SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert is fighting back against Utah County in a legal fight over the governor's rejection of the county's nominees to the new Utah Transit Authority board.
Hours before a midnight deadline Wednesday night, the Utah Attorney General's Office filed on behalf of the governor a response to Utah County's petition for the Utah Supreme Court to compel Herbert to appoint one of the county's two nominees to UTA's new board, meant to overhaul the scandal-tainted organization.
Herbert in the filing asserts his power to reject the county's nominees, arguing Utah County did not properly include Tooele County in the nomination process.
The new UTA board was created under SB136, transportation legislation passed earlier this year mandating the board's three seats will be made up of representatives chosen from Utah and Tooele counties, Salt Lake County, and Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties.
In the filing, the governor included declarations and emails from Tooele County officials and Utah County mayors showing frustration and "fractured" support for the nominees: Pleasant Grove City Councilman Ben Stanley, an attorney, and former Cedar Hills Councilman Rob Crawley, owner of a consulting company.
The two nominations drew some criticism, including from former Cedar Hills Mayor Gary Gygi, who wrote in a Daily Herald op-ed that both men are friends of Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, questioning their qualifications for the position.
In the filing, attorneys for the governor's office also included an email from Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves to Herbert showing the 2-1 vote approving the nominations appeared to "crumble."
Graves, one of the two commissioners who voted to approve the names, later sent an email withdrawing his support for Stanley's nomination after "consulting with others," according to the email.
"As has been illustrated by the mayors of Utah County and members of Tooele County commission, unfortunately the consensus cannot happen with one or both of the current names being presented," Graves wrote.
Attorneys for the governor argue Utah County still refuses to nominate candidates with more consensus and rather has waited two months to hash out the issue in court. That's despite language in state statute, attorneys argue, that states UTA board members "serve at the pleasure of the governor."
"Yet Utah County asks this Court to foist upon the Governor one of two candidates he has already rejected — even though the Governor could validly discharge that nominee immediately after the Senate confirmed him," the court filing states.2 comments on this story
"Utah County cites no case deploying extraordinary relief to mandate such a waste of government resources, let alone to force a State’s chief constitutional executive officer to take the very action that the law expressly grants him unbridled discretion later to undo," the filing continues.
The Utah Supreme court hasn't yet scheduled arguments for the case.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of one of Utah County's nominees to the new Utah Transit Authority board. Rob Crawley is a former Cedar Hills councilman.