State to audit transit books

Financial experts at the Washington State Auditor’s Office will be going through books at Island Transit in the next couple of weeks to figure out what went wrong, according to the spokesman for the agency.

Thomas Shapley, deputy director of communications for the office, said the auditors’ last accountability audit of Island Transit covered the year 2012 and nothing appeared to be amiss at that time.

“As someone told me today, we’re good but we can’t audit the future,” he said.

“I’m really anxious to see what we will find,” he added.

The South Whidbey Record story about the financial problems at Island Transit motivated the auditors to start the audit scheduled for this year as soon as possible. A total of 24 employees will be laid off, Saturday bus service is being cancelled and five routes will be eliminated or changed due to financial problems uncovered at Island Transit.

The first of the community meetings about the route changes is at 5 p.m., Monday, Aug. 4 at the Oak Harbor Library.

As a result of the shortfall, the transit board approved an $800,000 note — basically a bank loan — to pay bills. On top of that, the board OK’d issuance of a $1.5-million bond to pay the balance of the agency’s matching funds for the new transit facility near Coupeville.

Shapley said the Auditor’s Office also received several letters from state lawmakers who were concerned about the problem after reading the stories.

Martha Rose, director of Island Transit, also said she asked the Auditor’s Office to come early this year.

Rose’s future with Island Transit is unclear.

Coupeville Town Councilman Bob Clay, also a member of the transit board, said Friday that no decision has been made yet about whether she should be replaced. He said the board will have a clearer picture of what happened once the state Auditor’s Office analyzes the books.

“She is ultimately responsible for what has happened,” he said. “That’s her job.”

In addition, he said Rose recently hired a new financial analyst who will be able to help figure out the financial situation.

Last week, Rose explained that she had fired finance manager Barbara Savary after learning about the financial problems earlier this year. She said Savary was dipping into investments as expenses outpaced revenues for years on end; Rose said she found unpaid bills in Savary’s desk after she was gone.

Savary, who no longer lives in the community, contacted the Whidbey News-Times this week in an email.

“I am frankly shocked and dismayed at the allegations Ms. Rose waged against me, her statement that she was completely unaware of the tight financial situation, as well as the disregard for the role she played in the financial downfall,” she wrote.

Savary initially wrote that she wanted to tell her side of the story, but wrote in a later email that she wanted to first contact her attorney and would be sending a formal statement.