John Inglish, the just-retired head of the Utah Transit Authority, is receiving a lifetime pension of $200,000 a year, or slightly more than former U.S. presidents currently receive in their pensions.
That comes on top of a generous severance package he received two years ago, when he stopped overseeing daily UTA operations. That gave him two years of salary — at $364,000 a year total compensation — and sent him traveling worldwide to represent the agency at industry conferences with the mostly honorary title of chief executive officer.
UTA says the pension is fair for Inglish’s 35 years of service and is based on the same formulas used for all its employees. But critics point to it as another example of compensation that is too high for executives at an agency facing financial difficulties.
"We believe John Inglish has contributed significantly to UTA and the local Utah economy," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
The legacy of his work includes "the light rail that is here, the commuter rail and all of the new lines that will be opening over the next year."
Carpenter said UTA essentially followed the same pension formula for him as other employees. It takes an average of their highest five consecutive years of salary times their years of service times 2 percent.
That formula using Inglish’s final five years of salary would have come to $205,600 a year — but Carpenter said he is paid $200,000 a year because of a cap imposed by Internal Revenue Service rules. Inglish’s pension alone would be about 2 percent of the $10.1 million annual pension costs that UTA reports.
It is also just a bit more than the $199,700 a year that U.S. presidents are paid currently in their pensions.
"You put that in context with John Inglish getting $200,00 a year, it’s absolutely ludicrous," said Claire Geddes, a citizen watchdog who has often been critical of UTA.
"You have an agency that is short of money, that is closing bus routes, and at the same time they are paying that kind of benefit," she said. "It is unfortunate we are using public funds to enrich someone to that extent."
UTA released data about the pension first to KSL through an open-records-law request it filed and later to other media. UTA initially denied KSL’s request for data, but released key parts after mediation as part of an appeal to the State Records Committee.
Earlier this year, a documents request by The Salt Lake Tribune showed that during Inglish’s final two years — as he held the largely honorary role of CEO at high salary — he traveled to Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, Spain (twice), Switzerland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and 17 U.S. cities to represent UTA at conferences.
He averaged 1.6 out-of-state trips a month and appears to have been on the road almost constantly.
Inglish declined a request for an interview.
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