DUI spurs Island Transit chief executive decision

Following revelations about a DUI case, Island Transit’s interim director told board members Friday that he doesn’t want to become the permanent head of the agency.

Following revelations about a DUI case, Island Transit’s interim director told board members Friday that he doesn’t want to become the permanent head of the agency. Ken Graska

As a result, the board will again advertise for the director position within the next 90 days. But at the same time, the board also extended Interim Director Ken Graska’s contract for six months in order to assure a smooth transition to a new director.

In an interview Thursday, Interim Director Ken Graska acknowledged that he was cited for driving while intoxicated on May 25. He was not driving an Island Transit vehicle and it didn’t occur during working hours.

Graska said he immediately told the board members after it occurred and is getting ongoing treatment for alcoholism.

“I’ve taken the proper corrective action and I’m getting back on track,” he said. “The support of the board, family and friends has been very much appreciated.”

Oak Harbor Councilman Rick Almberg said the board discussed the incident during executive sessions. He said the board had been close to naming Graska as the permanent director when it occurred but instead put off making a decision.

“The board came down on him pretty hard,” he said.

During an executive session Friday, the board members discussed details of the DUI they hadn’t been aware of previously, according to Almberg. He said he felt Graska had minimized the event and told him so.

Court documents show that Graska was pulled over after he was clocked driving a 2013 GMC Terrain at 72 mph in a 55 mph zone on State Highway 525.

Trooper Larry Provoncha with the Washington State Patrol wrote in his report that Graska continued driving about a half a mile before pulling over and crossed the centerline “by more than a tire width.” The trooper noted that Graska smelled of alcohol, his speech was impaired and he had three bottles of vodka on the seat next to him.

Court documents state that Graska’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.158 and 0.16, which is about twice the legal limit of 0.08.

After the incident, Graska went on medical leave to get treatment for an alcohol problem, Almberg said.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson said she felt torn about how to respond. She said she’s “a big believer in second chances” and acknowledged that Graska has done a good job in a difficult position; on the other hand, she said she was disappointed and feels that it wasn’t “a little thing,” especially since he’s the head of a transit agency.

“From my perspective, it didn’t affect a temporary contract renewal,” she said, “but it does factor into my decision when it comes to a permanent position.”

The board’s decision Friday to continue Graska’s contract for six months was the third extension. Graska said his original contract was for four months and he’s already been on the job longer than he planned. He came after Martha Rose, the longtime director, resigned after major financial problems came to light.

“The issues and challenges turned out to be greater than anyone anticipated,” he said.

Graska added that he wants to return to his home in California but is willing to stay on while a new director is sought.

Graska was in Island County District Court Tuesday. The judge granted him a deferred prosecution; under state law, a DUI charge can be dismissed under a deferred prosecution if the defendant is diagnosed with a drug or alcohol problem and strictly complies with a series of conditions.

Graska was executive director of Community Transit in Snohomish County in 1993 when it was investigated by the FBI over a bribery and kickback scandal. He resigned, but was never charged with any wrongdoing.

 

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