Audit blasts UTA for big salaries, underfunded service

Posted at 3:59 PM, Aug 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-27 09:24:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- An audit released by the Utah Legislative Auditor-General criticizes the Utah Transit Authority for some of its business practices, including executives' big salaries and underfunded service.

In one instance, auditors said UTA “pre-paid” $10 million for a parking garage in Draper, even though it was against the transit authority’s policies. There were no plans for the garage at the time, and UTA ended contracting a new company to do the project more than two years later. UTA is still trying to recoup $1.7 million dollars from the transaction.

“Our concern was it was inappropriate, it's very unusual, we saw no justification for the $10 million to be given out at that point of time, nor could they provide that sort of justification,” said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.

Davis told UTA that they may be over stepping their bounds regarding transit oriented developments, and they need to get back to basics.

“You're the mover of people from point A to point B and we got to get to that point in this state,” Davis said.

Another concern is that UTA executives are compensated considerably more than are executives at UDOT. The audit also claimed that the agency did not report the proper compensation amounts to the state’s transparency website.

UTA CEO Michael Allegra makes 82 percent more in total compensation than UDOT’S executive director and 15 percent more than the executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports.

“The board sets our salaries, they are benchmarked against other comparable agencies, the audits recommended that we include total compensation and compare them to other transit agencies and government entities,” Allegra said.

Then there is the issue of underfunded projects.

This includes rail line upkeep, which will need $2.9 billion dollars in expenses by 2033. According to the audit, UTA has not accounted for this money in their long-term plan and the auditors say that will affect other areas of transportation.

“Bus service has suffered due to financial constraints, UTA does not have the financial ability to add more bus service,” said Kade Minchey, audit supervisor.

Read the audit here:

In a response to the audit, UTA said it has implemented changes as recommended by the Auditor-General.

"Changes include significantly reducing incentives, particularly for executives and top managers. Additionally, the board approved a policy requiring any award greater than $8,000 be reviewed and approved by the board in a public meeting," the agency said in a prepared response.