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Just Practicing My Motion Blur on an Island Transit Bus...

Just got this statement a few hours ago.  Posted in full below with my bold – and then my rather brisk commentary.  Here goes.



As an Island County Commissioner I serve as one of five elected officials from across county who meet monthly as the Public Transit Authority. The Board members knew that a portion of cash reserves were going to be used to match the federal grant used to build the new transit facility – a much needed capital investment. However the monthly financial reports the Island Transit Board received were inaccurate. What was discovered this spring was an ongoing cash shortfall in the operations budget. Action was taken swiftly to address the problem as it was described, but it was subsequently found that the depth of the shortfall was larger than first reported. Executive Director Martha Rose acted to implement emergency measures restoring fiscal balance to the organization. This included cutting administrative staff in June and July, reducing several routes and cutting Saturday service on September 1.

Executive Director Rose claimed full responsibility for this situation. She fired the finance manager for withholding vital information, and conducted an internal audit to review and rebuild the financial reports. The State Auditor’s office in currently examining the details and their report is expected next month. Legal counsel has been contacted to examine whether there was any crime committed. The Board has taken action to increase transparency and public access to financial reports. Stronger checks and balances have been put in place to prevent this from happening again. The Board is holding special meetings to stay abreast of the developments and take necessary actions.

The routes cut on South Whidbey have impacted families, workers and some of our most vulnerable citizens. Transit staff is drafting a plan for a complete revamp of the system to put out for public input. Individuals should contact Island Transit staff to share their concerns and suggestions. A short term and long term strategy is needed to restore a viable level of public transportation services.

Many folks have asked if charging a fare would solve the problem. Probably not. A quick review of similar sized transit systems  shows only a 10% average collection of revenues from fares. Whether or not charging fares would have more negative outcomes such as reducing ridership and increasing costs, than the positive cash it would generate, is not certain. It would be helpful to put this question to rest in the months ahead.

Island County wants and deserves a transit system which is dependable, sustainable, flexible and responsive. We can and must work together to achieve that goal.

Thank you Commish.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. I agree Island Transit needed a new headquarters.  Neither the new HQ nor fare free caused this fiscal mess – rather bad fiscal management by the finance manager and the Island Transit Executive Director did.
  2. Claiming and taking “full responsibility for this situation” are two different things. Between this crisis and hearing Island Transit Boardmembers still befuddled at what’s transpired financially in just the last 90 days – especially at last Friday’s special meeting, I request the Island Transit Board to have a public confidence vote in their Executive Director in the next 45 days…
  3. I would hope that criminal investigation is well underway.  So would most of the Seattle Transit Blog community.
  4. Although it’s obvious this statement was in the works for some time, last night’s sortie about how Fare Free did not cause Island Transit’s problems and I argue would only catastrophically add to them sure was timely.

Finally, Island Transit has a Board Meeting in their Coupeville HQ at 0930 Hours on Friday.  Just so you know.

13 Replies to “North by Northwest 15: Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson Statement…”

  1. Play the Blame Game with Island Transit.
    The local news did they best they could without understanding the complete picture. Refer to Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record for Saturday, July 26th. The article does reveal several facts of mismanagement and arrogance from Martha Rose. The Opinion piece buried on page 6 of the News-Time was correct, Martha should go but so should the incompetent administrative staff. The Board of Directors should also be held accountable.
    Let’s just blame Barbra Savary, former finance manager; and then state she was fired. Barbra Savary was not terminated, she voluntarily gave a months’ notice to end her employment due to the fact Island Transit was financially mismanaged by Martha Rose’s narcissistic need to build a palace instead of a functional work site. Martha Rose stating she takes full responsibility then attacks a former employee placing all wrong doing solely on someone else. The excuse of not micromanaging a department is a complete lie. Nothing is done at Island Transit without the approval from Martha. Her bloated administrative staff all must agree with everything that comes from her without question. This is the only way to survive in this workplace environment. The News stated no one employed at Island Transit would speak on record. The employee manual section 2.03 prohibits any employee from speaking out for fear of being terminated. This is a bizarre code of ethics section which is ambiguous enough to be used against anyone attempting to reveal just how badly Island Transit is mismanaged. Any employee questioning anything is quickly silenced and counseled not to ask disruptive questions. Senior drivers who are not in jeopardy of losing their stature also defend the regime without question, to show loyalty in order to save their paycheck. Fear and intimidation are the workplace standard.
    Martha has help in the blame game with former finance manager now reinstated finance manager Sandra Kuykendall who also made statements against Barbra Savary. Martha stated in the newspaper she brought in Kuykendall after Barbra Savary was fired. This is a complete lie. Barbara and Sandra worked side by side for two weeks during the transition period of Barbara’s voluntary resignation of the position. If the Board of Directors wants to investigate and audit, simply look at the days on payroll for both of the financial managers and question the overlapping time period. Then demand the truth of the matter along with the resignation of a very misleading and corrupt executive director. Barbara Savary was doing her job paying the mounting bills of a new business complex. The hand made light fixtures instead of energy saving lights still requires the electric bill to be paid. Martha should have known how much money was in the checking account before Barbara was forced to pay from the savings account. Claiming a cash flow analysis was not completed by Barbara is the sole reason for the complicated mess of mismanagement is laughable. Martha Rose was not smart enough to ask for this report. In the years of management at Island Transit did Martha Rose ever think of taking a class in business management? Barbra Savary should sue Island Transit for defamation of character. The Newspaper did not interview Barbra Savary. Barbra contacted the Newspaper and made a brief but factual statement concerning what Martha Rose knew about the financial transactions. To try and use smoke and mirrors claiming a sole employee had access to millions of dollars and controlled where the money was funneled to; also laughable. Martha thinks just because she makes a statement the entire county and state government should accept it on face value without question as the employees of Island Transit must do in order to survive.

    What exactly does the Board of Directors do? Shouldn’t this Board question everything? As Board member Bob Clay stated members are shocked and dismayed revealing they never review financial statements at Board meetings. What do the Board meetings consist of besides a free lunch and blurb on another “head in the sand” county official’s resume? A state audit has been called for by Board member Price-Johnson. Price-Johnson is serving as Director on several other Boards for Island County’s public entities and apparently does not understand what a Board of Directors function is. Did she not notice Island Transit meetings were different than other meetings when no financial statements were reviewed? An audit should be made public and published for this public nonprofit company. Let the citizens of Island County see where Martha Rose has spent their hard-earned tax dollars. Kuykendall has already stated the state audit found nothing wrong and should have said, “Whoa horsey.” Kuykendall is supposed to be the financial savior for Island Transit. The only option the Board has at this point to prove they are truly concerned about the people who elected them is to have a vote of, “no confidence” in Martha Rose’s ability to continue to run Island Transit with the dictatorship she has established. The board must also insist on reviewing all of the supervisor-coordinator-manager positions at Island Transit as well as the minions who serve as support staff. Evaluate what each position actually does and if the person in the position is competent to perform the required duties. This audit of personnel will reveal the biggest farce Martha has perpetrated in her twenty plus years at the helm of a bankrupt company. No one on her handpicked staff has the ability to run a company the size of Island Transit if in fact she is forced out. The Board needs to find competent management to take over and fix the long seated problems of Island Transit. No one on staff is competent to manage the smallest of job duties they are required to do now let alone take over the helm of this company. It would be as if the Captain of the Titanic handed over the ship to a deckhand and yelling, “Don’t hit anything else!” Martha has stated she has laid off office staff members, yet another bold faced lie to the public. No one in the office staff has been let go. The bus routes have been trimmed by 40% and senior drivers are being terminated before the official layoff numbers are going to be released to the public. Some have been retained as part time employees after having all earned benefits stripped. Yet the support staff stays at full employment when the service has been greatly diminished.
    Para Transit riders have lost a valuable means of transportation. For some, this is the only means of transportation. Any Paratransit riders along the routes which have been dropped will no longer be eligible for this service. This fact has been over looked by the newspaper articles and not mentioned by Martha, Sandra or the “Board of Do Nothing until it is news” Directors.
    The Board should put down the free lunch and review every administrative and management position at Island Transit. Operations and support positions should be combined and as done with private corporations; more should be done by fewer staff. It’s amazing how the functionality of an administrative staff to perform basic sound duties has transformed into creative “specialty” positions. Five administrative assistants and an executive assistant, along with two rideshare coordinators are all enjoying the security of being in Martha’s favor. One dozen other management and staff positions are also secure. One dozen mechanics are employed and yet the parts to keep buses safely on the road are not affordable. Buses on a daily basis are breaking down alongside the road. Let half of this staff go and buy parts.
    It will not take long to burn through the $800,000.00 loan to keep buses on the road when the majority of it goes to high salaries and benefits for people who create nothing but a dancing circle of yes men and women around the queen of not my fault.

  2. The Road to the Wasteland via Island Transit
    (Or the fleecing of a public non-profit company)
    To whom it may concern; (and this should concern every citizen of Island County.)
    Due to poor management from the top down, Island Transit is going to drop service to a large part of Whidbey Island while management suffers no lose in pay or benefits. Martha Rose Executive Director has placed the blame solely on an accountant, claiming the accountant never showed her projections of earnings for the last two years. Martha never had the knowledge to ask for the needed projections during this time period as a competent director would. Instead she only focused on building a 24 million dollar campus with 17 million dollars of grant monies. Starting September 1st the routes 9 and 5 will be discontinued, Saturday’s route 1 will only be every other hour as well as the weekday route 6 and the route 8 will be just a commuter run; meaning only in the morning and evening hours and only to Scatchet Head neighborhood. Any island residents who live along these soon to be canceled routes and use the Paratransit service will now not be eligible for this much needed form of transportation. Meanwhile the perks of the administrative staff will stay intact. Company cars, high pay and benefits will not be affected for any employee considered a, “white shirt”. This term applies to people who work in the office no matter how little is accomplished by this workforce. All cuts will come at the expense of ridership and the blue collard driver’s income.
    Keep the FAT and throw out the Meat
    Cut backs should first be done within an organization to have the least effect on the purpose of the company i.e. providing transportation for the public. Island Transit “White Shirts” are provided with a fleet of Prius vehicles to drive home. The argument of being needed in case of an emergency is the excuse. Martha Rose does not go to the aid of a bus stuck in a ditch after hours; this excuse does not have merit. Nor does the information technology team go to the aid any transit operator emergencies but yet two of the three members of this department are provided with company vehicles to drive home. Driver’s hours will be cut and benefits will be lost. Unfortunately this is a fact of a failing business but no other employees of Island Transit will be affected.
    It’s Broke, Don’t Fix It.
    Buses are old with numerous miles logged on them. Unfortunately purchasing parts to keep the buses in safe operation is also an issue. A huge new facility to repair buses has been built but without parts to keep buses operating the facility has become a storage unit for broken buses.
    The Emperor is Not Wearing Clothes.
    Island Transit is ruled with an iron narcissistic fist. Martha Roses has demanded of her staff not to disclose the pending cuts because she does not have the time to, “deal with phone calls.” No financial information is given for review of this public company. Public records should be public. Conference rooms have been named after Mrs. Rose, her pictures adorn the walls and no one is allowed to disagree with her. Perhaps if anyone in the bloated administration branch or on the board of directors had the nerve to question her, errors in accounting would have been discovered in the proper time frame, not two years too late. Building custom furniture and repainting new pieces of the facility a different shade to suit Mrs. Rose’s vision are the priority. Anyone having the nerve to ask questions as to the why of the problem is later terminated for “other” reasons. Mrs. Rose has stated on several occasions she does not answer to the board, she tells them how it is done. This ego driven attitude may have worked when Island Transit was a small company but now the company has out grown the small minded leader. It is time for a change for the future of stability for this nonprofit public company. Simply being a bully does not work as a style of management anywhere. Mrs. Rose chooses to take the entire month of July as vacation instead of staying at work and trying to correct this rudderless ship. Shame on the board of directors for letting this go on for over twenty-five years following Mrs. Rose down the road to ruin, however they will have to car pool in Martha’s provided Prius because they will not be able to go by bus.

    1. It should concern more than just those at Island Transit.

      Due to the lack of north-south connections during a good part of the day, I have used Island Transit to get from Anacortes to Seattle, as well as from Port Townsend to Seattle. They are a piece of the puzzle that helps link disparate communities both inside Island County as well as some of those outside.

  3. The latest very strange letter to the Board of Directors at Island Transit from Martha Rose. More proof of the ongoing mismanagement of Island Transit:

    Date: September 16, 2014
    To: All Board Members
    From: Martha M. Rose
    Subject: September System Update
    Perhaps, in hindsight, we should not have presented the specific document at
    the Special September 12th meeting as the example format for the budget
    actual report. It was pretty obvious to see that the budget deficit shocked
    you all. That certainly wasn’t the intent. We have been finding so many
    errors. Just Monday of last week we discovered that there were two entries
    for a single grant entered into the budget; in other words, twice the amount
    we really have/had. I was racking my brain because I try to ensure I keep
    you as up to date as I can on all of the issues going on around here as we find
    them. I did discover that on August 8 I wrote to tell you about the specifics
    in the $1M+ misinformation in the 2014 budget. Everyone has so many emails
    and other issues to work on that it’s certainly understandable that emails
    get shuffled in the mix.
    As you know, we have been completely immersed in analyzing the past budget
    documents trying to get our finances back in check, as well as running around
    like crazy trying to locate information requested by the State Auditors.
    Unfortunately, the files for the facilities project, as well as the files for
    the accountability audit were/are a disaster; nothing had been filed
    correctly; files have been found in archive documents that are not archive
    documents. We continue to be shocked with what we’re discovering and
    we’re completely mystified. The audit book that historically has kept all the
    information we know the SOA will ask for during the audit for the given
    year, was not done. I am reluctant to state these words, as I fear being
    Island Transit System Update
    September 16, 2014
    Page 2 of 5
    perceived as ‘passing the buck’. I clearly understand my responsibilities and,
    as you know, I wrote a statement to the newspaper requesting that it was
    published stating that I take full responsibility for the situation we’re in.
    (They never did print my letter to our communities as I had requested.)
    Unfortunately for the single audit on the Facilities Project, we have been
    unable to locate the back-up documentation for the prevailing wage checks
    on vendors. Joe Anastasi, through a contract with URS, was responsible for
    doing all that work. I reviewed those documents with Joe during the time he
    was here so I know that they physically exist. When Joe passed, some of
    the boxes he used and filled up (Joe was fantastic!) were turned over to
    Gary Hess and the rest of Joe’s boxes are ‘somewhere’ with URS at their
    Seattle offices. I have repeatedly asked URS but no one is able to find
    those particular documents. Part of the URS contract included an individual
    with URS who was charged with the responsibility of verifying that the
    Contractor submitted certified payroll and reviewing that the prevailing
    wage requirements were met. We have hounded both Gary and URS for
    those documents but nothing has come forward since. I am sure that we will
    get a finding for this lack of documentation. URS states in their documents
    that they practice a ‘No Surprise’ policy. We were surprised.
    Our primary goal for the re-structuring of the service structure is so that
    we can restore some services on the south end for Route 5 and Route 8. I
    understand that those two routes are also a high priority for the Board. We
    have already been analyzing and working on scenarios. We understand the
    concerns with our paratransit clients and their loved ones. It breaks our
    hearts as well, which is why we’re pushing so hard to get this re-structure
    I can’t help but think back to when we first began paratransit services in
    1991/1992. Island County ran Senior Services Transportation Services with
    vans prior to any the vote for and implementations of public transportation
    services in Island County. When Island Transit came into being (1987), we
    became the legal public transportation ‘parent’ and as such, we were
    responsible to fund (contracted with) the senior transportation services
    provided through Island County. ADA Legislation was signed into law by
    Island Transit System Update
    September 16, 2014
    Page 3 of 5
    President Bush Senior in 1990; ADA paratransit services were required to
    start by 1992 per the Federal Civil Rights Legislation, no easy task given the
    immensely difficult changes and challenges with the strict service criteria
    requirements/mandates and vehicle equipment requirements/mandates.
    Contracted services nationwide became of grave concern.
    A majority of public transit systems contracted out those services for
    elderly and disabled folks prior to the ADA laws within their service
    boundaries. There were no minimum standards for operator/driver training
    requirements for quality of service delivery then. Once ADA laws went into
    effect, public transit systems contracting out those services (some systems
    still contract out) for the elderly/disabled slowly started to be provided by
    the parent public transportation system. Any contracted services stand in
    the shoes of the public transit system. Too many lawsuits were being filed
    over civil rights complaints due to violations of the service criteria mandates
    and improper training with regard to wheelchair securement constraint
    systems, lack of proper training with the bus drivers for proper tie down
    procedures, no proper sensitivity training for working with persons of
    disability, and etc.
    Island Transit understood the liability issues that would surface once ADA
    requirements went into effect beginning in 1992, so we knew that beginning
    in 1992, we needed to bring those services in house, rather than contracting
    them out through Island County. Legal battles were being fought all across
    the nation. There were and are multiple levels of required training for public
    transit bus operators—equipment, wheelchair securement procedures—etc.,
    etc. One violation of the law and requirements can end up with lawsuits filed
    under this Federal Civil Rights Legislation. Over the years, public
    transportation authorities that contracted out paratransit services brought
    them in-house because of the liability issues; the private contractor, once
    again, stands in the shoes of the public transit authority.
    Well, Dan Snow, Island Transit’s first Executive Director (I started as the
    Operations Manager in 1987 when the system started), never could get any
    back-up documents regarding the funds Island Transit had been paying
    Island County to provide senior services transportation. Long story short,
    Island Transit System Update
    September 16, 2014
    Page 4 of 5
    Dan left just before all public transit was mandated to abide by ADA; we
    had been trying to bring senior services in-house; after working with the
    Transit Board, we finally got the documents for back-up regarding the funds
    we had been paying the County for those services. It became clear that the
    amount of funds being paid were well over the true costs of operating those
    At any rate, certain individuals didn’t want Island Transit to take paratransit
    (senior and disabled services) in-house. Some of the Island County
    employees who drove those vans for senior services, and others who worked
    in that particular department did not want Island Transit to take those
    services in-house. There was a huge letter writing campaign in the local
    newspapers; articles every paper; stories of how Island Transit would not
    care at all for our senior citizens. People were scaring the heck out of the
    elderly/seniors, saying transit wouldn’t care for them. I will never forget it.
    People were exploiting the vulnerabilities of our elderly and disabled
    neighbors to influence the outcome. It was a terrible disservice.
    The senior transportation services run by Island County kept a donation box
    at the door of the van. During the months of these terrible letters to the
    editor and articles, we held multiple meetings with our elderly population.
    We constantly heard that the seniors wanted to ‘pay their way’, they didn’t
    want fare free. We told folks that charging a fare would cost more than we
    would take in for services so we recommended that if they wanted to make a
    donation to please make a donation to the senior center or other human
    services agency.
    When it was all said and done, we did start paratransit service in late 1991.
    It didn’t take long for people who had yelled and fought against Island
    Transit operating the service to realize that we truly and genuinely cared;
    that we are here to serve them. The most interesting memory of that
    period in time was the fact that those folks who made the largest fuss
    about not wanting to ‘get a ride for free’ were those same people who, on
    days there were meals at the senior centers, would not take the van for that
    meal because they couldn’t afford to put that dollar into the donation box at
    the door of the vehicle picking them up. I can’t tell you how many people
    Island Transit System Update
    September 16, 2014
    Page 5 of 5
    called me and thanked us, telling us how embarrassing it was for them that
    they couldn’t pay that dollar; they didn’t want their friends see that they
    couldn’t drop that dollar in the box. So, why did I bring this up now; some
    history of the beginnings of paratransit services? I guess the bottom line is
    that we really are worried about our folks who are missing their rides. I
    know you all are as well! We’re doing our best. We’re working hard on a restructure
    so we can address those needs. And, we will address them.
    We have two agenda items for this Friday’s Board meeting as follows:
    Business Items No. 1: Board Discussion of Finance Sub-Committee
    Business Agenda No. 2: Review and Discussion of Draft No. 1 of the Island
    Transit Annual Budget for 2015.
    We weren’t sure if we could pull together Draft 1 of the 2015 budget for
    this meeting, but thanks, yet again, to Sandra, we were able to get it
    accomplished. It’s really a working document, as you all know. At this time,
    we don’t have all of the department detail that we would normally include.
    That additional information and detail will be provided at the next special
    meeting on October 10, 2014. We wanted to get you started on the
    documents, however.
    I look forward to seeing you this Friday at 9:30 AM here at the Barn.
    Thank you.

    1. Who cares about 1991? Yet another excuse as to why the documentation cannot be produced. When will true accountability surface? Is the Board ever going to take a vote of no confidence? Martha’s smoke and mirrors or dog and pony show merrily rolls along.

      1. “When will true accountability surface?”

        When the current management is replaced with professional management.

        A simple solution…

    AN $800,000.00 OPERATIONS LOAN

    Island Transit wisely spending YOUR Tax Dollars

    1. After hours jam making? In a public facility?

      Hellooooo State Auditor. While this seems like a minor thing, it’s an example of the pervasive problems.

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