CA: City-Picked GET Board Members Asked to Resign

Aug. 27--If the city's two appointees to Golden Empire Transit's board don't resign by 5 p.m. Monday, the Bakersfield City Council will consider removing them, Vice Mayor Ken Weir has warned.

In a letter on city letterhead dated Aug. 21, Weir told GET board members Norris Ledbetter and Howard Silver that leaving now "will provide you a smooth, professional and dignified exit" from the agency. If they don't, the council may act at its Sept. 10 meeting, he said.

Weir requested their resignations be effective "upon the appointment of your successor or earlier, should you so desire."

"My belief is that there are problems at GET much deeper and broader than a labor dispute which, from the conversations and general demeanor at the Council meeting, appeared to be only a symptom of the real problem," Weir wrote in the letter copied to the council, Mayor Harvey Hall and top city staffers. "In my experience it is difficult, if not impossible, to effect change in an organization without a fresh outlook and approach."

Neither Silver nor Ledbetter responded to telephone messages left requesting comment Tuesday evening. Weir, who represents Ward 3 in the northeast, also failed to return calls.

City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said the two men can be removed by a majority vote of the City Council.

Weir's call for Silver and Ledbetter's resignation followed a five-week bus drivers' strike that stranded tens of thousands of riders. As it wore on, Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera asked for a report from Silver, Ledbetter and GET CEO Karen King at the council's Aug. 13 meeting and -- unhappy with what he heard and the attitude that was displayed -- said then the council should remove them.

Buses began rolling again Aug. 19.

On Tuesday, Rivera said King is part of the problem, too.

"Ms. King certainly needs to alter her perspective in how she's doing things, if for no other reason than what's happened over the past several months," Rivera said. "At the end of the day, making changes to the board of directors is, in my mind, a clear indication to Ms. King that it's time for some new direction and some new perspective, and this is what needs to happen."

Rivera and Ward 4 Councilman Bob Smith both cited transportation hardships faced by customers of BARC, Clinica Sierra Vista and the Bakersfield Homeless Center since GET routes were changed in October 2012 as evidence change is needed.

"I think it dates back publicly to when they changed their routes and weren't responsive to people who used it the most, BARC and the homeless center," Smith said. "Now Howard (Silver) mentioned they are responsive, they're going to change their routes in October. That's been (nearly) two years. They just don't have the customer service attitude they need."

GET spokeswoman Gina Hayden said the agency had no comment on Weir's letter, or response to charges that King is at fault as well.

"We don't have an official comment at this time. There was going to be a statement at the board meeting," Hayden said, referring to the 5:30 p.m. GET board of directors meeting scheduled for Sept. 2.

Ledbetter has been a board member since January 2007. Silver has been since January 1984. GET board members serve four-year terms; there are a total of five.

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