Opinion

It’s time for Rose to turn over the keys | Editorial

Soon, the wheels on the bus won’t be going round and round all around the town — or the island for that matter.

In fact, those wheels appear to be falling off.

It was revealed this week that apparent financial mismanagement will result in major cuts in staffing and service at the fare-free transit system.

This comes about a month after the Whidbey News-Times contacted Executive Director Martha Rose and asked about rumors that these cuts were coming down the pike.

Rose shared a much less dire picture and failed to mention the financial manager was terminated.

A couple of connectors would be lost, she said at the time.

This week, it was shown that millions in transit investments were depleted to pay operating expenses over the last four years. Island Transit’s board essentially is taking out an $800,000 loan to cover monthly expenses.

Meanwhile, Rose said she had no idea what was going on.

Layoffs will be affecting 22 percent of Island Transit’s employees, both office staff and bus operators, and multiple routes and Saturday service will be cut.

While Rose said this week she hopes to bring back employees and restore routes by the end of 2015, we are skeptical. We have to agree with transit board member and Oak Harbor Councilman Jim Campbell — Rose has lost creditability.

Rose claims that Island Transit’s fired financial manager never warned her about cash flow problems.

Akin to being the captain of a ship, it’s Rose’s job to know the financial condition of her operation. Reviewing reports on monthly income and expenses is not, as Rose called it, “micromanaging.” It’s earning your tax-funded paycheck.

So, while Island Transit has a shiny new center on Central Whidbey, one complete with custom furnishings and a workout center, the tax-funded entity can’t afford to pay its monthly bills.

It’s starting to sound like the critics were right — the fare-free transit model is unsustainable.

“As the executive director of Island Transit, I take full responsibility for this situation,” Rose said after the full extent of the financial mess was discovered.

The fact is, Rose was allowed to run an empire that provided little information to its board and the public.

Another transit board member, Coupeville Councilman Bob Clay, said the board didn’t see regular financial statements.

“That will change,” Clay said.

As it should change.

The taxpayers were failed by a transit system that was, for years, presented as an example of sound management. Behind the wheel the entire time was Martha Rose.

Rose is a good­ person, but it’s time for her to turn over the keys to Island Transit.

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