lost credibility,” said Campbell, who is also an Oak Harbor city councilman. “I spent years of my life as a business manager. If it had gone belly up, I would expect to be fired.”
Clay and Sundberg both said they want to wait out the results of the audit before making a decision about Rose’s future.
“A lot of people are speculating and don’t have the whole picture,” Clay said. “I do hold Martha responsible for what happens there, but I’m not prepared to ask her for her job.”
The Transit board hired a financial analyst to replace fired Finance Manager Barbara Savary with an Aug. 16 start date.
Island Transit’s next regular business meeting will follow a public hearing on its Six-year Transit Development Plan at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22.
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