EDITORIAL | Public trust erodes as transit leaders wait

We had hoped by now that the executive director of Island Transit would either have tendered her resignation, or the Island Transit board of directors would have removed her from the key position.

Neither has happened, and the decision-makers say they’re waiting for the results of a state audit before making any such decisions.

Meanwhile, trust in the taxpayer–funded transit agency and its current leadership has eroded well past the point of return.

This week, the finance director who was blamed for the mess that Island Transit finds itself in now has stepped forward to try to repair her reputation.

Executive Director Martha Rose was repeatedly informed of the impending financial collapse and opted to ignore warnings, claims Barbara Savary, who issued her statement after consulting with an attorney.

“I repeatedly informed (Rose) that changes and cuts needed to be implemented to avoid the exact situation that now befalls Island Transit.”

Rose was also aware the agency was drawing on its investment reserves to cover expenses, Savary said in her statement.

At this point, regardless of what the audit finds, it is clear that all confidence in Rose’s abilities to manage Island Transit is near nonexistent, much like the tread of an overused tire.

Meanwhile, Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who serves on Island Transit’s board, appears to be trying to distance herself from the mess while — kind of — demanding answers.

As a steward of taxpayer money, we would hope that Commissioner Price Johnson would be delivering answers about what she saw during the period of time leading up to Island Transit’s financial collapse instead of clamming up for legal reasons.

We would like to see determined leadership from the commissioner and others on the transit board. They should demand that Rose do the right thing for Island Transit’s future and step aside now.

This mess is not going to disappear.

In this day and age, trust in government leadership is a fragile thing. Until Martha Rose is gone, there can be no mending of the critical relationship between the citizens of Island County and Island Transit.

The long road to rebuilding that trust needs to begin sooner than later.


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