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Barbs fly over RVTD money

Metropolitan board lets RVTD keep a &

36;345,000 allotment, but wants strict accountability

The Rogue Valley Transportation District will keep an annual allotment of &

36;345,000, provided the board of directors can account for it.

Last year, the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization agreed to allocate the funds to RVTD annually for 18 years for capital improvements.

But on Tuesday during a regular MPO meeting, board chairman Skip Knight proposed suspending that funding until issues surrounding the RVTD board are resolved.

Knight, a Medford city councilman, claimed the RVTD board has been fiscally irresponsible by racking up attorney fees and requesting additional audits after it voted in June to oust General Manager Sherrin Coleman.

RVTD has not yet received funding from MPO ' the first installment is scheduled for 2004.

I'm not so sure they would take this money and use it for its intended purpose, Knight said. My confidence that this money would not be used for something else is under question.

RVTD board member Carol Bennett, who serves as the MPO liaison, blasted Knight and claimed his proposal sprang from support for Coleman.

Since June, Knight has been public in both his support of Coleman and vocal in his criticism of the RVTD board.

To try to destroy a transit district over this is ludicrous, Bennett said. It's just your personal thing, Skip.

You're a jackass, Bennett added.

That's inappropriate, Knight responded.

During the discussion, Bennett announced that state Sen. Lenn Hannon and state Reps. Rob Patridge and Alan Bates had changed their tune regarding a joint statement they issued Thursday.

The three legislators called the RVTD board dysfunctional and warned that the board's behavior could result in a loss of an unspecified amount of state and federal funding.

Knight asked Bennett when the recant would be issued and Bennett replied, We'll find out, won't we?

But when reached after the meeting by phone Tuesday afternoon, Bates, Patridge and Hannon all were baffled by Bennett's statement.

I don't know where she's coming from, said Hannon, an Ashland Republican. This is all news to me.

All three politicians said they stand firm on their earlier warning to the RVTD board.

I think it's a perfect example of what's wrong with the board, said Bates, D-Ashland.

Either get it together, resign or get recalled, added Patridge, a Medford Republican.

During the meeting, MPO vice-chair Bill Walton told Knight that he disagreed with the proposal to suspend funding.

Walton ' Central Point's mayor and a supporter of Coleman ' suggested that the state step in and appoint a transit district rather than continuing with the elected board.

I don't see how it's going to change the board member's attitude, Walton said of Knight's proposal. The issue is the functionality of the district.

But the MPO board finally agreed to send a letter to RVTD, asking how any allotted funds will be spent.

I think we need some assurances, said MPO member and Jackson County Commissioner Sue Kupillas.

Bennett said she saw no problem with the suggestion.

We'll be more than happy to do that, RVTD board chairwoman Eva Avery said after the meeting. I was delighted to see that other (MPO) members didn't buy into withholding the money.

Reach reporter Jill Briskey at 776-4485, or e-mail