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Former Davis County deputy attorney sues his old boss

Published May 15, 2013 8:50 pm

Lawsuit • Tyler Larsen claims he worked in hostile environment, was fired without due process.
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A former Davis County deputy attorney is suing his old office alleging there was a hostile work environment that involved cover-ups, and that he was fired without due process.

Tyler James Larsen filed a lawsuit against Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings last month, demanding damages of at least $1 million.

The lawsuit — which has been transferred from 2nd District Court to federal court, and which also names several other county officials as defendants — details an alleged battle between Larsen and Rawlings that has been going on for more than three years.

Larsen claims the DA's office fired him for investigating a private probation provider's services and for his political opinions and affiliations. He was eventually reinstated, but the hostile environment that existed before he left culminated after his return when Rawlings allegedly committed "an act of workplace violence" against him in December 2011.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Larsen declined to elaborate what the alleged violent encounter entailed.

Rawlings declined to comment about the lawsuit, referring questions to attorney Jesse Trentadue, who represents Davis County in this case. Trentadue could not be reached Wednesday.

In August 2009, a defense attorney alleged that a private probation provider overcharged his client $8,000. Larsen, at the request of 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin, investigated the provider's owner, Ann Taylor.

According to the lawsuit, Rawlings — who had worked with Taylor when he was in private practice — e-mailed every deputy attorney to tell them Taylor was angry at their office and had threatened to sue for defamation.

The lawsuit claims that Rawlings retaliated against Larsen for the investigation by denying him a "premium pay assignment."

However, according to disciplinary complaint filed in January by the Utah State Bar's Office of Professional Conduct, Larsen had his performance rating reduced because he lied to 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin in court. According to the complaint, Davis County investigators determined Taylor was paid just under $4,000, and that amount was listed on a spreadsheet given to Larsen. But in a recorded sidebar with Allphin, Larsen told the judge that the spreadsheet said the woman was paid $6,000 and asked the judge for hearing on the matter.

At the same time, Larsen had been running for mayor of Roy as an unaffiliated candidate. In September 2009, Rawlings allegedly talked to Larsen about comments the deputy attorney made to the Standard-Examiner about how career politicians run for office to fulfill their needs, not those of the community. Larsen also claims that several people in the Republican-dominated office were critical of his views on same-sex marriage and his lack of political affiliation.

According to the lawsuit, Rawlings allegedly began harassing Larsen and scrutinizing his work more closely than other employees. Rawlings also asked Litigation Chief David Cole to gather information on Larsen's job performance from court staff and judges, according to the lawsuit.

In May 2010, Cole reduced Larsen's score on his annual employee evaluation without reason, according to the lawsuit. By September 2010, Rawlings fired Larsen.

According to the Bar disciplinary complaint, Larsen was fired after misconduct related to a March 2010 armed robbery trial. Before trial, Larsen showed the victims a photo of the defendant, but did not show them any other photos as part of a proper photo line-up. This was not disclosed to the defendant's attorney, who asked for a mistrial when the victim testified that Larsen had shown her the photos of the defendant. The judge granted the mistrial, finding there had been prejudice to the defendant.

In letters written in 2011 regarding Larsen's employment, both Cole and Chief Deputy Attorney William McGuire said Larsen's conduct involving the mistrial was grounds for termination.

"It was my belief that Mr. Larsen had committed an act that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to be trusted in our office," McGuire wrote.

Larsen appealed his termination to the Career Service Council, but claims in the lawsuit that throughout the process Rawlings tried to intimidate him with threats of media exposure, bar complaints and criminal investigations.

Larsen's career grievance was denied, but he appealed and, in August 2011, 3rd District Court Judge Deno Himonas ruled that Larsen had not received due process, and the attorney's office reinstated him, but he was left on paid administrative leave and his wages were reduced by about $1 an hour.

Davis County and the Career Service Council then appealed Himonas' decision to the Utah Court of Appeals. In a letter written last month to Davis County Personnel Director Melvin Miles, Rawlings asks that Larsen be taken off the payroll, claiming that transferring jurisdiction of the case to the court of appeals returns Larsen's status to that of a "terminated employee."

Larsen said he has a May 24 hearing before the Career Service Council regarding his most recent termination.

A court date regarding the lawsuit against Rawlings has not been set.


Twitter: @jm_miller




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