SALT LAKE CITY — A longtime Salt Lake County councilman may have lobbied illegally for the Utah Transit Authority. The controversy is not necessarily in the lobbying work Randy Horiuchi allegedly did, but in what he was paid and his failure to disclose it as the law requires.
Since 2006, the Utah Transit Authority has spent $1.8 million on local lobbying — more than $650,000 on its top lobbyist, R & R Partners. It's spending UTA defends.
"We're always looking to hire the best people to help us in this work," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
The state of Utah has a website, Utah.gov, where lobbyists are required to register every two years, disclosing clients they represent. Listed under R & R Partners are four lobbyists, including longtime Democratic County Councilman Randy Houriuchi.
Last year, Horiuchi told KSL News, "On the side, over the past 30 years, I've done some lobbying. So when an opportunity presents itself that seems to be good, I'll do it."
County officials and employees are required to file signed and notarized disclosure forms, disclosing private business interests. We asked for forms for county council members, but the county clerk's office said it has no financial disclosure statement for Horiuchi on file for the last decade.
As elected officials, I don't think anyone does (file financial disclosure statements). Maybe if they do, I haven't seen them — never had over 20 years.
–Randy Horiuchi, SLCO councilman
"As elected officials, I don't think anyone does (file financial disclosure statements)," Horiuchi said. "Maybe if they do, I haven't seen them — never had over 20 years."
We spoke with other public figures about disclosure rules but didn't discuss details of this case.
"If a county officer is lobbying for someone, that's a source of income that ought to be disclosed in a financial statement that the officer's required to file," said attorney David Irvine, with Utahns for Ethical Government.
"The expectation of good government is to make sure that it is free from conflict, it is free from influence, and it's free from personal gain. And we have rules in place to address those issues," said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
"Whether I got any money for that — I mean, I didn't … the only time I got money from UTA was back in 1990 before I became an elected official," Horiuchi said.
Mike Zuhl, of UTA lobbyist R & R Partners, said Horiuchi has had a relationship with the company for a decade, providing assistance, but was never an employee.
"He just helped us with a few of our clients, including UTA at one time," Zuhl said, adding that Horiuchi was paid for his services, but refusing to disclose the amount.
"(The pay) wasn't directly as a result of UTA. As I said, we had a number of clients," he clarified.
"If you were to say I was a secret lobbyist for the UTA — lobbyist is not the right word," Horiuchi said. "I've helped them out a lot, and I'm proud of it, and I wouldn't do any different."
If a county officer is lobbying for someone, that's a source of income that ought to be disclosed in a financial statement that the officer's required to file.
–David Irvine, Utahns for Ethical Government
When we first asked, UTA's spokesman admitted Horiuchi worked for UTA as a lobbyist.
"Well, he has a lot of connections. He's able to talk to a lot of people who trust him," Carpenter said. "It allows us to share information in a way that we wouldn't be able to."
When we asked this week for more details, Carpenter emailed us saying he didn't have "enough information" at the time and previously misspoke. He said "R&R Partners has multiple clients" and Horiuchi serves "certain clients" while Zuhl and others "work for UTA." He also said Horiuchi hasn't worked on a UTA issue "since the Olympics."
But this week Horiuchi confirmed he has worked for two clients, UTA and Intermountain Healthcare, in the last two years. He wouldn't say how much he was paid.
"I'm not paid a salary every year, or even a retainer," he said. "It's basically as much as I'm used."
UTA critic Roger Kehr said he knew nothing of Horiuchi's UTA lobbying link and called it "an outrage to the citizens of Utah."
KSL News found nine examples of UTA-related business coming before the county council in the past two years — including a UTA board member reappointment, a real estate easement, a bus route, and West Jordan development plans where Horiuchi voted for, and sometimes spoke in favor of, UTA's position.
Earlier in December, the county council discussed a controversial development next to a UTA Frontrunner stop in Draper. Horiuchi said nothing about his UTA lobby tie, but after the meeting said, "What I'll probably do, as I always do when there's a UTA issue, I usually recuse myself or cast a ‘no,' a silent vote."
At a council meeting on Dec. 21, Horiuchi did disclose he had done work for UTA before voting to involve county tax dollars in a commercial project next to a FrontRunner stop in Draper.
Horiuchi isn't the only Salt Lake County council member who failed to file disclosure statements about private business interests. In fact, only three of nine council members filed the forms in 2012. The other six didn't.