UTA closes some meetings to the public, but says it’s being more ‘transparent’

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority has closed public access to meetings of its board’s working committees, but insists it is being “more transparent.”

UTA recently made the decision to close the meetings where discussions take place on items that may wind up before the transit agency’s full board of trustees. In an interview with FOX 13 on Wednesday, UTA spokesman Remi Barron said the end result will be more public involvement in full board meetings.

“This is actually a board reform to make our meetings more transparent. What we’re doing is we’re taking the decision making away from the sub-committees that met and putting that with the full board,” he said.

Barron said the public rarely came to the subcommittee meetings, and decision making will be done before the full UTA Board of Trustees. UTA also promised more public comment before each item to be decided.

“People will have more opportunity to comment on each item in advance, and we think it’s going to help with transparency,” Barron said. “It will help people to know everything that’s going on at UTA┬ábefore any decisions are taken.”

The Utah Transit Riders Union, a watchdog group, has already called for UTA to re-open the closed door meetings.

“I just can’t believe this is going to make a more transparent process,” said the group’s Chris Stout.

Stout said he supported UTA’s idea to allow public comment before every agenda item vote, but accused them of trying to control their message.

UTA has repeatedly vowed to be more transparent in the face of scathing audits and accusations of ethical lapses. The agency gets about 65 percent of its revenues from sales tax dollars.