SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority board voted unanimously to terminate president, CEO and general manager Jerry Benson Wednesday, saying recent legislation requires the move.
The vote came during Wednesday’s board meeting and Greg Bell, Co-Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees for UTA, explained the termination is not for cause and is instead a reaction to SB 136, which was passed earlier this year.
Bell said the changes outlined for UTA in SB 136 include numerous topics that will be addressed one by one, and Wednesday’s action addressed the fact UTA no longer has the authority to employ anyone in the positions currently held by Benson.
“Therefore we have before us the resolution regarding Jerry Benson’s employment as president, Chief Executive Officer, and general manager, which notes that inasmuch as SB 136 eliminates those positions… the UTA has no statutory authority to employ anybody in these capacities beyond May 8, 2018,” Bell said during the board meeting.
The vote to terminate Benson’s employment effective May 7 was passed unanimously after board members noted that the firing is not for cause. They also noted that Benson voluntarily waived a requirement that his firing be the subject of at least one more board meeting, clearing the way for his exit. He also remains eligible for retirement and other benefits listed in his employment agreement.
Bell said that he thinks lawmakers made it clear with SB 136 they plan to “clean house” with UTA leadership, and he said they will begin searching for an interim director to take the reins until a new board empaneled later this year has the opportunity to appoint their own leadership.
As a result of SB 136, the UTA board will shrink from 16 members to three full-time members by November 1 of this year. The bill also directs the agency to rebrand from Utah Transit Authority to Utah Transit District.