The Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority appeared to disband and then resurrect itself within the space of 20 minutes at a special meeting Wednesday night.
First, a vote on a six-month contract to rent an office at the Merrillville Town Hall for RBA staff and records, at a cost of $500 per month, failed to gain the 11 votes needed for passage.
Then RBA Chairman Richard Hardaway argued that vote was tantamount to closing down the RBA because staff would not have a place to work. Board member Steve Kramer reminded everyone federal law requires the preservation of many RBA records.
After more discussion, a vote for reconsideration was taken and the contract was approved by the bare minimum of 11 votes. Hardaway voted yes on the revote on the contract after abstaining from the original vote. Board member Rick Niemeyer changed his vote from "no" to "yes" after learning the Merrillville contract can be ended with a 30-day notice.
Board member Raymond Fletcher, who voted no on both rounds, protested the vote to reconsider as improper. Fletcher said once an issue is voted on and defeated at a meeting it cannot be put to a second vote. He also protested Hardaway's vote, saying the chairman had a conflict of interest because he is a Merrillville Town Councilman.
Fletcher then made a motion to disband the RBA. It was not seconded or voted on.
The RBA board has been in disarray since it shut down its easygo Lake Transit bus service at the end of June. Members at meetings have split on a number of issues, and accusations have been traded about a lack of communication between staff and some board members.
The RBA board on Wednesday night also voted to have Attorney David Hollenbeck negotiate with a lawyer for Everybody Counts over the RBA's need to comply with a federal court order guaranteeing rights for people with disabilities. Hollenbeck is to report back to the board.
Hollenbeck had recommended going to court if those negotiations failed to get the RDA out from under most of the consent decree. A motion was made to that effect but then amended to simply give Hollenbeck authority to negotiate on the matter.
After the meeting, Everybody Counts Executive Director Teresa Torres said the RBA's attempt to withdraw from the consent decree makes no sense, as the RBA itself says it may again get back in the bus business some day. She also said the RBA must adhere to its pledge to fund a riders' Council on Accessible Transportation with $12,500.