UPDATE: Thursday evening, The Salem Area Mass Transit District’s board of directors opted to postpone its vote on a travel policy for directors until the next board meeting on Thursday, April 27. The board wants the policy to include language regarding emergencies and unforeseen circumstances while traveling, said spokeswoman Patricia Feeny.
The board of the Salem Area Mass Transit District meets on Thursday, March 23, to consider director travel policies, increasing bus service and to hear a youth program update.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be in person at the Senator Hearing Room at Courthouse Square, 555 Court St. N.E. It will also be accessible by Zoom, and live streamed by Capital Community Media.
Public comments are due at 5 p.m. Thursday, and written comments can be emailed to [email protected].
READ IT: AGENDA
The district board is scheduled to vote on whether to approve a travel policy for its directors. The policy will address trip expenses, including transportation, meals and lodging.
The resolution comes a few months after general manager Allan Pollock was fined $100 by the state for applying his personal airline and hotel membership rewards accounts to District-funded business trips between 2018 and 2022. Pollock was required to donate the estimated $760 in accumulated rewards points to charity.
Pollock had not submitted the required written conflict-of-interest disclosure to the district when applying for personal points, according to the meeting materials.
In December, Pollock told Salem Reporter via a statement emailed by his attorney that Cherriots would be revising its policy to “make sure no one makes the same mistake in the future.”
An initial commission staff report in September found Cherriots did not have a policy addressing staff usage of personal rewards accounts when traveling for business, instead leaving employees governed by state law.
Patricia Feeny, spokeswoman for Cherriots, said the new policy addresses the issue of travel points for the board of directors, which was not previously included in district policy.
She said an updated policy for staff, including Pollock, is in its final draft.
She said Cherriots began reviewing its travel policies in 2019, work interrupted by the pandemic and the retirement of the chief financial officer, and that policy revisions were picked up again with the hiring of a replacement.
“And then when we did have the occurrence with our general manager and the ethics investigation, we looked at the policy as it is today, and there’s no clarity, it doesn’t say one way or the other,” she said. “And so then as a team we said that’s something that we need to address one way or the other.”
Feeny said the agency reached out to other transit districts, including TriMet, and asked for their policies. The new policy draft, she said, matches their standards.
If approved without revisions, the new policy would allow Cherriots directors to obtain frequent flyer mileage and rewards points from business travel, hotels and personal credit cards.
“We did add language that the director may accumulate reward points. And so that was our intention to make sure that it was clear, one way or another. And so that’s where we landed,” she said.
Under the proposal, all directors would be required to submit an authorization form before incurring expenses, which would be approved by the general manager. Feeny said Pollock’s expenses would be reviewed and approved by the chief financial officer.
Under the policy, directors must minimize costs by selecting coach class for air and train tickets, and directors would pay themselves for upgrades.
The new policy also would hold directors accountable who falsify or misrepresent expenses by making them pay extra costs.
Those currently serving as directors are President Ian Davidson and directors Ramiro Navarro Jr., Sadie Carney, Maria Hinojos Pressey, Sara Duncan and Bill Holmstrom.
Fixed route service
Board members will also hear about bringing local weekday service back to pre-pandemic levels starting on May 7. and effective through Sept. 7.
The change will extend frequent service on select routes by an hour, with a bus coming every 15 minutes until 7 p.m.
Routes with increased service include 2, 5, 11, 17, 19 and 21.
After 7 p.m. those routes will have service every 30 or 60 minutes until the last bus leaves its origin at 11 p.m.
Youth pass update
The board will also hear an update on its Youth Zero Pass Program that made rides free for everyone under 18 starting in September.
Youth ridership increased by 80% between September and January compared to the year prior, according to a board meeting memo. Each month since the launch has seen a boost in ridership compared to the year prior, and compared to pre-pandemic years.
The program is running as a pilot in its first year, funded by $150,000 from the Salem-Keizer School District, $150,000 from the city of Salem and $30,000 from the city of Keizer.
Cherriots is working with the school district to educate students on bus safety and etiquette, according to the program. Cherriots has produced drawings of cartoon characters waiting to cross the street, and reminding kids that bus stop poles are not for climbing.
Budget committee citizen member
The board will also consider appointing Marie Greene, a South Salem small business owner, to the budget committee for a term ending June 30, 2024.
Greene, who owns the website Olive Knits, would fill one of two citizen member vacancies on the committee. She has lived in Salem around a decade, and was previously a hospital finance project manager in Nebraska.
In her application, she said she is an active voter and finds value in volunteering and community involvement.
“I’m passionate about helping our city appropriate funds in a way that is responsible and impactful to our citizens and way of life,” she said.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.