Pressure mounts on embattled Utah County commissioner to resign

Source: Desert News, KSL

Pressure continued to mount Friday on embattled Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves following allegations that he sexually harassed a county employee and has exhibited bullying, intimidating and explosive behavior at the county workplace.

The group Alliance for a Better Utah on Friday joined the Utah County Republican Party and his two fellow county commissioners in calling for Graves to resign, launching an online petition urging other Utahns to demand the same.

“As our nation continues to move forward in breaking the silence on instances of sexual misconduct, we must all commit to creating a better society,” said Laura Boyer of Better Utah in a prepared statement.

“This begins by believing the women who come forward, seriously investigating their allegations, and acting on what we find,” Boyer continued. “This must be done regardless of party or position, whether that be a county commissioner, someone running for Congress, or the occupant of the White House.”

An investigator with the Utah County Attorney’s Office said he did not find eyewitness accounts to corroborate allegations of sexual harassment nor evidence that Graves had violated any laws or county policies.

But the investigator did conclude that he considered Graves’ accuser to be a “credible witness” and included detailed accounts in a report from more than a dozen witnesses that led him to conclude that Graves is “widely viewed as a workplace bully, dishonest, demeaning, intimidating, threatening and explosive.”

Graves did not return multiple requests for comment Friday, including phone calls and emails. When a reporter knocked several times on the door to his Spanish Fork house, no one answered, though a male’s voice could be heard inside.

On Wednesday, Graves strongly denied any wrongdoing and said he planned to finish the remainder of his term, which ends at the end of 2018.

Both of Graves’ colleagues, Commissioner Bill Lee and Commissioner Nathan Ivie, said they were disappointed Graves hadn’t resigned as of Friday.

“But what I’m more disappointed in is the fact there hasn’t even been an apology,” Ivie said. “There has been no, ‘I’ve behaved poorly, my conduct’s inappropriate, I’ll do better.’ That would be nice.”

Instead, Ivie said Graves has been continuing to “threaten” and “intimidate” people.

Ivie said after the employee’s complaint was released Wednesday, Graves called a couple of the witnesses included in the investigator’s report and made what he called “threatening” comments.

Lee said he was one of those people.

“He said that ‘things were going to get really dirty and ugly,'” Lee said. “All I said was, ‘I don’t know what you mean by that.'”

Lee said Graves then started “naming names” and saying he was “going to lay it all out for everybody to see.” Lee brushed the comments off, saying Graves is “really good at deflecting.”

Lee and Ivie said they have already begun looking into the process to censure Graves, though Lee acknowledged a censure has “no real teeth.” Aside from perhaps removing some of Graves’ portfolio assignments, Lee said it’s not clear what else the commission can legally do.

Ivie said he has been in touch with state lawmakers from Utah County about possibly drafting a law to remove elected officials who create hostile work environments for employees.

“You just don’t treat people the way he’s treated people,” Ivie said. “And I believe the people in Utah County would agree with me.”

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem said he has been in touch with Lee and Ivie, but he’s not in the process of drafting such a bill — though he said its “absolutely worth exploring.”

“If what Mr. Graves is alleged to have done is accurate, that should not stand,” Daw said.

Daw acknowledged, however, that a new law could be tricky to craft since such a law could potentially be used as a political weapon.

“We want to be careful, but it’s absolutely a topic worthy of discussion, and we certainly don’t want that kind of behavior to be dismissed,” Daw said.

Meanwhile, Ivie said he’s “very concerned” about the possibility that the county could be facing a lawsuit.

Included in Graves’ accuser’s complaint was a “notice of charge of discrimination” sent to the county from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which the female employee wrote she had been “harassed and discriminated against based on my gender” and subjected to unlawful retaliation.

Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said that while there is not currently a lawsuit against Utah County, there is a “pending matter” in the Antidiscrimination and Labor Division of the Utah Labor Commission related to the employee’s complaint. Because it’s pending, he said he couldn’t comment on it.

Asked if the county could be liable for what happened to the employee, Buhman said, “Utah County responded quickly and decisively to any claim of harassment or abuse.”

“And we do our best to ensure all employees — whether they’re elected, appointed or regular employees — are able to do their jobs but also be free from harassment and discrimination,” Buhman said.

Lee said the complaints and allegations against Graves have had a “terrible” impact on the county.

“It’s demoralizing,” he said. “I feel bad for the employees that have to go through it.”

Lee said he expects Graves will be attending the commissioners’ next meeting Tuesday because the commission is in the middle of working on the county budget.

If Graves does attend, Lee worries he could be a “distraction” during a “critical” time of work for the county.

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