This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A top UTOPIA executive says he was fired from the fiber-optic network for expressing concerns that bid rigging could take place because of a possible conflict of interest between the agency's boss and a company that has ties to the boss's brother.
For the past three years, Chris Hogan served as one of the public faces for the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency a consortium of 16 Utah cities that have banded together to build a fiber-optic network within their communities.
He was instrumental and stood side-by-side with UTOPIA Executive Director Todd Marriott in convincing eight of the member cities last year to back an additional $62 million in bonds for the network even though the project already had burned through hundreds of millions with little to show for it.
Yet now Hogan and UTOPIA are on the outs.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Utah, Hogan said he was in negotiations to renew his employment contract last month when he learned that a company known as Tetra Tech was possibly poised to benefit from a contract UTOPIA planned to issue for the laying of fiber-optic cable.
Hogan said he approached UTOPIA's outside plant manager, Jarrod Pantier, and suggested that he make sure the executive board knew that Ryan Marriott, the brother of UTOPIA's executive director, was a top manager at Tetra Tech and that the possibility of nepotism and bid rigging existed.
"Hogan's motive in speaking with Pantier about the potential conflict of interest was to protect UTOPIA and to prevent UTOPIA from entering into a contract that could be illegal and would endanger UTOPIA's continual success and existence," the lawsuit states.
Hogan contends in his lawsuit that Pantier subsequently told Todd Marriott about his concerns, and Marriott fired Hogan, who was working as an independent contractor.
The dispute between UTOPIA and Hogan initially erupted recently in Utah's 3rd District Court when the fiber-optic network sued its former director of marketing trying to prohibit Hogan from "disclosing any information obtained during the course of rendering services under [his employment] agreement," according to Hogan's federal court lawsuit.
However, that state court lawsuit was sealed at the request of UTOPIA. Hogan responded by filing the U.S. District Court lawsuit. And that action alleges the information UTOPIA is trying to prevent from being made public is Hogan's "perception of deficiencies in the leadership of UTOPIA's executive director."
In a hearing Tuesday in 3rd District Court, Marriott said he had continuing problems with Hogan's job performance over the years although he continued to give him his support. Hogan said he was made director of operations early in 2011.
Marriott said Hogan's contract was terminated because of loss of trust, insubordination and the severe disruption he caused in the company's ranks.
"It was significantly more than simply trying to blow a whistle," Marriott said, contending his brother's relationship with Tetra Tech was disclosed many times to the board.
Hogan is asking for a $322,00 judgment against UTOPIA, as well as additional damages to be proven at trial.