Recently, the governor's office deflected attention to the troubles at UDOT by saying, "External attempts to politicize the process are neither constructive nor appropriate. The governor has been very clear: Facts and performance, not politics, will govern the decision-making in these administrative processes."
But the Denice Graham story is as much about politics as was the original $13 million payment to a losing I-15 bidder. In the 2010 governor's race, I was criticized for saying our state's political system was corrupt because it allows bidders on state contracts to give large campaign contributions to the governor. At its core, the troubles are not about politics but about questions of accountability, ethics and transparency. The I-15 payout and Denice Graham incident are just the latest results of what happens when accountability, ethics and transparency are not taken seriously by some in our state government.
Accountability, ethics and transparency are things I have spent many years addressing as Salt Lake County mayor. I certainly have room for improvement, but I take them seriously. So do our citizens. In this regard, I have watched with interest the work of the Utah Citizen's Council, Utahns for Ethical Government and the Utah Transparency Project, which is supported by both the Hinckley Institute and the Sutherland Institute. And I do so again now as supporter of the Alliance for a Better UTAH.
Through this lens, I was troubled when UDOT's $13 million payout wasn't fully explored or explained. I was troubled when Denice Graham was set up as the sacrificial lamb. UDOT has finally paid Denice Graham her back pay. Good. But the administration believes it was "unfortunate" that the administrative law judge who determined that Graham was improperly fired ruled that she should get her job back. And then conditions were placed on receipt of her back pay to keep her quiet.
And I am dismayed that the attorney general's office went along. Whether or not it was a good idea, the attorney general's office, which represents the interest of the public good, drafted and allowed this letter to be sent to Graham as a condition of her reinstatement and payment of back pay. So through the lens of accountability, ethics and transparency, I must question why the governor's office claims that the troubles at UDOT are being politicized — in an effort to deflect and hide — rather than seeking to investigate and improve.
The people should demand that elected officials perform their duties with openness and transparency, and with the desire to constantly improve how elected officials conduct business. Only then will we see the change that is needed in government.
Peter Corroon is the Salt Lake County mayor.
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