Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced a leadership shake-up Monday at a state economic development effort under scrutiny in recent months for inflating its results.
Former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell took over Jan. 1 as chair of the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) Governing Authority.
Executive director Ted McAleer also resigned. The governing authority is expected to begin searching for his replacement at a regular meeting Thursday.
The program was created in 2006 to leverage research at Utah’s universities into economic development for the state. Some $334 million in tax dollars have been invested in building facilities and attracting researchers to the University of Utah and Utah State University since then, but an October audit found USTAR had been over-reporting the number of jobs it created by thousands and exaggerating the amount of revenue it brought in by millions of dollars.
The agency plans to make changes to fix those issues, but is waiting for a third-party review of the audit to be completed by Tanner, LLC., and presented to the Utah Legislature, said USTAR spokesman Justin Berry. McAleer didn’t dispute the findings in October, citing record-keeping problems and a series of short-lived financial managers. Hesaid Monday his decision to resign was unrelated to the audit.
“I’ve been talking about the right time to leave for the last couple of years, and now I believe it’s time to give Greg Bell the opportunity to do what he wants with his leadership team,” said McAleer. He previously worked in technology commercialization at the U. and is now planning to pursue educational or medical technology in the private sector.
McAleer will stay on for up to 90 days, until his replacement is found. The position pays an annual salary of approximately $117,500, according to public records.
Bell will replace Dinesh Patel, a businessman and investor who “is considered by many to be the father of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in the Mountain West region,” according to his USTAR biography. Patel’s term is due to end in June; the position is unpaid. He declined to comment Monday.
“Dinesh’s position was coming to the fruition of his term, so that had to happen. I can’t speak for why the governor chose to do that now,” Berry said.
Bell stepped down as lieutenant governor in September, citing the need to shore up his retirement savings. He was hired the following month as president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association.
“I was in the Legislature when we created USTAR, and I have followed its progress since then,” Bell said in a statement. “I’m pleased with the firm foundation now in place and I believe USTAR will provide great value to Utah’s economy and job market over the next several years.”