SALT LAKE CITY — Two of the three new full-time trustees who are taking charge of the Utah Transit Authority under sweeping changes made by the Legislature were sworn in Monday.
Carlton Christensen and Beth Holbrook took the oath of office at a ceremony that included Gov. Gary Herbert, held beside the Salt Lake Central station FrontRunner platform as trains noisily stopped and started.
But the new board is not yet complete. Earlier this year, the governor rejected two nominees submitted to represent Utah and Tooele counties, and is now being sued by Utah County.
The governor's office does not comment on pending litigation, but Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee said the lawsuit filed in the Utah Supreme Court seeks to stop the new UTA board from taking any action until a third trustee is appointed.
"If the governor can just keep asking for names until he gets the names he wants, then why do we even need to be part of the process at all?" Lee said. "There's a form of taxation without representation going on."
At the ceremony, Herbert focused on what he said would be a bright future for UTA.
"We've had some ups and downs as everybody knows," the governor said. "But the foundation that's been set by those who've gone before, we need to say thank you for the good work they've done."
He called the installation of the trustees a new beginning for the transit agency that has been the subject of critical legislative audits in the past that cited insider dealings, the subject of an ongoing federal investigation.
UTA has signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office in exchange for cooperating with the investigation and submitting to three years of federal oversight.
Herbert said he expects the new trustees to bring "a new era of openness, a new era of transparency. We need to understand and respect the taxpayers, and treat the taxpayers' dollars as the sacred trust that it is."
The bottom line, the governor said, is to restore the public's trust in UTA.
Both Christensen, named to represent Salt Lake County on the new board, and Holbrook, who represents Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties, have already started work at UTA.
Christensen, a former Salt Lake City councilman who was serving as Salt Lake County's director of regional transportation, housing and economic development when he was named to the post, said his first day on the job was Monday.
Holbrook, who stepped down as a member of the Bountiful City Council and is the outgoing president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said she's been working at UTA for a week.
Although Christensen and Holbrook have side-by-side offices and are expected to talk daily, the first official meeting of the new UTA board is set for Nov. 14, the same day a new advisory group created by the Legislature is also set to meet
"Obviously, we'll have to work together," Christensen said, noting both trustees will have to support any actions until a third board member is named. "We'll let that play itself out but clearly we'll go forward."
He and Holbrook both said they are working out the details of when their discussions need to be handled in a public meeting. Christensen said he anticipates more public meetings, including work sessions, after November.
"I certainly don't have anything to hide and want the public to be well aware of things," he said. "We've both had conversations that we're going to adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the open meetings law. We'll just have to be careful."
Holbrook said while there will be hallway conversations, "obviously, no business can get conducted unless we're actually in a meeting." She said "there is an enhanced level to making sure we get this right."
That means there's not likely to be any big changes at UTA right away.
"I don't believe you should make change hastily," Holbrook said. "I think it should be done in a thorough process."Comment on this story
Monday's ceremony began with a moment of silence for a former trustee, North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who was killed in Afghanistan Saturday while serving a tour of duty with the Utah National Guard.
Former UTA Board Chairman Greg Bell called Taylor a colleague who was deeply interested in the future of UTA and the state. "We've all been touched in one way or another by this sad happening."
Christensen became emotional as he described a flag in his new UTA office that flew in a plane over Afghanistan's first free election. "I look at it often with respect for the price of freedom," he said, citing the loss in the UTA family.