UTA concludes federal monitorship, implements new checks and balances

Utah U.S. Attorney’s office says the Transit Authority has made “significant strides.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Transit Authority riders board the FrontRunner train in Ogden on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020.

Federal monitorship of the Utah Transit Authority ended today, as the agency has made “significant strides” since a federally approved monitor was tasked with reviewing and reporting on the UTA in 2018, according to the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The monitoring of the agency was part of a deal to avoid federal prosecution of the UTA after scandals over high executive pay, extensive international travel, sweetheart deals with developers and a lack of transparency.

Contracting problems at the agency included prepaying a developer $10 million to construct a parking garage that was never built, giving what the state found were too-generous contracts to developers who had ties to old board members, and some former board members seeking to invest in projects they had voted to approve.

The UTA has improved “institutional conformity” relating to the issues that arose during the investigation of the agency in 2017, the Attorney’s office said in a press release.

“While UTA has more work to do to ensure the permanency of current and future reforms and to continue to address remaining gaps in processes and controls, this Office recognizes UTA’s substantial compliance with both the federal monitorship and the [Non-Prosecution Agreement],” the Attorney’s office wrote.

The law firm Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass conducted the UTA federal monitorship beginning in early September 2018.

Among the changes at the UTA are new conflict of interest policies and ethics-related training, the implementation of an ethics hotline and a “completely anonymous process for whistleblowers to raise concerns about ethics,” according to the U.S. Attorney.