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Herbert should reveal everything about bid payout

Published October 2, 2010 12:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It is time for a reasoned look at the recent news of the $13 million payout to the loser in a $1.7 billion highway building project. I take Gov. Gary Herbert at his word, that he both accepted large donations from the winning construction firms and did not exert any influence on the outcome of the competitive bid.

Gov. Herbert says that he intends to run a transparent administration, and I want to believe him.

I have been in a state agency leadership position in a neighboring state. In that department, every single dollar was appropriated for a specific program or purpose. And we were accountable for spending that money exactly as anticipated by the state budget passed by the legislature.

Had we fouled up a contract bid process, any compensatory amount paid to a losing bidder would have required a supplemental appropriation by the Legislature. A large settlement would be grist for the political mills. Heads would have rolled.

So how is it that the Utah Department of Transportation had 13 million disposable dollars not otherwise appropriated for a legislatively intended purpose? Where did that money come from? How was it shifted from the appropriated budget to this payoff without many people within state government knowing about it?

Whoever those people were, didn't they clearly subvert the budget appropriation process prescribed by Utah law? Why have they not been called to account? (Going to the proverbial woodshed is not the same as being held accountable, nor does that provide transparency for the public.)

If Herbert is to make a plausible assertion of running a transparent administration, he needs to open the records about this episode. The attorney for the construction companies that lost the bid and received the $13 million payout has said that there is a tale to tell related to the bid process.

The governor should release all parties from the confidentiality clause related to the $13 million settlement and hold a press conference with all parties and documents present. Let the chips fall where they may. Because I believe what the governor has said, I am confident that his integrity will be upheld by whatever is revealed in the documents or at the press conference.

More important, the public will learn whether their tax dollars have been managed well by UDOT.

Joseph Q. Jarvis is a physician, chairman of Republican Legislative District 24 and a member of the Republican State Central Committee.






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