SALT LAKE CITY — A deal to sell UTA property for an assembly plant in Clearfield was tabled Wednesday amid concerns about the impact of a former board member's involvement on the agency's nonprosecution agreement with federal prosecutors.
Sheldon Killpack, an owner of One West Construction in Kaysville that is expected to build the Stadler Rail plant, told the Deseret News his understanding is the Utah Transit Authority is waiting for federal clearance for him related to the agreement.
"If that's a process that helps UTA to keep in the clear and they have to forward names of individuals directly involved in the project, that's part of their due diligence," Killpack said. "They're probably being extra cautious."
Killpack, a former Senate majority leader who served on the UTA board for less than a year in 2015, said he's "never been contacted" in connection with the ongoing federal investigation into transit development deals and other issues.
U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber announced earlier this month that UTA would not face charges in exchange for cooperating in the investigation and submitting to up to three years of federal monitoring.
Although Killpack was mentioned in an attachment to the nonprosecution agreement for his ties to a hotel project at transit-oriented development site in South Jordan, he said he doesn't anticipate any difficulty with the clearance.
Killpack said his company is working out the details of a contract with Stadler Rail to build the more than 2000-square-foot passenger rail car assembly plant even if it ends up not being located next to the Clearfield FrontRunner station.
"If that is problematic, then it is what it is. I don't foresee where that would be a problem where our contract is really going to be with Stadler in building their building. I will have nothing to do with land ownership," Killpack said.
The UTA board of trustees spent some 2 1/2 hours talking about a plan to sell a portion of the 60-acre Clearfield property to the city of Clearfield for the assembly plant before deciding to hold off on any action.
After trustees were told of Killpack's connection to the project, UTA general counsel Jayme Blakesley advised them they "do need to be mindful of our agreement with federal prosecutors and investigators and what this might mean in that context."
Blakesley said Killpack is past the required one-year waiting period for former board members and employees to do business with UTA. He said he was still checking to see if anyone else with UTA ties was involved in the project.
During a break in the meeting, Blakesley told reporters "the federal investigation, we know, looked at international travel, looked at transit-oriented development, looked at real estate transactions, so we need to understand his involvement."
The general counsel said Killpack "did travel internationally when he was on the board and this particular transaction is a TOD (transit-oriented development) related transaction."
Blakesley said UTA didn't find out about Killpack's involvement in the Clearfield project until the end of last week, and whether that violates the nonprosecution agreement is "something that we will review as we receive the information."
Killpack was one of two UTA board members who joined lawmakers and lobbyists on a trip to Switzerland to meet with representatives of Stadler Rail in September 2015 that resulted in a request for bids by the agency being canceled and then re-bid.
"I paid my way there. It wasn't a UTA-sponsored trip," Killpack said, adding he went at the "invitation of the speaker (former UTA board chairman and now House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper) to learn about mountain transportation."
Killpack and the same then-UTA board member who went on the Swiss trip, Chris Bleak, also were invited to bid on a hotel project that was discussed during their time on the board by the Thackery Garn Co., but neither said they did.
A former House majority leader, Kevin Garn, is a principle in Thackery Garn, which is developing housing on a portion of the Clearfield site after reaching a settlement with UTA over an attempt to cancel its contract, the board was told.
Clearfield officials told the UTA board the assembly plant would bring 1,000 jobs to the area known for manufacturing, but several trustees questioned whether the agency should continue to be in the transit-oriented development business.
In addition to the concerns related to Killpack, UTA is also seeking a third appraisal of the property sought for the assembly plant and plans to hold a public meeting about the project in Clearfield before a decision is made.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, trustees split over adopting a new policy that would allow the firing of employees related to board members. It does not affect current trustees.
North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who joined the board earlier this year and recently sparked friction over criticism of UTA's response to the federal investigation, recused himself from voting because his father works for the agency.
Taylor said existing policy prevents a relative of a trustee employed by UTA from moving to another position.
"This now says they would be fired. I think that's crazy," he said, adding the change "makes me feel like I am somehow illegitimate."