Prosecutor, police to investigate former Island Transit chief

The Washington State Patrol agreed to conduct a criminal investigation into “certain conduct” described in an audit report of Island Transit, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said Monday.

Banks said the investigation will look into “irregularities in compensation” described in the recently released report from the state Auditor’s Office. He said he didn’t want to be too specific because the investigation may be larger in scope.

The accountability audit largely focused on Martha Rose, the former executive director of Island Transit. The auditors found discrepancies between her calendar and her vacation leave balance.

Banks said State Patrol Chief John Batiste authorized the investigation, but he hasn’t discussed it with detectives yet and doesn’t know the timeline.

He and Island County Sheriff Mark Brown decided it would be best if an outside agency conducted the investigation because of the potential conflict of interest. Island Transit’s board of directors is made up of elected officials from the county and the three municipalities on the island.

Banks said his decision to seek a criminal investigation was not in response to any pressure from politicians or residents, though some have been calling for just such an investigation.

He said Island County Commissioner Aubrey Vaughan was the first person to bring his attention to the potential problems at Island Transit months ago and he said then he would wait until the results of the audit to make any decisions about a criminal investigation.

“I’ve been following the investigation from the start,” he said.

The accountability audit report states that auditors found insufficient record keeping and lack of oversight, but no evidence of misappropriation of funds.

Coupeville Councilman Bob Clay, the chairman of the Island Transit Board, said he was surprised by the news of the investigation. He pointed out that the audit found “nothing” to suggest criminal conduct.

The report states that Rose’s calendar shows she was on vacation for four weeks in 2013 and three weeks in 2014, but only six days of leave were deducted from her leave balance from August 2012 to September 2014.

In addition, her calendar showed she attended a conference for 16 days in April of 2013 when flight records showed she was only in the same city as the conference for four days. Her calendar showed she was at a conference for 19 days in September 2013 when flight records indicate she was only in the same city as the conference for five days.