Transit board chairman requests internal probe

Asks FTA for 60 days to find out how deficiencies occurred

WARREN — The chairman of the Trumbull County Transit Board wants to hire an outside company for about $20,000 to do an internal investigation.

Robert Faulkner, board chairman, made the request Thursday at the board’s regular meeting, but the issue was tabled. Faulkner and mobility manager Michael Verich said the board needs the expertise of a company called Delta Development Group to protect the public transit system as the Federal Transit Authority reviews questions of compliance with the agency’s required policies.

Staff with the FTA earlier this year demanded information from the board and transit administrator, under threat of pulling federal funding for the system.

Faulkner in a May 20 letter to staff from the FTA asked the agency for 60 days to investigate why the deficiencies occurred.

“I feel it is clear from your letter that the Trumbull County Transit Board needs to investigate fully as to why such deficiencies occurred and see that they have been satisfied and will not be repeated regardless of an administrator being in place,” Faulkner’s letter states. “As such, I respectfully request a 60-day period in which the board will conduct an internal investigation and report our resulting findings to you.”

Mike Salamone, the transit administrator, is still waiting for a response from the FTA to his latest submission trying to correct the issues the FTA raised earlier this year, when it demanded documentation of corrections the agency stated it had been waiting on.

The FTA could pull funding if it isn’t satisfied, or it could respond positively, acknowledging the old issues have been corrected.

Verich said the company or a different specialist — the same one that assisted in the trouble-ridden 2016 triennial review — is necessary to get through the next review starting in July. The proposal by Delta does not include any quotes for work on the 2019 review, only past issues the FTA is scrutinizing the board over now.

“It is my understanding that the objectives of the TCTB’s internal investigation and recommendations are: 1) to determine what transpired and why there are outstanding FTA matters; and 2) to make recommendations to ensure that the 22 findings are closed out and practices are in place to ensure compliance. To that end, Delta has developed a scope of work and cost proposal,” the letter from Lynda Conway, senior associate for Delta Development Group, states.

The proposal states the company would spend 36 hours interviewing the transit administrator, a Community Bus Services representative, board members and others identified by the board; 10 hours developing recommendations; 30 travel hours for two people on four separate days; three hours to prepare; 29 hours obtaining and reviewing policies, FTA reports, FTA letters of findings and other correspondence from the federal agency, a state audit report, the contract with Community Bus Services, invoices from CBS and staffing levels; eight hours drafting a report; four hours to present it to the board; and three hours finalizing the report.

The 121 hours plus $865 for mileage would add up to a $19,892 report, the May 13 proposal states. If the 2019 review is to go well, the 2016 issues must be corrected too, said board member James Pirko.

Verich said the company is well-versed with the FTA.

“She has extensive experience dealing with the FTA and based on what I am reading, it seems as though she feels that it won’t be too difficult to resolve these concerns and just move forward so we don’t have to deal with these kinds of conflicts anymore,” Verich said.

Board member Marlene Rhodes asked who gave the recommendation to use the company.

Faulkner and Verich seemed to struggle with their response.

“Mr. Chairman, you received information I know, um, was it, um — I am just trying to answer your question,” Verich said.

Salamone reiterated Rhodes’ question. Although he usually prepares the agenda for meetings, along with documents board members need to review, he wasn’t given the Delta proposal until the meeting was about to begin, and neither were the other board members.

“It’s addressed to Bob (Faulkner),” board member John Fowler said.

“It came from me,” Faulkner said.

“Bob, you were looking, you went online, if I am not mistaken — clarify this — but you came … I am trying to answer this question, OK. You,” Verich said addressing Faulkner, “came and talked to Commissioner (Dan) Polivka also, and you went online to find out who the person was — the one closest to us in Shenango County Transit — and she is the consultant for them on dealing with FTA issues. And a part of Eastgate, they are a member of Eastgate … So on that basis to find somebody who can get us through this difficult time, who has extensive experience dealing with the FTA … I don’t think it is any secret we need someone, and if we don’t get this resolved in the next two months, we might as well just say sayonara.”

Rhodes asked if anyone spoke to anyone from the Shenango transit service to get a recommendation.

Faulkner said he did not.

Verich said Polivka did because he is concerned the board will lose FTA certification.

“If anyone wants to take the chance and wing it, that’s fine. But, if we don’t have a professional group come in …” Verich said.

Salamone said he wouldn’t mind help with the next review, but he wants to vet the company and later said he may have to seek multiple proposals to follow board policies. He also expressed concerns about paying for the report, as did other members of the cash-strapped board.

The board voted to table the issue and called a 4 p.m. special meeting Thursday to discuss it further.

Meanwhile, the Trumbull County Senior Levy administrator is actively seeking bids for senior transportation.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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