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UTA canceled promised bonuses of $474K and $375K for two officials

First Published      Last Updated Apr 25 2017 12:53 pm

Public money » One was for selecting — not completing — five “transit-oriented developments.”
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But UTA's board found the rewards to be "unconscionably high," Blakesley said, and "began a process to try to determine whether there was a way to avoid having to pay those amounts."

He adds he found that contracts with Jones and Allegra "were not executed properly. There were defects in the procedures followed to implement the contracts. So the board, after hearing that, was able to take action and void the Jones contract."

While the contracts may not have complied with all UTA rules, Jones said, they are legal.

Meanwhile, Allegra "elected to void his employment contract, and step down as president and CEO. He remained on as a special adviser [for six months]. We didn't want to lose his institutional knowledge, so he gave us a few months of service."

Blakesley adds, "I appreciate that Mike stepped down in the way he did, and he did not elect to litigate over voiding his contract. He did so voluntarily. I think in doing so [he] put the organization ahead of his own interests."

Jones sent UTA a notice of claim last June warning he may sue for the amounts he did not receive. He said it is still in administrative proceedings with UTA, but he is "very optimistic that something will be worked out."

Jones' written notice says that a 2011 letter — signed by then-UTA Chairman Greg Hughes, who is now speaker of the Utah House — verified that he met the conditions for the raise.

"The incentive bonus was fully earned and irrevocable at that point," the claim says.

It also contends UTA voided his contract and cut his enhanced retirement benefits after he stayed on the job longer than originally planned at the request of other agency officials to help with the legislative audit and the 2015 legislative session.

Blakesley said the only other contract for an employee is with current UTA President Jerry Benson, and he found no problems with it. He noted that when Benson was promoted to president, he accepted changes in his contract that decreased potential severance pay to nine months' worth of salary.

Blakesley also said the amount of the bonuses proposed for Jones and Allegra are "difficult to understand and comprehend how it came about."

He said UTA is trying to reinforce with agency officials that "we are not a company, we are not a private organization. We're not for-profit. We are funded by taxpayer money" and by "fares of our riders who are often people without a lot of disposable income. We need to respect that and make choices as an organization that reflect that."