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RVTD board backs member's name-calling

The Rogue Valley Transportation District voted Wednesday not to reprimand one of its board members for calling Medford councilman Skip Knight a jackass during an earlier public meeting.

I do believe one has to be on the receiving end to thoroughly understand, board chairwoman Eva Avery said in defense of Carol Bennett, who made the remark. We've been in a very difficult situation and patience wears thin.

Bennett made the comment during a Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting on Tuesday. Knight, who chairs the MPO, was discussing a proposal to suspend &

36;345,000 in funding to RVTD based on the board's current behavior. Bennett is the RVTD liaison to MPO.

Board member Edwin Chapman urged the board to reprimand Bennett during a regular RVTD meeting Wednesday night at the Jackson County meeting auditorium in White City.

I don't think it's funny, Chapman said. It was inappropriate.

But the majority of the board disagreed with Chapman, who cast the only vote in favor of the motion.

Board member Susan McKenzie said it wasn't fair to reprimand Bennett when other members have, in the past, acted in a similar manner. Avery spoke about the abuse heaped upon RVTD board members since the group voted to reject General Manager Sherrin Coleman's contract renewal in June.

Our buttons have been pushed, added board member Kay Harrison. I understand the conditions.

Bennett abstained from voting and didn't discuss the incident.

Newly appointed RVTD board member Dan Moore disagreed with the board's majority vote. Moore, who also serves on the MPO board and heard Bennett's remark on Tuesday, abstained from voting. He advised board members to keep the public in mind, and work for their support.

To me it's just a shame that the board can't see that and set the record straight, Moore said. Just quit this charade. You can vote me off it you want to — I wish the board could just forget their pride for a moment.

Moore was appointed Wednesday to the seat previously held by Stan Druben. Druben resigned in August over the backlash of public support for Coleman.

Moore works for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments. He beat out applicants Joel Marks and Jodi Riker for the position, and must run for election in May to keep the seat.

In other business on Wednesday, the board:

Agreed to continue investigating RVTD boundary discrepancies, with particular regard to Eagle Point. An unknown number of Eagle Point residents are on RVTD's tax roles even though they don't live within the district's boundaries.

Those residents are unable to vote upon district issues. Staff members announced they will continue investigating, and that meetings are scheduled with Eagle Point city officials and Jackson County personnel. An update is expected at the November RVTD staff meeting.

Agreed to move forward with an internal audit examining financial activities within the last year. The board also agreed the findings should be made available to the public, and set a &

36;5,000 cap for the project. The internal audit is in addition to the board's annual audit, conducted by an outside CPA firm.

Agreed to form a sub-committee of three board members (Harrison, Chapman and McKenzie), three community members and three RVTD employees.

The sub-committee would establish a code of ethics, policies and standards for RVTD board members. The sub-committee will also better define the role of general manager.

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