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

Published: Thursday, Aug. 28 2014 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. (Michelle Tessier, Deseret News) 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.

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