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UTA attacked, defended after tough audit

Key lawmakers, including senator behind the audit, defend agency leaders; others want heads to roll.

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"You are the most hated entity in Salt Lake County. You are responsible for that," said George Chapman.

Alex Cragun presented a petition with more than 3,300 signatures collected online that seeks extension of UTA operating hours at night. He said providing the service is complicated by the costs and problems identified in the audit. "UTA needs to change," he said.

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He issued a challenge he says may bring that change: have board members use UTA service exclusively for seven days without a car to see what riders and others deal with.

He asked how many trustees would take the challenge. Two of the 15 present raised their hands — Hughes and Necia Christensen.

Joining criticism Wednesday was the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah. It issued a statement saying the audit shows a "disappointing level of indifference to conflicts of interest between board members, developers and even a sitting legislator" — Hughes.

The group, which gained prominence over its elections-law complaint last year against former Attorney General John Swallow, said that Hughes serving as a state lawmaker and UTA board member is a conflict of interest as the Legislature is reviewing UTA operations, and charged that a "cavalier use of public funds" occurred under his leadership.

Hughes said the Legislature passed a law in 2006 to allow elected officials to serve on the UTA board, and he feels there is improved accountability by including people who must answer to voters. "There is no conflict of interest," he said.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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