The Uintah Transportation Special Service District held their regularly scheduled board meeting on Wednesday of last week, amid controversy from the findings of an audit from the state auditor's office in which several possible infractions were found. In addition to the unfavorable findings within the audit, the paid leave of the boards Executive Director, Adam Massey continues amidst pressure to bring him back as acting executive director.
It was the first meeting the UTSSD board has held since receiving the findings of an audit from the State Auditor's Office on October 31 in which the state lined out eight potential violations and recommendations on how to be in compliance after finding potential violations.
The violations were ordered in order of severity, one through eight.
1) Potential violations of the open and public meetings act or OPMA (Five potential violations of OPMA are listed on the report).
2) Potential inadequate independence between district and county.
3) Inadequate controls over payroll expenditures.
4) Inadequate controls over credit card transactions.
5) Inadequate policies over non-travel or local travel expenditures.
6) Increased risk by using credit cards versus purchase cards.
7) Failure to obtain certification by records officer.
8) Inadequate follow-up on district receivables.
UTSSD Executive Director, Adam Massey was placed on paid administrative leave on September 11, the same day the State Auditor's Office began their audit of the UTSSD.
In the findings and recommendations of the State Auditor's, they wrote about the placement of Adam Massey on paid administrative leave, "Finally, in September 2017 in anticipation of an on-site investigation by the office of the state auditor, three board members (Dan Dilsaver, Brad Horrocks, Gale Rasmussen) made the decision to put the executive director on paid administrative leave pending our investigation. This decision was evidenced by a 'Notice of Paid Administrative Leave' memo that was presented to the executive director on the morning of September 11, 2017 in the presence of a law enforcement officer. The memo was from the board chair (Dan Dilsaver) and carbon copied to only two other board members. The executive director was then asked to turn in his keys to the district offices. Two other board members (Kevin VanTassell and Robert Leake) were informed of the decision at 11:00 that morning via text after the decision had been made and acted upon. This action made it more difficult for the office (of the state auditor) to obtain needed documentation."
Massey said that while he has been placed on paid administrative leave that was unwarranted, according to the findings of the audit, he has received daily calls from the state auditor's office requesting information. Something he has complied with, but he could have done with more ease if not placed on leave.
During the October 5 UTSSD board meeting, board member Robert Leake made a motion to bring Adam Massey off of administrative leave that was seconded by board member Kevin VanTassell, but was turned down by votes from Gale Rasmussen, Brad Horrocks and Dan Dilsaver.
The Office of the Attorney General has been made aware of the state auditors concerns regarding the UTSSD's noncompliance of OPMA laws. A Civil Review Committee with the Attorney Generals office handles compliance issues regarding OPMA, according the state audit.
Attorney Gale McKeachnie, who was the former lieutenant governor of Utah is the UTSSD's attorney, and has been fulfilling some of Massey's job duties while he has been on leave and was present during the November 8 meeting, at times directing the meeting.
McKeachnie's bill for the month of September was $12,936 compared to the $1,740 August bill. McKeachnie's bill is in addition to the money the UTSSD is paying Adam Massey as part of his yearly salary while he is on leave.
The UTSSD receives Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding from mineral lease royalties that may be in jeopardy if the board continues to be in noncompliance with the state auditor's findings, especially concerning OPMA violations, and potential inadequate independence between board members of the special districts, who are also serving on the board of county commissioners.
Currently Brad Horrocks serves on the county commissioners board and the UTSSD board, which many have suggested that he resign from his board position on the UTSSD, including the state auditor's office which wrote in its report, "during this investigation, we discovered circumstances that bring into question the district's appropriate independence with the county."
On November 1 Ryan Roberts, a certified public accountant for the state auditor's office wrote County Commissioner Chairman Bill Stringer a letter, recommending that, "the county exercise due diligence to ensure that political and fiscal independence is maintained as long as the county chooses to pass through mineral lease monies to single-purpose districts to administer."
Roberts wrote that this situation is particularly concerning, as it gives the appearance of the commission steering funds to control the district.
During the November 8 board meeting, the board was tasked with the drafting of a tentative budget. Within that budget draft, $1 million was set aside for reasonably imminent litigation.
Which begs the question. Will that be enough?
On November 4, County Commissioner Duane Shepherd wrote a letter to his fellow commissioners, as well as the County Attorney Mark Thomas and Chief Deputy Attorney, Jon Steamer. In the letter, Shepherd suggested that he thinks it is imperative that all Uintah county commissioners resign from the six special service districts.
Shepherd also suggested that the commissioners should serve in an advisory role to the districts to ensure the counties needs are expressed and that each commissioner should attend the special district meetings to gain information and feedback to bring back to the commission.
Additionally, it was suggested by Shepherd that the commission will inform the chair of each of the six special districts (UTSSD, Uintah Recreation Special Service District, Uintah Impact Mitigation District, Uintah Fire Suppression Special Service District, Uintah Animal Control and Shelter Special Service District, Uintah Health Care Special Service District) of any vacancy and that the appropriate steps should be taken to fill a midterm vacancy of each district.
"I think this is a good first step to ensure that any real or perceived over reach of conflict of interest by the commission is mitigated and to bolster the confidence of the public in its elected officials," Shepherd said.