Home / Trending / UTA name is here to keep, but A.G. says agency broke open-meetings law when it acted to give former CEO a golden parachute

UTA name is here to keep, but A.G. says agency broke open-meetings law when it acted to give former CEO a golden parachute

Legislators determined Wednesday to throw out their fresh order to exchange the name of the Utah Transit Authority to the Transit District of Utah.

While they take care of the agency’s estimated $50 million value to enforce the transfer used to be grossly exaggerated, they concede it created such a lot public stir that it distracted from the opposite, extra vital restructuring and reform strikes. So the UTA name is here to keep.

Also on Wednesday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office issued a letter announcing the present UTA Board most probably violated the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act when it authorized terminating former President and CEO Jerry Benson — a step that allowed him to take a profitable severance package deal value most likely $282,000.

A letter from the A.G. urges the agency to cling the assembly anew and rethink its motion in public.

Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, the House sponsor of SB136, the law that restructures UTA, stated the general public used to be dissatisfied and discussing agency claims that it would value $50 million to exchange its name. As Schultz sees it, that created a distraction permitting UTA to quietly pull a rapid one to get advantages Benson.

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, at the flooring of the House of Representatives on the State Capitol in Salt Lake City Friday, Feb. 2, 2018.

“Not handling the firing of Jerry Benson in an appropriate manner and breaking the law in doing so … goes right to the heart of the issues we have seen over the past several years with UTA,” he stated at a Capitol information convention.

The public time table for an April 18 UTA Board assembly didn’t checklist attention of firing Benson that day. The time table did say the board may have a closed consultation to speak about employment problems. The board then emerged from the consultation to terminate Benson with out public dialogue, the A.G.’s letter stated.

“UTA may not have been compliant with OPMA,” the Open and Public Meetings Act, the letter stated. “We encourage UTA to call another meeting” to believe Benson’s firing and his severance package deal publicly.

Steve Meyer, period in-between UTA director, issued a remark in reaction to the A.G.’s letter, announcing, “We’re working with his office to ensure the agency fully complies with” the open-meetings law.

It didn’t say whether or not the assembly can be reheld, and whether or not Benson’s termination and severance can be reconsidered. Schultz stated he hopes the agency will take the ones movements.

Benson’s contract obviously provides him a severance package deal if he is terminated “without cause,” such as though his process or investment for it disappeared, Schultz has stated. Whether he would obtain it in different cases is murky.

Benson’s contract known as for a severance value 9 months of his pay and insurance coverage advantages. Utah’s transparency web site stated Benson gained $376,000 in reimbursement for the total yr in 2017 — $238,169 in wages, $35,812 in paid go away and $102,023 in advantages. Nine months of that might overall about $282,000.

Courtesy | Utah Transit Authority Jerry Benson, former UTA president and CEO.

UTA officers claimed SB136 required UTA to hearth Benson on May eight when the brand new law took impact. But Schultz stated that is false, and Benson may have persisted as period in-between director with in large part the similar tasks.

Schultz additionally complained that the UTA Board just lately modified laws to permit the fast rehiring of agency legal professionals as experts in face of SB136’s eventual moving of criminal duties to the A.G.’s Office.

The new law will change the present part-time, 16-member board on Nov. 1 with a three-member, full-time fee appointed via the governor — who may additionally hearth them at will. Schultz stated that can prevent what he sees as questionable movements via the present board that contributed to previous scandals.

Meanwhile, Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, the principle sponsor of SB136, stated he’ll introduce law subsequent yr to stay the UTA name, and requested the present board to cling off on introduced plans to rent a advisor to assist rebrand the agency underneath the name Transit District of Utah.

“When businesses undergo this level of change, it is common practice to rebrand,” Harper stated. He complained about UTA’s declare that it would value $50 million to repaint trains, buses, automobiles and indicators and redesign uniforms and media.

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Sen. Wayne Harper discusses the Prison Relocation Commission’s advice to construct a new correctional facility in Salt Lake City, right through a particular consultation, Wednesday, Aug.19, 2015.

“That’s just not correct,” he added, noting the law additionally allowed UTA to enforce a name exchange slowly through the years as assets accepted.

“Due to this confusion and misinformation, we are requesting that UTA cease all efforts immediately on rebranding,” Harper stated.

Schultz stated, “I think it’s clear this was put out there by UTA as a way to create controversy around the name change, to mislead the public, and that goes right to the heart of the issues we’re trying to fix with the bill.”

UTA issued a written remark on Wednesday announcing it “has been working in good faith to comply with and implement requirements of SB136 and the organization will continue working with lawmakers in good faith. With that in mind, UTA will comply with today’s directions to cease all efforts to rebrand the agency.”

Gov. Gary Herbert has from the start hostile the UTA name exchange, and he praised Wednesday’s motion to opposite the mandate.

“It’s a bad idea because it has nothing to do with what people actually care about, which is the efficient operation of UTA,” Herbert stated in a remark.

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