OGDEN -- Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday called for a full and thorough audit of the Utah Department of Transportation, and government officials in the Top of Utah are on board with the decision.
"That's what we do up here -- we audit people," said state Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City. "We audit. We check and investigate, and we look, and that's what people vote us in to do, to stay on top of this."
Herbert sent a letter to Utah State Auditor Auston Johnson requesting the audit "in the interest of maintaining public trust and confidence in Utah state government."
Herbert said the audit "should include a review of UDOT's process for awarding contracts, as well as UDOT's technology usage and human resource management practices."
Herbert also sent a letter to UDOT's Executive Director John Njord, informing Njord of the upcoming audit and the reasons behind it.
UDOT paid $13 million to Flatiron, a losing bidder on a huge Interstate 15 rebuild project in Utah County, when Flatiron threatened to sue for showing a pattern of favoritism toward the winning bidder.
Jenkins said the only thing that bothered him about the situation was that UDOT officials did not tell government officials about the $13 million.
"After looking at it, I think we probably would have (supported the decision), but that's a projection from my side, and I don't know for a fact that everybody would have done that," Jenkins said.
State Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, a former chairman of the Utah State Transportation Commission, said he expects UDOT to come through the audit with flying colors.
"I think the department will welcome it," he said. "UDOT has some of the best policies and practices in the entire industry."
Adams said that after UDOT encouraged Flatiron to join the bidding process, which before that point consisted of just two bidders, the bids went down more than $100 million.
He also said all three bidders were at $1.7 billion, so UDOT just chose who it thought would turn out the best project.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, Herbert's opponent in November's gubernatorial election, released a statement Wednesday calling the audit a campaign tactic.
"Gary Herbert's audit request is a campaign diversion, designed to make John Njord and UDOT the fall guys," Corroon's statement said.
"The real issue at stake is the public's faltering trust in our state's highest office. Gary Herbert owes it to Utahns to be open and honest about his office's own transactions, rather than diverting attention onto others."
The project had more controversy added to it Wednesday when the head of the construction company that won part of the contract acknowledged that he had a romantic relationship with a UDOT employee who was later demoted for an ethics policy violation when UDOT executives found out about the relationship.
Guy Wadsworth, who also donated $50,000 to Herbert's campaign, said the relationship had no bearing on any bid decisions at any time.
UDOT spokesman Nile Easton said the employee didn't have a role in deciding who the winning contractor would be, but UDOT officials thought she should be reassigned as a precaution.