Lawsuit challenges C-Tran board change

Group alleges open meeting laws were violated

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

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A group has filed a lawsuit alleging that C-Tran violated open meeting laws when a special committee rearranged the membership on the transit agency’s board of directors last fall.

The suit mirrors an accusation made by Clark County councilors following the change, which diminished the county’s influence on the C-Tran board. County councilors hired an outside law firm and threatened to sue C-Tran, but never followed through. Instead, a group of individuals appears to have filed the same complaint.

The lawsuit, filed in Clark County Superior Court on April 22, lists 14 plaintiffs: John Ley, John Hallinen, Gerald Halle, Michael and Carole Kelley, Michael Conner, Lisa Ross, Deborah Ward, Pat Anderson, Brian Rohan, Robert Nichols, John Burke, Robert Ray Larimer and Mark Heagy. Named defendants include C-Tran, its executive director, Jeff Hamm, and all current C-Tran board members.

At the center of the complaint is a Nov. 18 meeting, during which a C-Tran board composition review committee voted to change the makeup of the full C-Tran board. The complaint argues that C-Tran didn’t properly give notice of the meeting, and didn’t announce the “business to be transacted” far enough ahead of time.

Hamm has previously said C-Tran believes it fully complied with the state’s Open Public Meetings Act. Among other steps, the agency published an official legal notice of the meeting more than a month in advance.

The lawsuit asks that the November committee vote be declared “null and void,” as well as all actions taken by the C-Tran board since the new composition took effect in January. That would include the March approval of three key contracts for a planned bus rapid transit system in Vancouver.

C-Tran spokesman Jim Quintana said Wednesday morning that the agency had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is the second against C-Tran in recent months. In November, Ley and a group of residents filed a separate complaint aiming to stop the bus rapid transit project. That challenge remains unresolved.

In both cases, the plaintiffs are represented by Ball Janik LLP, a Portland-based law firm.