Oak Harbor mayor rallies for resignation of transit directors

Island Transit board members Jim Sundberg and Scott Dudley attend a meeting.

Scott Dudley is taking his show on the road.

Oak Harbor’s fired-up mayor is bringing his criticism of Island Transit’s board of directors to other elected officials across the island, though his message may not be well received. Dudley, who may be seeking re-election next year, is making Island Transit his personal crusade.

Dudley said Monday that he plans to attend council meetings next month in Langley and Coupeville to ask mayors and council members “to take a look at who is representing them at Island Transit.”

He said he also plans to attend an Island County commissioners’ meeting after the new member is elected Nov. 4. Democrat Karla Jacks and Republican Rick Hannold are vying for the seat vacated by Kelly Emerson.

Dudley is calling on all board members to resign in the wake of financial difficulties, recent audit findings and news that former transit director Martha Rose received a payout of more than $100,000 even though the audit showed she wasn’t marking down all of her vacation hours.

“People are livid. And rightly so,” Dudley said. “People should be upset.”

“People should be pissed. This is their money.”

Currently, Coupeville Councilman Bob Clay is the chairman of the transit board and the acting director. Other members are Langley Councilman Jim Sundberg and Island County Commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Aubrey Vaughan.

Oak Harbor Councilman Jim Campbell resigned from the board and called on the other board members to do likewise. The Oak Harbor council appointed Dudley as the city’s representative on the board until the end of the year.

Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy said Dudley is welcome to address the council, but that he has no plans to replace Sundberg.

“My sense is that Jim Sundberg is a very qualified person who has a lot to contribute to solving the problems at Island Transit,” he said.

He pointed out that Sundberg has experience working with municipal budgets for nearly a decade, has a master’s degree in city planning and training in human resources. Sundberg has been on the transit board for two years.

“To solve the problems, they need someone with institutional history,” he said.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said she appoints representatives to the transit board each February; the council approves the appointment. She said she has no intention of removing Clay from the position ahead of the normal schedule, but that the council could decide otherwise.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson pointed out that change is coming to the board soon no matter what. Whichever commissioner candidate wins next week will replace Vaughan, who was appointed this summer, as soon as the election is certified.

Johnson said she intends to ask to be on the Island Transit board, but she will need at least one other vote.

Regular committee and board assignments are made at the beginning of the year. She said it would be foolish to replace Price Johnson at this point.

Johnson pointed out that the three commissioners serve on a total of 23 committees and boards; she said their top priority is the county’s budget. She said the board members should be asking questions and digging in, but she said they ultimately have to rely on the information they receive.

“It’s easy to sit on the outside and criticize them for not knowing,” she said. “From the inside, I have to say it’s easy not to know.”