Press Release: Better UTAH Calls for UDOT Scandal Investigation

Better Utah Calls For UDOT Scandal Investigation

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Salt Lake City, Utah – In the ongoing wake of the multi-year UDOT controversy over the $1 Billion I-15 Core Project, and the continued persecution of UDOT employee Denice Graham, the Alliance for a Better UTAH held a press conference this afternoon, calling on Governor Herbert to appoint an independent commission to investigate UDOT’s practices. Better UTAH also called on the Governor to cause UDOT to properly reinstate Ms. Graham, to pay her her back wages and legal fees, and to investigate whether the Attorney General’s office has breached appropriate ethical standards in handling the Graham case.

After denying knowledge of the $13 million payout to the losing I-15 bidder, Governor Herbert watched UDOT put the blame for the resulting scandal on Denice Graham, a mid-level Civil Rights Manager. Ms. Graham was fired for cause and denied unemployment benefits. In February, an Administrative Law Judge ruled that Graham had done nothing wrong and was wrongfully terminated, stating that her firing “exceeded the bounds of reasonableness and rationality and amounts to an abuse of discretion.” UDOT Executive Director John Njord was ordered to reinstate Graham to her former position.

Although UDOT has brought Denice back to work, she was not returned to her previous position as Civil Rights Manager. Instead she has been demoted to a clerical job—a far different position than the one she held, with duties that do not match her expertise. Njord and UDOT then crossed another line by attempting to condition the payment of Graham’s back pay on her execution of a letter, drafted by the Utah Attorney General’s office, that would have had Graham denouncing the Judge’s ruling, and seeking her silence and that of those who were trying to help her in the court of public opinion. “They told me if I didn’t sign the letter, they weren’t going to give me the back-pay from the last year.” Denice said this afternoon.

“First it was the DABC, then UTA, now it’s UDOT.” said Better UTAH Executive Director Maryann Martindale. “Governor Herbert’s ‘best-managed’ State has some serious ethical problems. Issues have been arising at UDOT since 2010 and the Governor has done nothing to question the leadership of his cabinet-level UDOT director. When the Secret Service screws up, people are fired. When the GSA screws up, people are fired. When UDOT screws up, Denice Graham is wrongfully fired and the Governor and UDOT Director, John Njord, circle the wagons.”

“Better UTAH calls on Governor Herbert to appoint an independent commission to investigate UDOT’s practices, to explain his allegiance and support for Director Njord who has demonstrated a repeated lack of judgment as UDOT’s Director, and to investigate whether there has been an ethical breach in the Attorney General’s office in connection with the handling of the Denice Graham matter. And finally, Better UTAH calls on the citizens of the State of Utah to sign the petition on www.speakuputah.org. Call on Governor Herbert and Director Njord to end the political games, acknowledge the mistakes made, and right this wrong. Give Denice her job, back pay and legal fees, before the end of the week and with no strings attached.”

Alliance for a Better UTAH | 801.427.3397 | www.betterutah.org

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