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There is no guideline for disciplinary action in sexual-harassment cases at Salt Lake City Hall it is left up to department heads to determine whether any sanction should be meted out.
That came to light Tuesday night as the City Council sought answers to questions surrounding the sexual harassment of three female police officers. Although their allegations were substantiated by the Human Resources Department and the Police Civilian Review Board, the alleged perpetrator, former Deputy Chief Rick Findlay, was not fired.
Findlay eventually retired with full benefits.
Wednesday, council Chairman Luke Garrott lashed out at Mayor Ralph Becker for being "tone deaf" to sexual-harassment issues. Garrott is seeking the office of mayor.
"The chief of police reports to the mayor, and Ralph [Becker] allowed his chief of police to sit on this matter for a protracted length of time, delaying disciplinary action until Findlay could walk away with retirement benefits," Garrott said in a prepared statement. "That is not acceptable."
The council chairman also cited a complaint against new Fire Chief Brian Dale.
"The fire chief was appointed by the mayor, and when I raised concerns about the vetting process, Ralph's chief of staff [David Everitt] scoffed at the notion," Garrott said. "Now, we hear a sexual-discrimination complaint is imminent a week into [the new chief's] term, and we'll see if the claims are truly unsubstantiated."
The Tribune sought a response from the mayor Wednesday, but did not receive one. Instead, Becker's administration sent a statement from Debra Alexander, human resources director.
"I and my staff take any harassment or discrimination allegation very seriously," Alexander said in a statement. "Our approach to Equal Employment Opportunity investigations as a city is aggressive, fair and deliberative."
Alexander added that she welcomed suggestions from the council about ways to improve the disciplinary process.
Alexander told the council Tuesday that her investigative report substantiated the complaints against Findlay and was given to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank in January 2014 without a specific recommendation, as outlined in Salt Lake City policy.
What became clear was that Burbank took no action on the report for five months, allowing Findlay to remain on paid administrative leave until he reached his 20 years of service and was able to retire with full benefits.
Concerns about the length of time from the onset of the allegations until Findlay's retirement also were raised by Garrott.
"Allowing this process to drag on like this does a disservice to these female officers and discourages others from coming forward," Garrott said.
Although Findlay retired in June 2014, the issue came up again last month when the women filed a notice of claim, signaling they were going to file suit against Salt Lake City.
In that document, the women claim the harassment began in 2011. After they complained to supervisors, the female officers became the targets of retaliation, according to the claim.
Immediately after the women's notice of claim became public, Becker released a statement, saying that sexual harassment is "unacceptable."
But Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall said that the city's actions in the Findlay case reveal that sexual harassment apparently is acceptable, because the former deputy chief was allowed to stay in his position until he could retire.
At Tuesday's work session, Mendenhall said it is time for the City Council to revisit policies surrounding sexual harassment. S
he suggested that the city establish a response time between investigation findings and discipline. Further, Mendenhall said, a threshold for termination should be identified.
"The Findlay example will be at the forefront of our discussions," she said in a subsequent interview. "It's a strong example of what can be corrected."
A date when the subject will appear on the council's agenda has not yet been identified.