"That's going to require a more intimate relationship with our transit provider than we ever had before. It's not a time for our single (board member) to fight," she continued.
Mendenhall also questioned whether Dabakis would best represent the transit users living in Salt Lake City, with less of a transportation background than the city's previous representative, Keith Bartholomew, a University of Utah associate professor of city and metropolitan planning who had served on the board for 13 years.
But to Dabakis, the City Council missed the point and made a "big policy blunder," attributing the failed nomination to "serious tension" between Biskupski and the council.
"It's not tinkering around the edges that UTA needs. The UTA house is on fire, and they're worried about the plumbing not working, you know?" he said.
Dabakis was referring to UTA's embattled history, with a past board loaded with developers. A 2014 audit revealed questionable development deals, extravagant executive pay and bonuses, as well as concerns over massive debt.
Since then, the agency has been under federal investigation, recently striking a nonprosecution agreement in exchange for cooperation with ongoing investigations, and it is now under federal monitoring for three years. Past board member and developer Terry Diehl has been indicted, but authorities say there's more to come.
Though Dabakis admitted he was not a "transportation expert," he tried to convince the council he was the best person to help keep UTA transparent and regain public trust.
"If you confirm me, I will change the corporate culture," he pledged.
Biskupski tried to convince council members that Dabakis had the political expertise to restore public trust to UTA, which she said will be essential for Salt Lake City if it ever again asks for additional tax dollars for transit projects. She pointed to Proposition 1 in 2015, a proposed tax hike that failed on the ballot largely due to public distrust of UTA, political leaders have said.
Biskupski said she was "truly disappointed" the council rejected Dabakis' nomination.
"It appears the majority have made up their mind already before they interviewed him," the mayor said.