So three lawyers walk into a C-Tran meeting…

Sounds like the setup to a bad joke, right? If only. Three attorneys — or their legal opinions, anyway — took center stage Tuesday before the committee mulling a possible shake-up of the C-Tran board.

The committee has come up with three options for the C-Tran board’s makeup. Two of those would give more representation to the smaller cities, at the expense of either Clark County or the city of Vancouver. (State law says the board can’t exceed its current size of nine voting members.)

Any hopes of a quick, simple process were dashed when the group tripped over this legal question: What happens to the bloc veto power held by the county and Vancouver if the board changes? If either entity loses a seat, does it lose its ability to collectively nix any action approved by the rest of the board?

Let’s ask Tom Wolfendale, C-Tran’s legal counsel. His take: Reshuffling the board makes the veto provision of C-Tran’s bylaws unenforceable. Basically, the veto goes away for everyone, unless the bylaws are rewritten.

How about Chris Horne, chief civil deputy in the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office? Horne says it’s a little more complicated than that, and it’s possible that one party now holding the veto could keep that power while the other doesn’t.

And Linda Marousek, Vancouver’s assistant city attorney? She believes that both Vancouver and the county could keep their veto power no matter what happens to the board.

So we have three attorneys and three different conclusions. And the written opinions are getting longer, which does not seem to be a good omen.

To resolve this legal kerfuffle, Wolfendale said he’ll meet with Horne and Marousek to see if they can find consensus, then report back to the committee. Attorneys representing the other cities in C-Tran’s service district will also be invited, Wolfendale said.

It’s not clear where this meeting of the minds will occur. We’d suggest having all of the lawyers hop on a No. 47 C-Tran bus to Yacolt, then come back when there’s an agreement. The bus only runs once per day out there, so they’ll have plenty of time to sort it out.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

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

Scroll to top