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UTA chairman says agency closed meetings to public because of Tribune coverage

First Published      Last Updated Jul 01 2016 08:56 pm

Transparency? » The transit agency’s policy draws criticism from Utah Transportation Commission members.
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He said few people attended the committee meetings "and there was no opportunity for public comment." He said the changes will allow more public comment at full board meetings, aided by planned earlier release of agendas and background materials.

Millington then asked why UTA still has committee meetings. Benson said, "If the board members need to ask questions or get information or explore maybe a new technology or a new direction for the agency, they may want to have an opportunity to discuss those with each other or staff."

Benson suggested that the Utah Transportation Commission also has such closed-door meetings with subgroups, but commissioner Meghan Holbrook disputed that.

"All our committees are open," she said, and added that it seems to her that UTA's should be as well. "I hate to see you take away from all the good things you are doing" with controversy over committees, said Holbrook, a former UTA Board member, appointed by the Transportation Commission.

After Benson said UTA is "increasing openness and transparency," Millington, another former transit board member, said, "I thank you for that, because it wasn't that way when I was on the UTA Board."

Millington told how board members then "were specifically told by UTA officials … that no more than half of the board would be present at any of the committee meetings because they would [otherwise] have to be open to the public."

UTA's closed-door committee policy changed in 2010, when then-new UTA Board Chairman Greg Hughes opened them, he said, to create more public trust.

Millington said going back to the old policy gives him "a little bit of a heartburn here."

Dannie McConkie, another transportation commission member who is its current appointee to the UTA Board, defended the agency.

"I believe UTA has made every effort to be as forthright as possible," he said.