SALT LAKE CITY — After behind-the-scenes maneuvering and a quick closed-door meeting Monday, the Utah County Commission and Gov. Gary Herbert made a deal to end their legal scuffle.
Following a 30-minute closed-door meeting with the governor and the Tooele County Commission, the Utah County Commission voted to put forth a new nominee to the Utah Transit Authority's new board. Herbert later Monday accepted the nomination, and county leaders promised to drop their lawsuit.
That new name: Kent Millington, former chairman of the Utah Transportation Commission.
In an interview with reporters after the public vote (scheduled in a special meeting in the governor's office after a closed-door meeting to discuss a personnel matter) Utah County Commission Chairman Nathan Ivie said county leaders and the governor arrived at Millington as a "consensus name that we feel like fit the needs" of both Utah and Tooele counties.
"We have an individual who's going to go and advocate for our tax dollars that are being spent (at UTA) to make sure they're being used prudently and wisely," Ivie said. "Kent gives us that opportunity to shift that organization into a more financially responsible organization that's responsive to the transportation needs of two of the fastest-growing counties in the state and the nation."
Millington later Monday afternoon said it's time to move forward.
"Though I'm a compromise candidate here, I look forward to being able to serve," Millington said.
Utah County leaders last month filed a lawsuit against the governor after he rejected both of the county's nominees to the Utah Transit Authority's new board, meant to overhaul the scandal-riddled agency.
They petitioned for the Utah Supreme Court to compel Herbert to appoint one of the county's names. But Herbert fired back, asserting his power to reject the county's nominees and arguing Utah County did not properly include Tooele County in the nomination process.
Since then, the legal fight has been at an impasse. However, Millington's nomination came after Utah and Tooele county leaders began behind-the-scenes discussions, Ivie said, which led to Monday's meeting with Herbert.
After Herbert had accepted Millington's appointment, Ivie said the lawsuit will be "terminated."
Tooele County commissioners all voiced their support for Millington prior to the Utah County Commission's vote.
On the legal fight and Herbert's accusation that Tooele County leaders weren't properly involved in the nomination process, Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee and Ivie said they "disagreed" that Tooele County wasn't properly consulted, but ultimately "that's in the past."
"We had an opportunity to all be together and sit down and work it out, and I think that's the future for us," Lee said. "Now we can say and they can say, in their minds, they were consulted all the way through the process, and so it's time for us to move forward."
On the lawsuit, Lee said: "Obviously it's probably not a preferred preference, this route that we went, but in government we have to come to a certain amount of compromise, and to do so you have to have communication and a little bit of compromise."
Herbert's spokesman, Paul Edwards, told the Deseret News that the governor planned to sit down with Millington Monday afternoon to discuss his nomination before issuing his decision. Later, in a statement issued just before 5 p.m., Herbert announced he had appointed Millington to the board, subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate.
"From the very beginning of this process, I have asked for consensus nominees who have the trust and confidence of the counties and cities served by UTA," Herbert said. "I am grateful that the Utah and Tooele County commissioners found such a consensus nominee in Kent Millington.
"Kent brings deep understanding about the challenges and opportunities associated with Utah's unprecedented growth as well as deep knowledge about Utah transportation issues," Herbert said.
The new UTA board was created under SB136, transportation legislation passed earlier this year mandating that 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.
The governor accepted other counties' nominations and two of the three UTA board members were sworn in, but Tooele and Utah counties' seat remained empty as they took the governor to court for rejecting their names: 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.1 comment on this story
Emails from Tooele County officials and Utah County mayors also showed frustration and "fractured" support from the nominees, according to the governor's response to the lawsuit.
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne said after Monday's meeting he was "very appreciative of the governor having Tooele County's back" and ensuring the rural county would have fair representation.
"I'm assured that Mr. Millington will be a good representative for both Tooele County and Utah County," Milne said.
Contributing: Dan Bammes