PROVO — Embattled Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves is threatening to sue his fellow commissioners and the county, claiming he has been defamed, slandered and libeled by the county employee who filed a sexual harassment claim against him and by his elected peers who voted to release the accusations to the public.
In a notice of claim sent to Utah County on April 13, Graves’ attorney says “false allegations of sexual harassment” were published by county officials “with the bad intent of harming the reputation and character” of Graves.
“Commissioner Graves feels like it’s important for him to protect his reputation,” Graves’ attorney, Ryan Schriever, said Wednesday.
“The sexual harassment allegations made are naturally very inflammatory, very prejudicial … and he feels like the county should have kept them private, especially where they were unsubstantiated,” Schriever added, noting the allegations have had a “profound effect” on Graves and his family.
The notice of claim also says the employee who accused Graves had become “disgruntled” by Graves “who did not believe she was performing her job satisfactorily.”
The county released a 100-page complaint in December detailing a sexual harassment complaint against Graves — including the allegation that Graves rubbed a female employee’s thigh above the knee during an employee golf outing and told her, “Don’t show it if you don’t want it touched.”
“The employee fabricated these statements due to ill will and actual malice she harbored against Commissioner Graves,” the notice of claim states.
Graves in a text message to the Deseret News referred all comment to Schriever.
Graves may seek financial damages, according to his attorney.
“Damages have not been quantified yet,” Schriever said. “We’re waiting to see how the county responds and if it does become a lawsuit, we’ll have to put a number to those.”
The county has 60 days to respond by either accepting the claim and negotiating a settlement with Graves or denying it, after which Graves would have one year to file a lawsuit.
Both Graves’ fellow commissioners, Nathan Ivie and Bill Lee, referred comment to attorney Andrew Morse, who is representing the commissioners and the county in the case.
“There’s a lot I’d like to say, but I can’t,” Lee said.
Morse, of the Snow, Christensen & Martineau law firm in Salt Lake City, said he will “thoroughly investigate” the claim before determining the county’s next steps.
“It’s way too early to talk about the merits of his claim because we haven’t thoroughly examined it yet,” Morse said. “It would just be speculation to (say) what the end result may be.”
The notice of claim is the first defense Graves has made in the allegations against him for months, after he initially denied any wrongdoing in December, the day before an investigative report into the allegations against him was released. That report would clear him of wrongdoing “100 percent,” Graves said at the time.
While the investigator was unable to identify any witnesses to corroborate allegations of sexual harassment, he did conclude based on interviews with 14 other employees that Graves is “widely viewed as a ‘workplace bully,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘demeaning,’ ‘intimidating,’ ‘threatening,’ explosive’ and someone with whom personal interaction is to be avoided as much as possible.”
The investigator’s report was released the day after Ivie and Lee voted to release a redacted version of the sexual harassment claim in response to a public records request, which was originally denied by the Utah County Attorney’s Office.
That day, the 100-page complaint was released to the public.
The ensuing investigator’s report released the following day was redacted of all names, but it “still contained the unsubstantiated allegations of sexual harassment,” the notice of claim states, and Ivie and Lee published posts on their Facebook page identifying Graves as the subject of the complaint and investigation.
Since then, both Lee and Ivie have called for Graves to resign. Others have joined those calls, including the Utah County Republican Party, multiple Utah County legislators, and the group Alliance for a Better Utah.
Story by Katie Mckellar published by the Deseret News here.