UTA trustee calls for review of $10K campaign contribution to board vice chair

UTA trustee calls for review of $10K campaign contribution to board vice chair

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Transit Authority trustee is calling for a review of a $10,000 contribution made to the mayoral campaign of the board's vice chairwoman by a company tied to a contractor on the Provo-Orem Bus Rapid Transit project.

"None of us should be taking donations from contractors doing business with UTA," trustee Brent Taylor said, calling Sherrie Hall Everett accepting the contribution from SUNROC a "huge lapse of judgment." Everett, UTA board of trustees vice chairwoman, is running for Provo mayor.

SUNROC, a construction materials and building services company, shares the same parent company, Clyde Companies, with W.W. Clyde, one of two companies building the Provo-Orem bus system known as BRT.

Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden, said in a July 27 letter to both the UTA general counsel and the internal auditor that board policy "appears to clearly prohibit this type of donation from a current UTA contractor."

He requested a "full review" of whether it violated board policy and said he wanted "to start an immediate discussion about putting disclosure requirements and restrictions in place on campaign contributions if they do not currently exist."

Everett said she notified Jayme Blakesley, UTA general counsel, "immediately" after the contribution was offered and was told it wasn't a problem.

None of us should be taking donations from contractors doing business with UTA.

–Brent Taylor, trustee

She said "whenever appropriate," she will recuse herself from votes involving SUNROC and has asked Blakesley whether she should also not participate in board discussions about BRT.

"I feel like I immediately disclosed and this is kind of a 'gotcha,'" Everett said. She said she wants "to be clear and above board. But it takes money to communicate in a campaign."

She pointed out that Taylor did not follow the process in place for filing ethics complaints against UTA officials that includes a requirement such complaints cannot be made public.

I feel like I immediately disclosed and this is kind of a 'gotcha.''

–Sherrie Hall Everett

Taylor's letter referred to another portion of the board process that states board members are not to accept any "item of value" if they have been or may be "involved in any official act or action directly affecting the donor or lender."

Everett reported the contribution on her July 25 campaign financial report to the Provo city recorder. The report stated SUNROC gave her $10,000 on July 17 and that she had raised nearly $60,000 in her race for Provo mayor.

Legal review

UTA spokesman Remi Barron said he has been told by UTA's general counsel the issue "needs to go through a legal review, which is confidential" and that there is "nothing more to say about it other than the process would take place."

Barron said the next scheduled meeting of the UTA board where the issue could be discussed won't be until late September.

Everett said all board policies are already being reviewed, and considering any change about campaign contributions should go through board committees, having everybody's "input rather than being responsive to a political manuever."

The contribution came, she said, "because I'm a pro-neighborhood, pro-community and pro-growth candidate" for mayor.

Dave Kallas, director of communications and senior adviser to Clyde Companies, said the president of SUNROC, Jeremy Hafen, is a member of the Utah Valley Chamber and has worked closely with Everett, a former Provo councilwoman.

Kallas said SUNROC, which is based in Spanish Fork and does some road work but is not involved in the BRT project, decided independently to make the contribution.

He said the parent company and its five subsidiaries have a "long history of supporting the communities where they operate," including supporting political candidates.

Prior friction

This is not the first time there has been friction between Taylor and Everett. In May, Taylor called for Everett and the board chairman, Robert McKinley, to step down over what he called an "unhinged" personal attack by Everett on Facebook.

They had also sparred online over an earlier email to the board from Taylor, urging them to fight what he termed the "circle the wagons mentality" at UTA about the ongoing federal investigation into transit projects.

A month earlier, federal investigators had announced a nonprosecution agreement with UTA in exchange for the agency's cooperation in the probe and agreeing to up to three years of federal monitoring.

Taylor's appointment as a trustee representing the Weber Area Council of Governments at the beginning of the year came despite an effort by UTA to keep him from joining because his father is a FrontRunner driver set to retire soon.

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Lisa Riley Roche


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