UDOT settlement bill passes Senate

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A multimillion dollar UDOT settlement that caught state lawmakers off guard last year has prompted them to tighten the reins on the agency.

A bill requiring the Utah Department of Transportation to seek approval for financial settlements exceeding $100,000 has passed the House and Senate. HB34 is intended to make the process more transparent.

"We want to know. You know, it's just that simple. We want to know what's happening," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.

Last year, state officials were surprised when news surfaced that UDOT had paid $13 million to an unsuccessful bidder for the controversial billion-dollar-plus project to rebuild I-15 through Utah County.

The contract award had already questioned because members of the winning bid team met privately with Gov. Gary Herbert and made large contributions to his campaign.

Under the measures, settlements of at least $100,000 must be approved by the state transportation commission; those of at least $500,000 go the commission and the governor; and those at least $1 million go to the commission, governor and legislative management.

The Utah Transit Authority too is drawing tighter scrutiny. In December, a state audit found a controversial member of the UTA board had a conflict of interest and made an "undisclosed amount" of money involving a land deal on a controversial rail stop.

Thursday morning, a Senate committee backed a bill repealing a conflicts provision just for transit districts. The sponsor says a more strict standard will apply.

"This puts UTA under the same provisions as any other public officer or employee under the Utah Public Officers and Employees Ethics Act," said Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo.

While the transit districts bill now moves to the Senate, the UDOT settlement bill is headed to the governor's desk.


Story written with contributions from Dennis Romboy and John Daley.

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