A former Davis County prosecutor who is suing his old office recently won a victory when the Davis County Career Service Council ruled that he was fired without due process.
But that doesn’t mean Tyler James Larsen is guaranteed to have his job back anytime soon.
Larsen, who started working in the Davis County Attorney’s Office in 2007, has been fired twice from his job as a deputy Davis County attorney.
Initially, Larsen was fired after misconduct related to a March 2010 armed robbery trial, according to a Utah State Bar disciplinary complaint. Larsen appealed his 2010 termination to the Career Service Council, but his career grievance was denied.
He appealed the council’s denial, and in August 2011, 3rd District Judge Deno Himonas ruled that Larsen had not received due process.
Davis County and the Career Service Council then appealed Himonas’ decision to the Utah Court of Appeals, and voluntarily reinstated Larsen, but left him on paid administrative leave. In a letter written on April 25 to Davis County Personnel Director Melvin Miles, Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings asked that Larsen be taken off the payroll, claiming that transferring jurisdiction of the case to the court of appeals returned Larsen’s status to that of a “terminated employee.”
That April 25 action served as Larsen’s second firing, according to the Career Service Council. And on July 12, the three-member Career Service Council ruled that Larsen again did not receive proper due process, including notification of his firing and an employment hearing, prior to the latest firing. They ordered he be reinstated to his previous standings with the attorney’s office — on paid administrative leave — and that he receive back-pay for the last three months.
However, the council did note in its findings that the county attorney’s office can still pursue firing Larsen, as long as he is given his due process.
“We have seen enough information in the record which leads us to believe that there are likely sufficient grounds for termination if the proper procedure is employed,” the council wrote. “It is our view that if the Davis County Attorney does not have confidence in the work of Tyler Larsen … then the Davis County Attorney should be able to terminate Tyler Larsen by carefully following the proper due process procedures.”
In an email Friday, Rawlings said he views the council’s decision as “an invitation to recommence termination of Mr. Larsen’s employment.”
But Larsen said Friday that he hopes to come back to his old office and resume working as a prosecutor.
“I hope for a smooth transition back to work, and hopefully we can put this behind us,” Larsen said. “I feel comfortable going back and working, and just continuing my career and putting this behind us.”
Larsen filed a federal lawsuit against the Davis County Attorney’s Office in April, naming Rawlings and a number of county officials — including two of the three members of the council that granted him back-pay — as defendants. Larsen asks for at least $1 million in the lawsuit, alleging that there was a hostile work environment that involved cover-ups, that he was fired without due process and that Rawlings committed an act of “workplace violence” against him.
Attorneys representing Rawlings and the county attorney’s office in the federal case deny these allegations in their June response to the federal lawsuit. They have asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
According to court documents, the soonest the case could go to trial is January 2015.
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 addition to their original complaint, the State Bar asked in June that Larsen be sanctioned again for conduct during litigation, according to court documents.