Forensic Auditor Responds to Columbian Hit Piece on Analysis of C-Tran Finances

by lewwaters

As we know, Forensic Auditor Tiffany Couch issued an analysis recently critical of C-Tran finances and their claims of needing more revenue they seek in Proposition 1. It goes without saying that the Columbian, our local mouthpiece for any pro-Democrat, pro-CRC, pro-Light Rail or pro-C-Tran measure would do what they could to discredit it, which they did in their hit piece, Analysis questions C-Tran’s financial claims; agency fires back

Included in the article is C-Tran’s critical response here, in essence labeling her a liar while the article itself seeks to taint her work due to her being separately hired by local businessman and the Columbian’s ‘boogieman’ David Madore to perform a Forensic Analysis of the Columbia River Crossing, a completely separate agency.

Ms Couch’s report is here

Tiffany Couch has now issued a rebuttal to the C-Tran claims of her not using complete numbers, numbers they provided to her and their effort to label her work incomplete that you can read here

Rebuttal of C-Tran claims:
• She used nine months of operating expense data for projecting 17 years of expense.
o Not true.
o If you look at my analysis on page 4, I do take C-Tran’s actual 9 month cash position and extrapolate that into what the full year of “cash burn” might look like.
o I then double that for 2012, which calculates to approximately 1.8 million dollars of cash burn next year
o If you look at page 4 of my analysis and then Table 3 on page 5, you will see that C-Tran’s actual cash burn for the last 5 years has approximated 1.9 Million dollars.
o C-Tran’s actual operating results for the last 5 years (6 years if you count 2011) support my analysis.
• Her analysis eliminates ALL capital improvements for 17 years.
o Not True
o Please look at page 6 of my report under “Proposed Capital Budget”
I simply eliminate High Capacity Transit related capital expenditures, not ALL expenditures
o Please look at Table 4 called “Revised Capital Budget”
I list a capital expenditure item there representing capital costs NOT related to High Capacity Transit
o Please look at Exhibit B
I leave a restriction for capital assets in the budget
o By using the ACTUAL CASH BURN RATE for C-Tran, I’m analyzing the impact on cash as it relates to BOTH operating and capital expenditures. This is clearly seen on their statement of cash flows (which is what I used for the burn rate in the first bullet above). A summary of C-Tran’s cash flow statement is on Page 5 of my report.
• Her analysis assumes no changes in revenue sources
o I’m using C-Tran’s own 2011-2012 budget that clearly shows significant ($10M per year) grant funding
o C-Tran’s 2030 plan also indicates the continuance of grant funding
• Her analysis assumes an average annual increase in expenses of less than one-half of one percent…..
o True
o I chose NOT to use C-Tran’s highly aggressive revenue growth rates as per their 2030 plan. (Which takes Sales Tax Revenue growth of 140.66% over the next 19 years). Had I done that, C-Tran would never run out of cash.
o Instead, I give them deficit cash burn rates of a compounding 5% per year (again, on current bus service levels only)
• She ignores the 90 days cash on hand policy
o Not True
o Please see Table 4 on page 7 of my report. It’s listed as “Working Capital Reserve”
o Please see Exhibit B. I leave their working capital intact. I clearly state that in 2021 (the year that I say they run out of unrestricted reserves) that they will have to dip into capital reserves.
• Used an incorrect “Total Retail Sales” number in the first year of the 2010-2030 revenue analysis
o Not True
o I use 2010 actual retail sales as per C-Tran’s CAFR in my analysis
• 2011-2013 Budget does have 11.3M in HCT Activities:
o I did find a slight error. I accidently double counted the CRC Consulting costs in my analysis. I will revise that to be $11.0M instead of $11.3M
Capital Budget (Page 23 of 2011-2012 Budget):
Tri-Met Ticketing 2,700,000
BRT Analysis 426,125
20 year Planning 6,239,386
Total Per C-Tran’s Capital Budget 9,365,511

C-Tran Operating Budget (Page 20 of 2011-2012 Budget)
CRC Consulting 200,000
Ballot Measures 960,000
HCT Study 500,000
Total Per C-Tran’s Operating Budget 1,660,000

Total $ 11,025,511

• Cash Reserve Policy ignored
o Again, I have addressed this above. I absolutely used C-Tran’s cash reserves policy
o Sales Tax Revenue Assumptions
I used actual Clark County sales tax revenues and then used C-Tran’s revenue growth assumptions in my analysis.
• Using ACTUAL sales tax revenue and their growth figures, you will not get to $99M in sales tax revenue in 2030.
They indicated they would send me their own analysis but I did not receive that.
• Debt Service Payments are in overall budget
o This was not sent to me.
o Page 73 of their 2030 plan looks like a budget to me….it spells out cash flows from revenue, cash expenditures for both capital and operating expenses. Why would it omit debt service payments?
• At no time did I state that I was preparing a public document
o This is true.
o I did not think I would. I feared that the public press would be so significant that I did not want to bring this onto myself.
o However, the findings were so significant that I felt it was important to inform the voters.
• Misrepresented the reserve and sales tax base and growth rate.
o Not true (see above)
o How did I do this if I used actual numbers and C-Tran’s own plan?
• I used too small a sample
o The last 6 years operating results are not enough?
o This represents the most accurate pictures of C-Tran’s most current level of bus service to the Citizens of Clark County. If you would like me to extend that sample, I can. I would be happy to revise my numbers. Please let me know whether or not you’d like to review that analysis.

In this bloggers view, C-Tran has proven themselves to be an untrustworthy agency, run inefficiently and overly costly. We do need a reliable community bus service, but we do not need the outrageously expensive dreams they plan on bringing to our community, whether we taxpayers want it or not.

I find no logical re4ason to continue funneling our dwindling tax dollars into the dark hole of C-Tran. They need top restructure, reorganize and do what is necessary to become an efficient and cost effective service, not just keep seeking more money from us so they can build some expensive dream.

I urge you, if you haven’t sent your ballot in yet, Mark NO on Proposition 1.

24 Comments to “Forensic Auditor Responds to Columbian Hit Piece on Analysis of C-Tran Finances”

  1. And as usual, The Columbian started this whole exchange by trying to slam Tiffany’s report. Wouldn’t it be nice if The Columbian wasn’t on the opposite side of the community and instead was actually trying to benefit the community?


  2. And, Jack, the usual slate of bootlickers flock in to support their hatchet job.


  3. It seems wild to me that we, or rather our govenor wants to save 220 million by cutting school buses services out of our transportation budget. So I guess shuttling adults around and arguing over lite rail expansion is somehow more important than making sure our kids make it to school for their education. Are we now supposed to paint the local public buses yellow?


  4. First, I’d like to extend my personal thanks to Ms. Couch for diving into this can of worms head first, and being bold enough to put her name and professional reputation on the line to analyze C-Tran’s budget and Proposition 1. The reaction she got from C-Tran and the Columbian, and the utter silence from any elected official tells me she is closer to the ten ring on this than she may realize.

    Larry Smith, Bart Hanson are in this one up to their eyeballs, and it isn’t just Proposition 1 that needs to be voted down here Boys and Girls. Larry Smith is the frickin’ Co-Chair that came up with this mess in the first place, so if you don’t like Proposition 1, then you have Larry Smith and Our Boy Bart Hansen to thank for this.

    But do not think for a moment that Temple Lentz decided all on her own to start in about this either; she is still one of the many mouthpieces for Mayor Progressive and I have no doubt she is still out there doing Timmy’s dirty work for him.

    Why do you think Lou Brancaccio has taken personal responsibility for the public vilification of Josephine Wentzel?? One can only imagine what John Laird will have to say about all of us tomorrow, but the Columbian’s treatment of Josephine is a template for Tiffany Couch to expect them to follow now that she has had the guts to stand up and be counted.

    I believe it is time to separate C-Tran out from the grip of the local Ruling Class who are using it to promote their own agendas under the guise of the “Board of Directors”. They use that dodge to make decisions that supposedly represent the communities they come from, but if you have the same people sitting on City Council, the Board of C-Tran and RTC, you have a direct conflict of interest that many people are not even aware of.

    Does it matter what C-Tran’s response to Ms. Couch says when it is really coming from members of Vancouver City Council who don’t have the frickin’ stones to confront her about this in person??

    In addition, you have career public employees like Thayer Rohrbaugh that have worked behind the scenes at the City of Vancouver’s transportation office for years and also has his fingers in literally every other transportation pie withing 100 miles. Thayer has never run for or been elected to any office whatsoever, yet there he is out making critical decisions about public money that costs us all dearly. He is one of the direct ties between the Columbia Crossing Project, C-Tran and the City of Vancouver who can move between all of those groups and never be accountable to the public for anything.

    That’s the real root cause of the problems that Tiffany Couch’s analysis is finally making clear to the Public. Too many of the same fingers in the Public Pie.

    I think the long term solution to this is to make C-Tran a real public agency, and elect an independent Board of Directors, the same way we elect an independent Board for Clark Public Utilities, every Port District in the State and even the School Boards. Proposition 1 makes it abundantly clear that we cannot trust C-Tran to the same people any longer.

    It is clear to me that the root cause of most of the problems here are being caused by a fairly small group of the local Ruling Class who have been enabled to self-appoint themselves into the positions that are necessary to force Light Rail into Vancouver, and force C-Tran into building Bus Light Rail down Fourth Plain to support it.

    What is particularly troubling is that the C-Tran Board has apparently obligated future Boards to continue these transit programs into perpetuity, the same way they are trying to impose permanent tolls on Clark County residents to pay for all these schemes that the voters would never support, if they were only asked.

    I hope Ms. Couch holds firm on this because the Columbian is about to be the blunt instrument that those same Ruling Class members here are going to use to beat her with. I suspect she knows what she is in for, and if not just ask Josephine Wentzel.


  5. Little Johnny, 99% of all Americans use more paper to wipe their private parts with than they do to write on.

    Fortunately Johnny, 99% of what Lou Brancaccio writes is suitable for wiping only…


  6. Well if you are not in for the fix, Lou decided that he need to do one of his more infamous college class lessons:

    So if you think he’s even sane, read that little piece.

    Honestly, I am still gathering up the data that Tiffany Couch presented to the C-tran board. So let us see how well she did. IF she did her job well enough, this election should have a new diversity of opinion flow?

    I wonder if she has ever thought of going after RTC or the Bi-state commission??


  7. Brancaccio is such an arrogant, juvenile ass. His columns always come across with that “junior high school newspaper” and “I’m more with it than you are” flavor.

    Lou thinks he’s in a position to talk down to everyone in the community. He suffers from the delusion that he IS the community.


  8. Bob Koski – November 5, 2011 at 6:45 am

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. BTW, did everyone catch the new video on entitled “Accountant says C-Tran has plenty of cash it if gives up costly light rail, BRT plans”???

    Oh…if only C-Tran would realize we DON’T WANT ANOTHER TRIMET!!! I admit at one time, I supported BRT…and Lew, Jack and Bob…I’m sure you remember those long-winded writes I presented. Now??? HECK no!!! Time to stop spending the money on studies for BRT or any attachment to LRT and get cracking on a service to benefit our community, not the pockets of a few..


  9. Hi GO, and thanks for your kind words.

    At one time I thought it might be possible to build a real light rail service in Clark County, if one were being proposed that might actually benefit the people of the County instead of just a few special interests in downtown Vancouver.

    Let’s face it, there is great merit in a reasonably priced high speed AND high capacity transit system along the I-205 corridor that runs from the Clark County Fairgrounds to Portland International Airport. If the Cowlitz were smart, they would offer to build an extension up to their casino in North County so they could take full advantage of PDX and book their hotel up there full. If the County were smart, they could tax the Casino into perpetuity and help the Cowlitz make it as successful as possible, and probably pay for most of the system by themselves.

    That is not what is being talked about in any way, shape, or form and I lost my taste for this mess a long time ago. Proposition 1 is a carefully crafted diversion that will result in the construction of a BRT (Bus Loot Rail) feeder system being built up the length of Fourth Plain to feed the Columbia Crossing Project Loot Rail down at Clark College.

    Only a Clark College Math major would believe that is a good deal for anybody, which is why our local Ruling Class is terrified of asking the voters for permission to do any of this.

    And while we’re on this subject, did all of you get that pants-load about how Secretary of Transportation Ray the Hood sez the CRCP is just the kind of “infrastructure” that Premier Hussein wants to spend more borrowed Chinese money on?? I’ll bet Lou and the crew all had excessive moisture in embarrassing personal places when they heard that one…….


  10. Oh by the way, If you want an avatar next to your name, you go to and follow the instructions for uploading your picture. You use an email address with the pic then when you visit sites with avatars enabled, you simply enter that email address and *poof* your avatar appears, but your email address does not. You can put any name in the Name box. Its very easy to use, and you can change it as often as you like…


  11. I just wanted to say thank you.


  12. You’re very welcome, Tiffany. Sorry I did not reply last night to your thanks in email, but got busy with the Veterans Parade today

    Thank you for your diligence and fine work.


  13. Bob, You and me both have lost our interest in the palpitations of the local snoozemedia and special interests in Clark County. I could also go on and on with ideas but does anyone here who has had ideas since the very beginning think that anyone gives a damn about how someone feels about the columbia river crossing project, Ctran.

    Now its Tiffany, David and several others that have are now taking over our past lead and trying to do what they can to understand the problem and make a change if it is still possible.

    I used to go to the Ctran board meetings and was involved slightly High Capacity Transit study that was done in 2008 that basically gave Ctran and RTC the green light to make the Light Rail the locally preferred alternative for the CRC project. If one goes reserarch the southwest regional transportation council online, you’ll see how the political appointees got it through. And an associated Bi-State Commission from both sides of the river is how they work together on many different transportation issues like Carpool lanes, carpooling and on and on….

    I may do a little reading of Tiffany’s work but I am NOT going to actively worked up again like I was a few years ago. Its not worth my stress level and honestly, I don’t want to back to how I felt I was being ignored by Steve, Tim and many other politicians when I made suggestions.

    There are many here who are posting off these last few threads who have dealt with the same cast of characterizations for the past decade. They keep moving around on the same deck chairs of this titantic and do I really believe they give a damn?


  14. You are most welcome Tiffany, and I cannot thank you enough for the work you have done for your Community.


  15. Lew, although we don’t agree politically after reading your website 🙂 As a fellow veteran (Iraq ’91 and ’04-’05) I just wanted to say thanks for the youtube video of the Fort Vancouver Veteran’s Day Parade 2011 you posted. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your service in Vietnam. My generation of veteran from these ongoing conflicts have our Brother’s/Sisters….the Vietnam vet to thank for how we are recieved upon our return home following tours of duty. God Bless America.


  16. Oh Bob, Thank you for your service as well! And Thank you for your past ability to want to run into the line of political firestorm to get the community discussing things that needed to be discussed.

    And Tiffany, its going to be a hard slog as you know from your CRC work. I do hope things work out. I don’t believe the employees are the ones pushing – pulling for this BRT/LRT system in Clark County. I believe its being pushing by a small group of very influential and well connected people from amongst our midst.

    Bob made a wonderful observation, why do we not push for the rails to go where the most population growth is going to go? I darn sure tell you its not going to be Downtown Vancouver by any stretch of any imagination. If you look at past maps of how our county has grown, most of the growth has been around Battle Ground, Camas and Washougal and the Vancouver Eastside.

    There is a lot of farmland open in that area that the City of Vancouver wants to really annex and build out over the next twenty years. The only secret of that is there is no money now. And with the liquor sales money being cut by Chris Gregoire at the state level that helps fund law enforcement, there is even LESS money coming down.

    So the city may have a future deficit or more spending cuts coming because the state is still in its down billion dollar cuts budget. Further means that unless they find some cash flow somewhere, that annexation won’t happen in my generation or possibly a generation from now of the children below me.

    If your going to a mode of transportation that only moves in a linear movement from point A to B without significant costs or speed slowdowns to turn and not enough boardings to make it even the normal C-tran cost of recovery from their fair box returns of 16 to 20 percent possible. Why would you do it?


  17. Anthony, when it comes to supporting Veterans, politics take a back seat.

    Many of us still deal with memories of how we were treated and still don’t fully understand why. But, the important matter is to ensure it will never happen again, just as I am sure you and today’s Troops will continue to ensure it doesn’t happen to those who follow you.

    Welcome home, Anthony and thank for your service.


  18. Bob Koski: In recent months I ran the question by the Oregon Department of Transportation…Marc Gross in fact…whether or not the Glenn Jackson Bridge is equipped for light rail and I was informed that it is not. I was told there would have to be major structural changes so I believe that is why ODOT has not pursued LRT on the Glenn Jackson Bridge.


  19. No, Tiffany…we thank YOU!!!

    You have opened a HUGE can of worms with your dedication to your career of choice, going against a string of…well, interesting individuals to say the least…and it is my opinion that it was completed just in the nick of time.

    The results from Tuesday’s election will be interesting to say the least.


  20. Jeremy, you’d be surprised at how many people are following the Columbia River Crossing project as well as the Fourth Plain Corridor Project. They may not be as vocal as some of us are…but their silent voice will be heard, especially after the ballot counts are completed.


  21. Goldie ~ A lot of people when I was going to the more private meetings were not able to come because they usually were held during office hours. I was lucky in the fact during that time I was able to work it around my schedule.

    My family wondered what obsession I was bouncing around for 8 to ten years, days, nights and weekends. Until a year or so ago, I really did not say much because I knew if I did, I would be facing the same hell that Tiffany is facing now.

    And some of the actors posting on this thread were people I chatted with at the time and passing around information. It was how we were able to learn more as a group because I don’t believe there was a real education done on the Vancouver side per se. You had to go to a lot of the side transportation meetings to get what the real clues were going on.

    The crc project was just another side benefit, if you wanted the baked middle, you need to have attended the C-tran, RTC, Bistate commission, Metro, Multnomah County and City of Portland council meetings to find out what the real thing that was going on.

    Well come January 2012, I believe the state law will officially allow the Ctran to go to a subdistrict vote to allow light rail transit, so this little show may be for naut.


  22. Well Jeremy, when C-Tran gets their way and throws Fourth Plain Road into the biggest nightmare for the community along that corridor by closing down lanes, increasing gridlock headaches, constructing the right of way, increasing the risk for injury by pedestrians, reducing accessibility for existing businesses which will either cause closure or relocation away from Fourth Plain Road, C-Tran will be scratching their little heads wondering which district they can nail with another hair-brained idea to …ahem…”Keep Clark County Moving” at the expense of the taxpayers. I hope those who support it realize that the BRT transformation is stage one to bring Trimet’s headache even further into Clark County.

    Also, I honestly believe any of C-Tran’s express buses which go into downtown Portland or Pill Hill will be eliminated in order to pay for their “vision of the future(???) even if this ballot measure should pass.

    Good Lord, this SO reminds me of the mentality of the governing body in the movie “Idiocracy.”


  23. And don’t think for a nanosecond that if this ballot measure fails (which is my wish), that they won’t go ahead with this project. They’ll find some way to tie it into the “Corridor of the Future” BS.


  24. Goldie ~ “vision of the future(???)” and Idiocracy? Come on now, its all ready started with the discovery corridor running from the fairgrounds – ridgefield to the county line? That is just one part of the fun they are having?

    I doubt they will get rid of the ever get rid of the express busses. How do you think they keep the regular bus system from sinking into red ink???

    And remember folks, if you have to go to our high & mighty paper liner site, please check in with your favor adsweeper software on your browser. Because there is never enough fun you can have when you go there with it on!


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