Madore challenges C-Tran board vote

A protest lodged by Clark County Commissioner David Madore aims to reverse a May 21 vote by the C-Tran Board of Directors related to the Columbia River Crossing.

Facing a crossroads on its involvement with the controversial Interstate 5 Bridge replacement, the C-Tran board directed its staff to begin drafting terms for a contract with TriMet, and come up with a local finance plan for light rail planned as part of the $3.4 billion project. Those would then come back to the board for final approval.

During deliberations, Madore floated an amendment to that motion saying the board’s action “does not imply any support for the project; it simply seeks answers.” The amendment earned a 5-4 tally in support, but failed due to a bloc veto triggered when all three Vancouver City Council representatives on the board — Mayor Tim Leavitt, plus councilors Larry Smith and Bart Hansen — said no.

Madore cried foul in an email sent to C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm last week. His objection: that Leavitt should have recused himself from the vote because his employer, PBS Engineering + Environmental, is a contractor for TriMet. Madore called the arrangement an “apparent conflict of interest.”

This isn’t the first time Madore and Leavitt have sparred with each other. Madore has brought up PBS Engineering’s relationship with TriMet before. Leavitt said the issue has already been addressed repeatedly, and was previously found not to be a conflict.

“Clearly there’s no secret to the intentions that the commissioner has to bring this up again tonight, as yet another red herring to throw out there to try to thwart any progress on the CRC,” Leavitt said at last month’s C-Tran meeting. “I don’t work on the project. I don’t work for TriMet.”

Later in the meeting, Madore handed out copies of a $500,000 contract between PBS Engineering and TriMet related to the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail project. He had made another motion stating that C-Tran would not support any state or federal funding for the CRC until first receiving voter approval.

Leavitt said it was the first time he had seen the contract. He dismissed the implication of a conflict, but said he’d abstain from voting on Madore’s second motion anyway. It failed due to a 4-4 tie.

County Commissioner Steve Stuart noted existing C-Tran policy already calls for a public vote on local light rail financing. Stuart wasn’t impressed with Madore’s motion, or the way it was presented.

“It reeks of political gamesmanship, and I think it’s beneath this board to consider,” Stuart said.

C-Tran legal counsel Tom Wolfendale is investigating the validity of Leavitt’s participation in the earlier vote. If the ethics complaint — echoed by two citizens in addition to Madore — is found to have merit, the matter would go the C-Tran board.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at or 360-735-4541.

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