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May 21, 2014

Confusion at SVTA during transition

Board puts hold on comp time, reverts to 1983 manual

Live Oak —

The boardroom was packed with people during a two-and-a-half-hour Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, May 13, as the board struggled to decipher which Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual they were operating under.

SVTA is being watched closely by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). FDLE would not state the nature of their investigation. An FDOT audit revealed that ousted Administrator Gwendolyn Pra received compensatory time payouts in excess of $86,000 on top of her $78,748.80 salary, and former Director of Operations William “Bill” Steele received over $36,000 in comp time payouts, aside from his annual salary of $71,427.20. FDOT Inspector General Robert E. Clift had stated SVTA’s cost accounting system was not sufficient “to make a precise determination of the sources of these payments.”

Pra took the reins of the troubled SVTA on Aug. 15, 2011.

Board members

Board members present at the meeting were Chairman Ronald Williams (Columbia County Commission Chairman), Commissioners Beth Burnam and Robert Brown from Hamilton County, Commissioners Ricky Gamble and Jason Bashaw from Suwannee County, Commissioner Bucky Nash from Columbia County, newly appointed Director Teresa Fortner, Board Attorney Hal Airth and Board secretary Shirley Cribbs.

Williams, according to past minutes, has served on the SVTA Board as far back as May, 1981. The rest of the board members are fairly new. Nash replaced Scarlet Frisinia on Jan. 14, 2013, Brown replaced Randy Ogburn on Jan. 14, 2013, and Burnam replaced Josh Smith on March 10, 2014. Bashaw began serving Jan. 8, 2014, replacing Phil Oxendine, and Gamble began serving Jan. 8, 2014, replacing Clyde Fleming.

Policies and procedures

Clarification on the policies and procedures manual that SVTA is operating under was questioned. It was noted by Gamble that there seemed to be several different versions of the manual. 

Williams said the manual that had been followed was dated March 26, 2012.

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