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Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014

Gov.: Elected officials need to serve on UTA board to boost accountability

By Lisa Riley Roche, Deseret News

Published: Thu, Aug. 28 1:35 p.m. MDT

 Gov. Gary Herbert called Thursday for elected officials to be appointed to the Utah Transit Authority board even though he said it appears the concerns raised in a new legislative audit have already been addressed.

Gov. Gary Herbert called Thursday for elected officials to be appointed to the Utah Transit Authority board even though he said it appears the concerns raised in a new legislative audit have already been addressed.

(Michelle Tessier, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert called Thursday for elected officials to be appointed to the Utah Transit Authority board even though he said it appears the concerns raised in a new legislative audit have already been addressed.

"It again raises red flags to us whether things are being handled appropriately there," the governor acknowledged during the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Ch. 7.

But Herbert said after a cursory look at the report released Tuesday by the Legislative Auditor General's Office, it appears many of the issues date back to 2009 or even earlier and the new leadership has taken steps to correct them.

"Maybe there's still more work yet to be done. I expect that the board there should take on the responsibility of making sure what they do is open and transparent," he said. "I think that's something they're doing better than they've done in the past."

Utah's largest mass transit agency is not a state department but an independent entity created by the Legislature and local governments, the governor said, noting he has only a single appointment to the board.

He said his appointment to the board, former LDS Church Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, is "doing a wonderful job of bringing more openness and transparency to their conduct there. Is is perfect? No. But it's clearly been moved into a better direction."

Now, Herbert said, it's time to review UTA's governance structure.

"The board has the responsiblity, and the question is, are they too detached from the public," the governor said. "I think I'd like to explore the possibility of having more elected officials there that are answerable to the people."

While voters may not need to elect board members directly, Herbert said naming elected officials to serve on the board will provide more accountability because the public will be able "to make decisions of support or displeasure."

The 16-member UTA board of trustees is currently headed by House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and does include several elected officials. Most members, however, are from the private sector.

The UTA audit questioned deals made with developers, including a $10 million advance that has not been repaid after plans changed for a parking garage, as well as the size of salaries and bonuses paid to executive staff.

Mike Allegra, UTA's general manager, has said the agency "made some mistakes" in the past but has already changed policies and procedures.

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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1. aghast
SYRACUSE, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

While I am all for accountability, I am not sure that an "elected official" will be any better. Who did we have in mind? Maybe a former Attorney General?

2. Fitness Freak
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

NOPE

Sorry Guv. you know the phrase "you can put lipstick on a pig but its' still......."

Mismanagement at UTA is beyond ridiculous. The legislature needs to either replace/fire the WHOLE upper management or move the whole mess under the control of UDOT.

The ONLY thing that has kept UTA afloat is their lobbyists at the legislature. BIG TIME lobbyists, BTW who are being paid by OUR tax dollars.

Just replacing a couple of "board" members won't cut it. The "board" never has been anything but a rubber stamp for ANYTHING management want anyway.

Any first semester accounting student would have been able to tell that the choo-choo trains weren't funded properly regarding their long-term maintenance and that they are a massive drain on the budget (besides the bosses' salaries).

City leaders wholeheartedly supported the choo-choo trains as long as UTA promised to bring them to THEIR cities.

Those opposed to the massive malfeasance are starting to get involved by writing to their legislators and joining together to make mass transit more cost effective for everyone.

WHY can't the Guv. help rather than brushing the whole thing aside??

3. unclefhoppy
West Jordan, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

I have had this "opinion" for 30+ years. And almost ALL of the bus drivers I have talked with [Salt Lake City, then Seattle, and back to SLC] agree with me. "Management" needs to step out of their "paid/perk" SUV's, and use the system that they "manage" for 1 month during the summer, but most importantly, 1 month in the "dead of winter".

4. RRB
SLC, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

I agree with the Governor. Right now no one is accountable to the voters.

5. UtahEngineer
Sandy, UT,
Aug. 28, 2014

Wrong, Governor.

Having senior Government officials on the UTA board has helped UTA get special legislation and tax hikes through. Down in Utah County, County Commission Chair, Larry Ellertson actually pushed for and voted on the tax hikes to build FrontRunner South, while he was Chairman of the Board at UTA.

Mister Hughes still doesn't have a clue as to what needs to be done. I doubt that he has really studied all of this audit and he certainly does not understand the implications in the last Utah Legislature audit, 2012-001, pointing to UTA's precarious financial picture.

Even though he represents Draper, he is clueless about the broken promises for bus service in Sandy and Draper. There should have been bus routes everywhere, but instead there is just a few pieces of routes mostly operating only 5 days a week.