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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Dec. 2, 2023

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C-Tran’s revised board gets a chaotic start

Three county councilors participate although only two are members

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

The C-Tran Board of Directors seated a new set of members Tuesday, diminishing Clark County’s representation on the nine-member board over the continued objections of county councilors.

The county has argued that a special committee violated the state’s Open Public Meetings Act when it voted to reshuffle the C-Tran board in November. County councilors say C-Tran didn’t give proper notice for that meeting; Councilor David Madore also handed out a letter from Seattle-based Pacifica Law Group asserting the same.

Despite those claims — and the threat of legal action by the county — the new board composition took effect during a tumultuous meeting Tuesday. The board also voted to amend C-Tran’s bylaws to match the changes.

“This is absolutely wrong,” County Councilor Jeanne Stewart said. “There should not be reward for the poison fruit that this goes ahead.”

The new board has three seats for the city of Vancouver, two for Clark County, one each for Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground, and one shared by La Center, Ridgefield and Yacolt. Under the old arrangement, Vancouver and the county both had three seats, while the remaining three seats were shared in pairs by the smaller jurisdictions. The board also includes a nonvoting labor representative.

The shake-up also eliminated the rule that gave Vancouver and Clark County the power to veto any action taken by the rest of the board. The changes were approved last fall by a 10-member board composition review committee.

In December, Clark County commissioners directed their legal staff to investigate whether C-Tran followed the law and take legal action if warranted. That hasn’t happened yet, but still could. Councilor David Madore said Tuesday he hoped C-Tran would “self-correct” so the issue wouldn’t have to go to court. He and others have called for the special committee to convene again and take another vote.

C-Tran announced the meeting and published an official legal notice more than a month in advance. C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm has said the agency believes it fully complied with the state’s Open Public Meetings Act.

Mielke at the table

The new board makeup took effect from the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, which led to a chaotic start. All three county councilors took seats at the table, despite only having two spots on the new C-Tran board. After it was determined Madore and Stewart would be the county’s two representatives, Councilor Tom Mielke remained at the table with the rest of the board. Madore at times asked for Mielke’s vote — though he doesn’t have one — “for the record.”

The board went into a closed executive session to discuss the potential lawsuit by the county. Mielke asked if he could attend but was told he couldn’t. Stewart and Madore both recused themselves. But not before Madore made it clear he doesn’t consider himself to be on C-Tran’s side.

“My allegiance is not to this organization. My allegiance is not to the jurisdiction of Clark County,” Madore said. “My allegiance is to the citizens.”

By the time public comment began, the board was nearly three hours into the meeting. Several citizens spoke against the new board makeup and the bylaws change.

Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman noted that the special committee had final say over the C-Tran board’s membership, not the board itself. Changing the bylaws merely brings them in line with a decision that’s already been made, he said.

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