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“If any of us were faced with a huge bag of free money and very little accountability, it would be human nature that you would make the most of it.

Today, 19 September 2014 brought about the end of the Martha Rose Era at Island Transit.  Folks testified at the Island Transit meeting and took video – which will be uploaded as an update to this post – stating their deep concerns with the reports coming from anonymous Island Transit employees as well as Island Transit’s fare free policies.  There was also one Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley laying down a pasting to a point “he lost faith and competence” in the Executive Director.  In short, Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose was forced to hand in her resignation today and Island Transit Board Chairman Bob Clay has taken over emergency CEO responsibilities until at least September 24th at 4 PM/16oo Hours in a clear victory for transit users.

The Whidbey News-Times reported tonight :

The embattled executive director of Island Transit quit Friday after a tense meeting with the board of directors and an hour-long executive session.

It was unclear whether the board asked Martha Rose to turn in her keys during the closed-door session, or even whether she retired or resigned. The board members voted unanimously — with Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson participating via speakerphone — to accept Rose’s letter of resignation.

Afterward, Rose said she was retiring, not resigning.

Rose previously said she had no plans to leave, but changed her tune after the Oak Harbor City Council appointed Mayor Scott Dudley to the transit board on a temporary basis. He is filling in for Councilman Jim Campbell, who’s on an extended vacation.

Before the Whidbey News-Times reported, IslandPolitics.org got the scoop of the victory of accountability and I think the entire transit community sincerely hopes they are right that “a new era for Island Transit” has dawned.

Finally, Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson issued a statement I will copy-paste in full as Commish Price-Johnson illuminates issues the mainstream media has missed:

TRANSIT UPDATE  –  part 2

At this morning’s Island Transit meeting the Board took unanimous action to accept the immediate resignation of Executive Director Martha Rose. Though I was in Ellensburg for another meeting, I was able to participate in the vote by telephone. As per the bylaws, the Chair of the Board Bob Clay will serve as director while an interim executive is selected. A special meeting for this transition is scheduled for Wednesday September 24th at 4pm in the Transit Board room.

The Island Transit financial reports are showing positive gains. The auditor’s review is continuing. Martha Rose served Island County for 26 years and deserves credit for her role in building up the Island Transit system. But she acknowledged today that her presence had become a distraction to the important work of recovery. With the action today the Board will now focus on moving forward in rebuilding this vital system for the good of our community.

Operations staff is working on a draft plan for right-sizing of the transit runs which will be sustainable. Public input is encouraged. I will keep sending updates as this unfolds.

So will we at Seattle Transit Blog…  over to your comments.  Please keep them on-topic to Island Transit and try NOT to spike the football too much.  If for no other reason than there are some people who through NO fault of their own have lost a job serving the public through Island Transit…

13 Replies to “North by Northwest 17: Island Transit CEO Out”

  1. I think that this is the first of many things that need to happen with IT. While other agencies were downsizing their service island transit did not do much at all yet they shared the brunt of the recession. Their neighbors are now recovering while island transit has to make choices that none of the other agencies had to make (err follow through on — pierce transit was prepping for similar changes before the economy spiked again).

    I think an open farebox would be a help. When I’ve ridden the Saturday bus from Clinton to coupeville I would have always considered dropping a couple bucks or more depending on what the ride was worth to me. Whilst not expecting anyone else to.

    Hopefully island transit will get better. But it’s gonna be a long road. Longer than one year that they were talking about. Because once you cut service it’s awfully expensive to get it back! You gotta retrain drivers and mechanics and everything. It’s why Kcm isn’t having to make as many cuts because they stayed afloat longer than anyone.

    1. I am of the view that fares of any kind raise serious issues. But I agree with Commish Price-Johnson it’s time for a study.

      I do feel today is the finite end of the beginning. Human and financial land mines are strewn over the battlefield which will require new leaders to find and remove without hopefully further harm. State legislators will be highly skeptical – at best – of helping Island Transit recover. State & federal transportation grantors are going to be seeking a means to put Island Transit on probation. Finally, an entire Island County has gone through an ugly trauma.

      One year to fix all that? No, I believe at least five unless a miracle happens!

  2. It is time now to review all supervisor, manager and coordinator positions. Through the years Island Transit has created specialty positions. A complete restructuring of management is required to move forward. I truly enjoyed being a transit operator as part of a wonderful group of co-workers. Unfortunately having to resign due to all of my benefits being stripped and placed on a “on-call” status with no guarantee of work. Martha Rose had accomplished a lot in her tenure and was the soul driving force for the growth of Island Transit. But now it is time for change, hopefully change for the good. I also was one of the supporters for change but the simple question is, now what? Outside leadership is the only path to true change.

  3. For years, it seemed like the level of transit service on Whidbey Island as too good to be true, given the rural and spread-out nature of the area. To date, the only rural transit systems I have ever seen that were comparable with what Island Transit had to offer weren’t even in the U.S. – they were in places like Vancouver Island, B.C., and Scotland.

    I always wondered how Whidbey was able to do it without even charging fares, but I guess we now have our answer. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. The unfortunate truth is that running a rural transit agency with hourly service, 6 days a week is just not possible anymore with the tiny scraps of funding that U.S. agencies have to work with.

    1. asdf;
      Well Island Transit tax’d to the max of 9 tenths of 1 percent of sales tax – all with voter approval. There was the money there to do a lot – the problem is the accountability and oversight was AWOL for a long time.

    2. And at least in Scotland, it really is almost too good to be true: it’s part a huge (and enormously unpopular) bribe by the English establishment to keep Scotland in the UK. Lucky for the Scots, the rest of the UK weren’t given a chance to vote last week.

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