While several members of the current scandal-tainted Utah Transit Authority board sought appointment to a new three-member commission that will oversee the agency, Gov. Gary Herbert passed them over Friday in favor of fresh faces.
He made two appointments, which are subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate, while sidestepping a state law that also required a third and final appointment by Friday’s deadline for a seat to represent Utah and Tooele counties.
“Governor Herbert will not be submitting a name to represent Utah County today,” said his spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt. “Although the statutory deadline for submitting names to the Senate will pass today, there is no penalty for late submission.”
She did not provide further comment about reasons for the delay, nor whether Herbert might seek additional nominees for that seat — which he did earlier in Salt Lake County when the first two nominees appeared not to meet his liking.
Meanwhile, to represent Salt Lake County, Herbert appointed Carlton Christensen, director of Salt Lake County’s Department of Regional Transportation. The governor opted against Draper Mayor Troy Walker, a UTA board member, who was one of four nominees made by that county.
To represent Davis and Weber counties, the governor appointed Bountiful City Council member Beth Holbrook. The other nominee who had been proposed there was current UTA board member P. Bret Millburn, who is also a Davis County commissioner.
The term of Christensen, a former Salt Lake City Council member, will be for four years. The term of Holbrook, who also served this year as president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, will be for three years. State law calls for them to assume their positions by Nov. 1.
“I am confident that Beth and Carlton bring the experience and skills necessary to lead UTA into the future and secure the trust of the public,” Herbert said in a written statement. “I am grateful for their willingness to accept these positions and to work tirelessly on behalf of the residents of the state.”
Herbert’s office earlier wrote counties, asking that their nominations allowed by law be “highly qualified professionals” with advanced degrees and extensive experience, people who could make the new board “a transformational force to restore trust in public transportation.”
The initial nominees from Salt Lake County — of Walker and Laynee Jones, a former project manager for the Mountain Accord — apparently did not meet his standards, and Herbert took the unusual step to ask that county for more nominees.
The county then sent Christensen’s name, along with County Council member Max Burdick.
Ten people had applied for the Utah/Tooele county seat, including current UTA board member Jeff Acerson, who is the mayor of Lindon, and Kent Millington, a former board member who had been critical of UTA and its sales tax subsidies.
The Utah County Commission avoided them and instead nominated Pleasant Grove City Council member Ben Stanley, who is also an attorney, and former Cedar Hills Council member Rob Crawley, owner of a consulting firm called Retail Consulting Team.
But those two Utah County nominees have since attracted controversy.
Former Cedar Hills Mayor Gary Gygi attacked them in an op-ed in the Daily Herald of Provo as little more than political allies of County Commissioner Bill Lee — and questioned whether they had the required skills for the job.
“The governor should ask for more names,” he wrote. “I am told he can do this even though there was a deadline for submitting names by the county.”
Terri McCabe, a candidate for the Utah County Commission, also attacked the commission for meeting behind closed doors as it discussed and finally chose its two nominees.
That prompted Lee to write a response arguing that his commission acted appropriately, and defended the nominees.
“Rob Crawley and Ben Stanley bring a fresh perspective and qualifications that are very much needed,” he wrote in the Herald. "With either Rob or Ben representing Utah County on Utah’s new board of trustees, the future at UTA looks brighter than ever before.”
The Legislature passed a law this year to restructure UTA after it had been criticized in audits and news accounts for high executive salaries, extensive international travel and sweetheart deals with developers.
It also came after UTA had reached an immunity agreement with federal prosecutors in exchange for cooperation as they investigated possible wrongdoing by former UTA board members and other agency officials.