N.O. Mayor Brent Taylor sworn in as UTA board member, despite nepotism policy

Wednesday , February 22, 2017 - 5:24 PM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

NORTH OGDEN — Brent Taylor will get his spot on the Utah Transit Authority Board of Trustees after all. 

The North Ogden mayor was sworn in as the board’s newest member Wednesday afternoon, despite resistance from the quasi-governmental transit agency itself.

In January, Taylor was elected as the Weber Area Council of Government’s appointment as trustee, but UTA objected to the selection, citing a a potential conflict with its longstanding anti-nepotism policy. Taylor’s father has worked as a FrontRunner operator for several years.

• RELATED: North Ogden mayor blocked from serving on UTA board due to nepotism policy

When WACOG was made aware of UTA’s concern,members discussed the issue and voted a second time in February, again selecting Taylor to the position, according to a letter WACOG chairman Korry Green sent to UTA board chairman Robert McKinley. 

Green’s letter said WACOG came to a consensus, deciding Taylor should be able to pursue his seat on the UTA board and be allowed to “resolve the issue” himself.

Several Utah lawmakers and state auditor John Dougall also went to bat for Taylor. 

• RELATED: Is the UTA's transportation plan good for northern Utah? That's up to you

Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden sent the UTA board a letter, which was also signed by Dougall and Republican representatives Gage Froerer and Mike Shultz, saying they support UTA’s anit-nepotism policy, but it didn’t fully apply to Taylor.

“The current situation was not anticipated when the policy was drafted,” the letter says. “It is our opinion the current nepotism policy would not preclude the appointment of Mayor Taylor nor require UTA to terminate his father.” 

In the letter, the group also says it expects Taylor will recuse himself from votes related to collective bargaining, certain budget items, employee compensation and benefits, service changes and other items that could affect the employment of his father.

“He’ll have to recuse himself from a lot of key votes,” UTA spokesman Remi Barron said Wednesday. 

McKinley, who had previously sent WACOG a letter requesting the group consider an appointee other than Taylor, sent the organization another letter last week, saying the board had shifted its stance.

“The board has worked to balance its desire to accommodate the appointment by the WACOG while recognizing the conflicts created by Mayor Taylor’s appointment,” said a statement issued by UTA shortly after Taylor was sworn in Wednesday. 

Barron said the board has spent the past two years implementing reforms inside the agency to reduce conflicts of interest and increase ethics. The agency reiterated that while Taylor serves on the board and his father remains employed at UTA, he’ll “be required to recuse himself from any matter affecting the conditions of his father’s employment.”

“The board respects the wishes of the Weber County COG and has accepted Mayor Taylor’s appointment with the clear understanding that because of UTA’s long-standing conflict policies, Mayor Taylor will have to recuse himself from many key votes,” UTA’s statement said.

Taylor says he wants to serve on the board to help rein in UTA executives’ compensation, make the agency’s inner workings more transparent and tackle air quality issues. Prior to his swearing in, Taylor told the Standard-Examiner he believed his situation never violated the anti-nepotism policy.

Dougall had previously said the only restriction he saw in UTA’s policy was that Taylor’s father would be prohibited from being hired into another position at the agency. 

Taylor will replace outgoing board trustee Matt Bell, a Weber County commissioner.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer/.

 

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