SALT LAKE CITY — Brent Taylor sparked a sharp response Thursday from Utah Transit Authority Vice Chairwoman Sherrie Hall Everett after he urged fellow board members to fight the "circle the wagons mentality" at the agency.
Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden, expressed his frustration in an email to trustees, saying he should have been able to talk at Wednesday's board meeting about the need for tougher oversight because of the ongoing federal investigation related to UTA development projects.
Everett responded to him in an email, too, telling Taylor there have been three years of reforms at UTA and suggesting, "Political grandstanding is not necessarily the way to go about it unless you are the one that wants to receive the credit."
She said UTA has taken responsibility for "actions by former board members and many executives. It's hard to atone for the sins of others, but this board is standing bravely at the helm of the ship, ready to do the work."
Everett said UTA's non-prosecution agreement signed with the U.S. Attorney's Office, is the type of check and balance that Taylor is seeking.
The agreement states UTA will not face criminal action as long as it cooperates with the investigation that has already resulted in charges against a former UTA board member, Terry Diehl. It also requires up to three years of federal monitoring.
Everett, who told Taylor in her email she doesn't "respect creating tension just to create tension or to score political points in the press," declined to discuss her response, saying through UTA that she would let her original email to Taylor stand.
Taylor, a self-described reformer whose appointment to the board to represent the Weber Area Council of Governments was initially blocked by UTA because his father is a FrontRunner operator, responded to Everett in a separate email.
"You should be welcoming other voices and viewpoints, and allowing them to have their say," he said, noting he has explained his concerns in the media because he was denied an opportunity to bring them up before the board.
"Instead of blaming me, please take a moment to reflect how the actions of UTA leadership unnecessarily created this situation and created the media interest," Taylor said, making it a bigger news story.
He cited what he called UTA Board Chairman Robert McKinley's reversal of the UTA board's media policy prohibiting members from speaking to the press after the board meeting, allowing him to answer questions from reporters.
The next step, Taylor said, should be formally repealing that policy.
He said Thursday he's received an icy reception from other board members since his February appointment but isn't taking it personally.
"I think the board are all good people. I think they have good intentions," Taylor said. "This is about doing the job that the citizens of Utah expect us to do to reform this agency to the degree that the people can trust it again."
Contributing: Ladd Egan