Transit: Transit systems that need a better ethical roadmap

by George Pyle for the Salt Lake Tribune

In Utah, the problem persists:

UTA ethics: Tone deaf in the Diehl case – Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

As Randy Jackson might put it, the trustees at the Utah Transit Authority are a little pitchy, dawg, if not downright tone deaf, when it comes to ethics. Allow us to elaborate.
Terry Diehl is a real estate developer who has served on the UTA boardfor 10 years. A legislative audit last year recommended that a case involving Diehl be referred to prosecutors to decide whether a criminal charge should be filed. The case concerned real estate near a proposedFrontRunner station at 13500 South and whether Diehl had properly disclosed a conflict of interest arising from a transit-oriented development he wanted to build near the station.
The auditor and the legislative general counsel argued that Diehl had violated the law. The UTA’s lawyers said he had not. The legislators on the audit committee decided not to refer the case for charges, in part because Diehl had followed the advice of the UTA lawyers.
Fast forward to this month. Diehl is resigning from the UTA board, but he still wants to pursue transit-oriented development. However, a UTA policy prohibits former trustees from doing business with UTA within one year after they leave the board. As a parting gift to Diehl, the board has decided to waive that policy in his case.
How does this sound to the public? It sounds like Diehl is being eased off the board because of the ethical cloud that his earlier dealings caused. But, incredibly, the UTA trustees have waived an ethics policythat is obviously intended to prevent a former board member from doing a deal that might raise ethical questions. [more …]

In San Fran, some attention has been paid:

BART board must take quick action to rectify serious mistakes – Contra Costa Times Editorial

WE ARE pleased that directors of BART acknowledged Thursday that they have a secrecy problem. The question now is, what will they do to fix it?
As we reported in an editorial Thursday, the transit system directors have been illegally operating in secret for years, conducting private committee meetings in direct violation of the Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting law for local government. …
… Fortunately, hours after the editorial appeared Thursday, as the full board held its regularly scheduled meeting, there were indications that at least some members understand the error of their ways. Like with any addiction, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward correcting it.
But, when it comes to the solutions, the devil is in the details. [more …]

It’s time for a revolution in governance – San Jose Mercury News Editorial

… The breadth of this practice, undetected for years, is a stunning reminder of how fragile the public’s right to know really is. Secrecy breeds secrecy. Only constant vigilance can keep it in check. And while a culture of secrecy can take hold anywhere, special districts like BART are more vulnerable, since they don’t receive as much public scrutiny as most city councils. …

And in Colorado, too:

Major steps in Adams County – Denver Post Editorial

… The most striking thing about the good-government reformsapproved Wednesday by the Adams County Commission was the sheer expanse of them.
This wasn’t a small adjustment or two. It was an overhaul designed to modernize practices and rein in a broad range of scandalous activity on the part of various county officials.
The reforms, created largely in response to a series of Denver Post stories, are overdue. If properly enacted, they will go a long way toward bringing responsible government to Adams County. …

Hmmmm. All MediaNews Group newspapers on the case here. And our sister papers have apparently gotten more results than we have, so far.
Oh, well, back to the blank computer screen.

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