Utah County Commissioner Debate 07

Republican incumbent Bill Lee speaks during the Utah County Commissioner Seat B Debate held Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at Lehi Junior High School. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Allow me to set the record straight in response to two recent op-eds regarding Utah County’s nominations for UTA’s newly reformed board of trustees.

Over the past decade, UTA has received significant public scrutiny for its mismanagement and alleged corruption. For years, UTA executives collected inflated salaries and gave themselves large annual bonuses while amassing an unsustainable debt load for the agency. With approximately $2 billion in debt, UTA spends more than one-quarter of its operating expenses on debt payments. Less than a year ago, UTA approved borrowing yet another $88.5 million.

An August 2014 legislative audit report highlighted numerous instances of UTA’s misuse of tax dollars. For example, UTA gave what auditors called a “very unusual” $10 million prepayment to a developer for a parking structure that was never built. UTA later awarded that same developer another multimillion-dollar contract over other competitive bidders despite the developer’s failure to provide required financial information. Overspending still occurs at UTA, with one recent example being the $10 million BRT cost overrun.

In response to these and other problems at UTA, the Utah Legislature recently restructured UTA’s 16-member, part-time board of trustees. The new board will be composed of three full-time members who will oversee all aspects of UTA. Those three members are selected regionally. Utah County, in consultation with Tooele County, is charged with nominating at least two individuals for one of the three board seats. The governor will then select one of our two nominees.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious need for change at UTA, there are a few individuals who oppose meaningful reform efforts and simply want more of the same. However, that is not what UTA needs, and it is not what the voters of Utah County want or deserve.

What UTA so desperately needs are competent reformers with solid backgrounds in finance or law. That is exactly what UTA will get with Rob Crawley or Ben Stanley, the two nominees that Utah County recently forwarded to the governor.

Mr. Crawley and Mr. Stanley are well-qualified, thoughtful, and honest, and even their political critics admit that both men have stellar educational and career backgrounds. For example, Mr. Crawley has worked at one of the “Big Five” accounting firms, and Mr. Stanley has worked at two of the most prestigious law firms in the world. Both are known for asking tough questions and putting taxpayers ahead of special interests. The expertise and experience these two bring to the table are precisely what UTA needs at this time.

Utah County’s process for selecting these two nominees has been transparent from the beginning. Unlike other appointing entities, Utah County took an equal opportunity approach to selecting its nominees. We opened our application for an entire month, and in the end, 10 individuals applied. All six commissioners — the three Utah County commissioners and the three Tooele County commissioners — received all ten applications. I personally read through every application, and the Utah County Commission interviewed all 10 candidates for 30 minutes each.

On July 31, the day we whittled the nominees down to two, the public was given two opportunities to address the Utah County Commission and share their thoughts on the nominees. The first opportunity was during the public comments portion of our meeting. The second opportunity was when we announced the nominees prior to us taking an official vote.

The meeting was publicly noticed on utahcounty.gov and on the Utah Public Notice Website. We live-streamed the meeting over YouTube. Throughout the nomination process, we received input on the nominees from anyone who was interested in weighing in. Not only did we follow the law with exactness, we also went above and beyond to make sure the candidates and the public were heard and treated with fairness. Utah County’s UTA nomination process received far greater scrutiny than typical Commission business.

For the first time in many years, I am excited about the possibilities at UTA. Rob Crawley and Ben Stanley bring a fresh perspective and qualifications that are very much needed. With either Rob or Ben representing Utah County on UTA’s new board of trustees, the future at UTA looks brighter than ever before.

Bill Lee is vice chair of the Utah County Commission.

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