On Tuesday September 12th at around 10:35 AM , PSTA CEO Brad Miller and PSTA Board Chair Gina Driscoll greeted a rider as she stepped off a westbound Sunrunner bus. The location was the stop at 1st Avenue North and 5th Street North in downtown St. Petersburg. The rider, Geneva Gibbs, is an 84-year old retired nurse and she was greeted with balloons and a plaque.
In press releases and other communications, PSTA claimed without any qualifiers that Gibbs “became the one-millionth rider to take the SunRunner.” This post on PSTA’s own Facebook page said “Congratulations to Geneva Gibbs for being the ONE MILLIONTH SunRunner rider!”
But PSTA’s own records show that their “one millionth rider” claim was simply untrue. It was an untrue claim distributed by PSTA’s communications and public relations staff, and a claim also made by Miller.
“You are the one millionth Sunrunner rider!” Miller rather excitedly told Gibbs in this video. “Yaaaayyyyy,” Driscoll then added as she bounced with excitement. “Congratulations!” a grinning Driscoll then told Gibbs. But PSTA records, obtained through a public records request, show that the one millionth rider rode prior to that day. PSTA knew that this wasn’t the one millionth rider, and that the one millionth rider wasn’t even riding that day.
A more serious matter is that the facts show that the so-called one millionth rider was instead selected by PSTA. If so, by what method and using what process? We emailed questions about the matter to Brad Miller, with copies to Communications Director Whitney Fox and one communications staffer. Miller acknowledged receiving our email but neither he nor anybody else provided answers to our questions.
We asked questions like: who made the decision as to what rider would receive the free pass? Before the bus with the fake “one millionth rider” came into view of Miller and Driscoll, what process had been decided on by which the rider would be selected? For example: was it to be the first rider to step off the bus? The second one? The first one with a walker?
Given very recent news reports about the free Sunrunner bringing crime, grime and aggressive bums to St. Pete Beach, there was reason to consider situation, too. So we asked Miller: what if the rider selected by PSTA’s pre-determined process was one of those smelly and aggressive bums? Then what?
PSTA prepared the Sunrunner one millionth rider plan shown on the right days before the event. It states that PSTA CEO Brad Miller and St. Pete City Councilwoman Gina Driscoll “will surprise a rider with a free 12-month Flamingo Fares bus pass and a plaque congratulating the rider for the feat” at 10:30 AM at the predetermined bus stop, and that publicity would be created around it.
And that is exactly what happened. However, the plan makes no mention of by what process the rider was to be selected.
PSTA says it has no records of the rider selection process and aren’t answering questions about the process, either.
According to PSTA, the free one-year bus pass given to Gibbs is valid on PSTA’s entire network and has a value of $840. Many of PSTA’s riders may have liked to be selected for a $840 annual savings, especially lower income people now that fares are being implemented on the Sunrunner in two weeks time.
Two hours after Miller received our email asking questions about the selection process, he sent out another mass email in which he repeated the claim that Gibbs was “the ONE MILLIONTH SunRunner rider.” If someone has been shown that their claim is untrue and yet they continue to repeat it, have they moved from propagating untruths to simply being a liar? If they are lying about this, what else is PSTA lying about?
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