The Vineyard Transit Authority’s bus driver union is threatening the bus line’s administrator with legal action, claiming she’s wrongly been involved in the day-to-day operations of the authority and the union’s ongoing contract negotiations.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1548, which represents Island bus drivers, made the allegations against VTA administrator Angie Gompert in letters sent late last month to leaders in all six Island towns.

“She is running the day-to-day operation of the transit system by interfering with the management company that is hired to run the system,” union president Charles Ryan wrote in the letters. “Now she has taken it one step further and has involved herself in the contract negotiations, which is a clear violation of state law.”

Ms. Gompert has been at VTA for decades and said last week that she is just following her job under the state enabling legislation for the authority. Mr. Ryan’s claim that she shouldn’t be involved in the daily running of the bus line is unfounded, she said.

“I would be remiss if I did not perform those duties,” Ms. Gompert said.

Elaine Miller, chair of the VTA advisory board, also defended Ms. Gompert, saying Mr. Ryan’s letter has a “great deal of misinformation and assumption.”

The VTA drivers’ last contract expired earlier this winter and the public letters sent to local officials highlight the impasse the union and the authority have come to in contract negotiations.

The union filed grievances with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board against Ms. Gompert in February. In an interview, Mr. Ryan said that VTA is supposed to be run by a management company, which also hires drivers and handles the contract negotiations.

The VTA’s management company is Transit Connection Inc. VTA bus drivers technically work for and are employed by Transit Connection Inc.

Mr. Ryan said things went wrong when Ms. Gompert hired several other drivers independently because there weren’t enough people to handle VTA’s routes. That should have been done through Transit Connection Inc, he claims.

According to public records obtained by the union, the VTA directly hired drivers from Yankee Line, another company, and paid them nearly $250,000 since January. The going rate for drivers was $750 a day.

“If this money was spent on the current drivers, there would be no shortage of drivers and no need to cut service on the Island,” Mr. Ryan wrote.

Ms. Gompert confirmed she did hire other drivers to fill the ongoing driver shortage, but noted there is no exclusivity clause that bars the VTA from hiring other people.

“We needed to hire an outside company to hire additional drivers,” she said.

Mr. Ryan also called out Island towns for allowing Ms. Gompert’s actions, saying town’s representatives on the VTA’s board “just go with the flow and rubber stamp everything she wants.”

Ms. Miller, who represents Tisbury on the board, this week defended Ms. Gompert, saying she has led the VTA through the pandemic and the ongoing housing crisis “with a great deal of thought,” paying attention to the needs of riders.

The child of a union worker, Ms. Miller said she’s seen continuous attacks by a few persistent drivers since she got on the board, both on social media and in meetings.

“My conclusion is that we have the best manager possible,” she wrote. “[Ms. Gompert] understands the unique conditions of an Island transit system.”

The letters from the union were noted in both Chilmark, West Tisbury and Aquinnah last week. The Aquinnah select board voted to send the letter to the town’s attorney.

Ms. Gompert said that she could “probably refute every paragraph” in the letters, and she’d have to agree to disagree with Mr. Ryan's assessment of the situation. She said she hadn’t heard yet from any town officials worried about VTA operations in the letters’ wake.

Similar letters calling out the VTA higher ups went to several other state officials, including the state attorney general earlier this winter.

In past months, Mr. Ryan said he feared the union would have to strike over the ongoing contract negotiations, but said this week there are no current plans to stop providing service to Island bus riders and tourists. The union last went on a month-long strike in the summer of 2019.

“Striking is the last thing on my mind,” he said last week.