The Sunset Empire Transportation District is looking for a new board member, on the heels of the announcement that vice-chairman Ron Bline has resigned.
Applications are being accepted for the bus district up until a decision is made Nov. 29.
Bline’s resignation was effective Monday.
“At the last meeting, my resolutions approved the setting and planning out of our debt repayment, and I feel like the problems are now solved,” Bline said. “I feel I have peter-principled myself out of a job. As chair, I never should have let it get that bad. But the district has worked very hard in recovery and Jay is a wonderful executive director, so now it’s time to pass it on.
“I am comfortable in the future of the SETD, and I will always be interested in how well it does. And I am tired,” he said with a laugh.
Bline has been on the board since 1999, with a three-year break in between. He was the chairman during the most turbulent time when director Cindy Howe abruptly resigned under discoveries of mismanagement and misspending for personal things such as clothing and groceries.
Her resignation also led to the discovery of a volatile work environment, where employees admitted to feeling bullied. More than 30 staff members were laid off in the wake of Howe’s leave in January 2011, and all bus routes but two were discontinued.
A criminal case in Clatsop County Circuit Court is pending against Howe. She faces 10 counts of first-degree theft and four counts of official misconduct. Her resolution conference hearing is scheduled for July.
Meanwhile, the district has slowly rebuilt.
“It was interesting and challenging and I learned a lot,” Bline said. “I learned about process and how important the position of boards are, but I don’t feel up to the challenge anymore. I feel like I did it openly, put the problems out there for everyone to see, and I feel comfortable towards the future of Sunset Empire. I’ve done my bit.”
Bline said he appreciated working with his board, which includes Chairman Paul Lewicki, Rae Goforth, Marcia Fenske, Victor Kee, Carol Gearin and Julie Gassner. He noted the disagreement at the Clackamas water board and said he is thankful his board never got to that level.
“We had some difficult times, but we stuck together,” Bline said. “We got through it and we didn’t have to fight with one another. We talked. We got it done. We hung together. And I feel good about it. I can’t, and the public can’t, ask for anymore han that.”
Bline said he is 67 and hopes a younger generation will show interest, turn in applications and get involved in the district to keep the transportation system going.
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.