The saga of Cindy Howe has come to an end with her sentencing by Judge Phil Nelson following a negotiated Alford Plea, in which Howe acknowledges the state had sufficient evidence to prove two counts of her indictment. One of those counts was a charge of theft. Chelsea Gorrow’s Wednesday story includes considerable detail of Howe’s malfeasance.

Howe is off to her new life in Atlanta, having made an apology, which District Attorney Josh Marquis says did not grasp the essence of her misdeed, which he said was greed. Howe leaves behind a bus system that is rebuilding after its decimation from her mismanagement.

There is an enormous lesson in Cindy Howe for all Clatsop County government boards as well as nonprofit boards of directors. The lesson is basic. Pay attention and be skeptical. If you don’t understand what’s going on or you have suspicions of malfeasance, ask for help. The state of Oregon will provide it. So will the Oregon Special Districts Association. If directors of the Sunset Empire Transportation District had raised an alarm months sooner, the eventual costs would have been reduced substantially.

It would be comforting to say that Howe’s adventure was an isolated incident. But it wasn’t. Prior to it, the Port of Astoria encumbered the taxpayers with about $1 million in costs related to the misdeeds of Executive Director Peter Gearin.

The art of managing organizations is to see trouble on the horizon. As much as anything, that is what the public needs from its elected boards of directors.

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