The Utah Transit Authority could have state oversight under a bill released this week to change how its board of trustees operates.
The measure comes after a recent audit criticizing the agency for a supposed lack of board oversight, high executive salaries, and inaccurate reporting of ridership data. At least one other bill has been filed in response to the audit, but it has no text.
Under HB188, the governor, House speaker and Senate president would each be required to nominate one person to the UTA board. In addition, the bill says at least five members of the board should be elected officials and other members should have expertise in specific areas of business or civic leadership.
Currently, locally elected officials nominate all but one member of the UTA board. The one state representative comes from the Utah Transportation Commission, but has no voting power.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan said he wants to address concerns outlined in the audit. In addition to changing board makeup, his measure would require board members to set rules for determining how ridership data is collected and also ensure disadvantaged riders are well-served.
"There is a real strong sentiment to make sure UTA is fulfilling its mission to provide equitable transportation," Harper said.
Bruce Jones, general counsel for UTA, said that UTA would do whatever was required by the bill, within the statute. Currently, almost 50 percent of the board are either current or former elected officials.
"We believe we have a very hard-working and committed board," he said.
Colby, in a written response to the audit, defended his board as well-managed and not unduly influenced by UTA management. Other board members have also defended their role in private conversations, saying the auditors spent little time talking and interviewing people on the board.
Meanwhile, at least one low-income advocacy group says it will support the bill.
"This statute really should help ensure that Utahns get the best value possible for their transit dollar," said Bill Tibbetts, director of the Anti-Hunger Action Committee.
As for the other bill dealing with the UTA audit, few details are available. Sponsoring Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, said he is taking a "wait and see" approach to see how Harper's bill fares during debate before he releases any text for his measure.
Killpack did say measure changing the board should take a "smart, deliberate, calculated approach, without swinging too far in the other direction."The UTA audit is scheduled to be reviewed today by the Senate Transportation and House Revenue and Taxation Committees at 6 p.m. in room W135. Agendas are available at: www.le.state.ut.us.