Transit should stop wasting public funds

Paying a part-time clerk $25 per hour to handle simple administrative functions of the Trumbull County Transit board is bad enough, but using a court stenographer to type minutes from each meeting at a cost of $50 to $75 per hour is outrageous, and transit board members are wrong for allowing it to continue.

The Trumbull County Transit board in November hired Earl Brown, a former board member who had served as secretary during his board tenure, to perform basic administrative functions at a rate of $25 per hour. At the time, the board was searching for a new transit administrator after the previous administrator retired. Fearful they would need someone to handle the day-to-day functions in the administrator’s absence — like recording, typing and keeping meeting minutes, retrieving and opening the mail, acting as the board’s public information officer and more — the board voted to hire Brown. Discussions at the time had centered on keeping the position temporary.

Even Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said at the time that he believed the position should be filled on a temporary basis only, and for not more than six months.

It could be said there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government position.

Now six months after the temporary position’s creation, some transit board members want to keep Brown permanently, despite also having recently appointed new transit administrator Rebecca Gerson, who also serves as Trumbull County administrator. In that time, the transit board also has elected one of its board members to serve as board secretary, yet that person isn’t taking or keeping the meeting minutes. Why should he, after all? That’s what they are paying Brown to do. The problem is, transit board members are complaining about inaccuracies in the meeting minutes Brown has been preparing.

So, to ensure the minutes are accurate, the board now has begun bringing in a trained court stenographer a minimum of $50 per hour to record and prepare the minutes.

This situation is spiraling out of control and, as always, the taxpayers are footing the bill.

At a recent meeting, board members debated the need for a court stenographer who was brought on at the direction of Transit Board President Robert Faulkner. They also debated the need to keep Brown’s position. Faulkner also has argued in favor of keeping Brown, maintaining his role is a requirement of the Federal Transportation Administration, which provides some Trumbull Transit funding.

Gerson tells us she is investigating that issue, as well as considering the need for both the paid positions — Brown and a contracted stenographer.

Some board members have argued neither position is needed. Board member Arnie Clebone suggests audio recording the minutes and posting them online. We agree. That’s what the Trumbull County commissioners do, and it has proven quite efficient and serves the public well.

Board member Carl Clemons argues there is no need to pay Brown to perform administrative functions. Again, we agree. Gerson has been appointed to handle administrative functions, and the board has a secretary who can ensure the minutes are being recorded and posted online.

We see no need to maintain Brown’s so-called temporary position, nor the ridiculous use of a court stenographer for basic recording of meeting minutes.

This is not brain surgery. Transit board members need to operate more efficiently and focus their attention — and their budget — on transit issues, not on meeting minutes.