Investigators Seize Ct Records -- Agency Is Target Of Federal Probe Involving Service Work

LYNNWOOD - A citizen's complaint about bus safety has led to a federal probe of Community Transit and a company that services its bus transmissions.

The FBI and Snohomish County sheriff's detectives yesterday seized CT records dating back to 1982 in their business dealings with Ed's Transmission in Everett.

Federal investigators are involved because CT relies heavily on federal money.

CT receives nearly $7 million a year from federal sources. With the exception of Everett, which has its own bus system, CT provides service to most of the urbanized part of Snohomish County, with nearly 2 million passengers last year. Buses also travel into King County.

The records seized at CT headquarters were primarily vouchers, according to Pauline Thompson, spokeswoman for the transit system.

She said several of the senior officials at CT were questioned yesterday for the first time, primarily involving procedures followed in the payment of invoices. CT board members contacted also said they were unaware of any investigation until called by the secretary of CT Executive Director Ken Graska.

Community Transit is a public agency supported by tax money and controlled by a board made up of city and county elected officials. It has a budget of $35 million, with $9 million of it going to maintenance.

County Councilwoman Karen Miller, who joined the board only recently, this morning called for a "thorough, independent investigation."

Lynnwood City Councilwoman Tina Roberts, who chaired the board last year, said she has received no information so far, only a call from Graska's secretary. She was unaware how long CT had been doing business with Ed's Transmission. A voucher committee met twice a month and though Roberts remembers seeing vouchers for rebuilt engines, she can't recall transmission rebuilds.

County Executive Bob Drewel, who more than a year ago received a citizen's complaint that led to the investigation, expressed outraged. "I was absolutely mad," he said.

The CT board has a regular meeting scheduled this afternoon but some of the senior officials, board officials and attorney were planning on meeting this morning.

Law enforcement authorities were mum this morning about the details of the investigation.

The sheriff's office has been involved in the investigation since about March 1992, said sheriff's spokesman Elliott Woodall. He would not elaborate on the specifics of the investigation and referred questions to the U.S. attorney's office.

Acting U.S. Attorney Susan Barnes said the government does not comment on investigations that are in progress. However, she did confirm that "federal search warrants are being executed."

A manager at Ed's Transmission, where federal agents yesterday confiscated records, would not comment on the investigation or provide his name.