The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has hit another rough patch. UTA's exemption from federal prosecution and its board chairman's comment that it lifted a "dark cloud" hanging over UTA suggest the likelihood of prosecutable activity. This would seem to be corroborated by the recent indictment of a former UTA board member, in part because of allegations of business deals using insider knowledge about UTA economic development projects.
This is the latest in a long line of ethics and accountability problems at UTA. But here's a question no one is asking: Is the indictment of a UTA board member simply a failing at UTA, or is it a symptom of a disease of ethics and accountability common to state agencies in pursuit of economic development?
Insiders profiting off economic development efforts is certainly not unique to UTA. For instance, in 2009 the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED) awarded post-performance tax deals worth more than $2 million to several of its board members' businesses. In 2010, the chair of one of GOED's advisory committees joined the Sundance Institute's Utah Advisory Board; today GOED board members and employees serve on Sundance's advisory board, and vice versa. Between 2010 and 2016, Sundance Institute received $4,454,850 in payments from GOED, according to transparent.utah.gov.