UTA says it will be more transparent after closed meetings controversy

Posted at 4:29 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-25 19:32:39-04

OREM, Utah -- The Utah Transit Authority's Board of Trustees met for the first time Wednesday since controversy erupted over the agency's decision to close some meetings to the public.

No one on the board addressed the controversy at the meeting, but did offer a lengthy comment period where some of UTA's critics vented. It also instituted a period of public comment before voting on agenda items.

"Thank you for opening everything," said George Chapman with the Utah Transit Rider's Union. "I'm sorry for your embarrassment, but it's important that you allow the public to see what you're doing."

UTA's interim CEO Jerry Benson would not comment to FOX 13 about the open meetings controversy. The agency, which gets about 65 percent of its revenues from sales tax dollars, faced criticism over the decision to close working group meetings to the public from Gov. Gary Herbert and municipal leaders.

Most recently, the Salt Lake County Council and Utah County Commission threatened to cut funding from the agency over the closed meetings.

"I don't believe it was the threat of having funds being cut off that prompted the change in direction," UTA spokesman Remi Barron told FOX 13. "It was more that they heard from the public."

UTA argued the working group meetings were rarely attended and wanted to shift decision-making to the full Board of Trustees. Critics contended the working groups were where the discussions would take place that the board would vote on later.

In the future, UTA said it would look at live-streaming some of its meetings on the internet.

At Wednesday's meeting, UTA voted on increasing the cost of public records requests to $15 per report to be more in line with other agencies in the state. It also revealed plans for increased service in Tooele, Davis and Weber Counties that passed Proposition One, a transportation tax option voters approved in November.