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Are UTA execs taking public for a ride with big bonuses?
UTA » Payouts aren’t reasonable for agency in debt, says state rep.

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The 2011 goals that UTA hit to trigger such bonuses were:

• Complete 78 percent of the "Frontlines 2015" expansion of TRAX and FrontRunner lines. (It completed 89 percent).

At a glance

Top UTA bonuses paid last year

$25,000 » General Manager Michael Allegra

$25,000 » General Counsel Bruce Jones

$22,700 » Then-CEO John Inglish

$16,455 » Then-Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Montague

$15,551 » Chief Communications Officer Andrea Packer

$15,524 » Chief Planning Officer Matt Sibul

$15,498 » Chief Capital Development Officer Steve Meyer

$15,498 » Chief Operating Officer Jerry Benson

$15,498 » Chief Technology Officer F. Fiet

$15,485 » Salt Lake Regional General Manager Lorin Simpson

$12,457 » Special Service General Manager Cherryl Beveridge

Source: Transparent.utah.gov

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• Achieve $225 million in revenue development. (It brought in $266.5 million).

• Cut the "investment per rider" — the subsidy needed beyond what fares pay — to $3.69. (It was reduced to $3.43).

• And "maintain a positive ridership growth trend." (It increased 6.4 percent that year).

"The incentive program encourages employees to work hard to ensure they meet the board’s goals and be as efficient as possible," Barron said. He said signs that it works included finishing the many rail lines early and under budget and reducing the "investment per rider" subsidy by 9.2 percent between 2009 and 2012 amid "lowered costs and increased farebox recovery."

Criticism • But skeptics question whether some of those goals miss the target.

"If they are going to give people that kind of money they should give them goals that challenge them a bit more," said Bill Tibbitts, associate director of the Crossroads Urban Center.

Tibbitts has criticized UTA fare hikes as unduly hurting the poor, and he dislikes the goal to reduce the subsidy per rider. "That’s basically giving them a bonus for raising prices," instead of alternatively rewarding them specifically for lowering costs per rider.

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He also takes a jab at the nonspecific goal about increasing ridership, especially in 2011 when UTA was set to open its new West Valley City and South Jordan extensions of TRAX. "You don’t set goals that they are just going to reach anyway."

Among goals for 2013 set by the board are increasing ridership by 4 percent over 2012, achieving a $3.52 "investment per rider" subsidy, achieving $22 million in revenue development, and opening new airport and Draper TRAX lines and the Sugar House streetcar line.

Geddes reserves perhaps her most scathing criticism for the big bonus to Inglish when he was essentially just representing UTA at conventions. She notes that after retirement, he also received a lifetime pension of $200,000 a year, "which is bigger than most former U.S. presidents receive. There are no words to explain how horrible all this is."

Barron, though, said Inglish was doing important work, including "advancing transit initiatives at the national level. He fulfilled his responsibilities and was eligible for an incentive based on his performance in 2011."

Special deal • The Tribune previously reported that while serving in the mostly advisory role of CEO, Inglish traveled to Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, Spain (twice), Switzerland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and 17 U.S. cities. He averaged 1.6 out-of-state trips a month.

UTA Board Chairman Greg Hughes at the time explained why Inglish was given such a deal. He said Allegra — as the No. 2 official to Inglish in 2010 — was being offered jobs by other transit agencies and the board did not want to lose him as Inglish, then age 64, was nearing retirement.

So the board elevated Allegra to Inglish’s general manager spot to keep him, and Inglish’s contract allowed him to draw two year’s salary as severance. Hughes said. Instead of simply taking that, Inglish offered to take the new mostly advisory job of CEO to represent the agency at many international groups and conferences.

As UTA and some non-political groups begin pressing the Legislature and local officials for tax increases for transportation — including transit — the bonus system could become another political liability and certainly will if Geddes has anything to say about it.

"This agency should not be given one more dime until it is fixed," she said.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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