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Provo mayor vague about sex allegations against police chief, but says public trust issues required his resignation

First Published      Last Updated Jun 02 2017 09:31 pm


Investigation » No charges have been filed against John King, who resigned Tuesday.

Provo • While Utah officials Thursday remained tight-lipped on specifics about the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Provo Police Chief John King, the city's mayor said he asked for King's resignation because the community needs complete trust in its police chief.

"Regardless of how valid the [accusations] are," Mayor John Curtis said during a Thursday morning news conference, "he has been tainted and damaged. It was my feeling that it would not be possible for him to go forward leading the department with that hanging out there in the community."

When King resigned Tuesday after three years as Provo's chief, city officials said he was stepping down to move out-of-state to care for his ailing mother. On Wednesday evening, however, Deputy Mayor Corey Norman confirmed that the departure was also due to Curtis learning more details about what Norman referred to as a "sexual assault investigation" into King.




The mayor said he received "a complaint of sexual misconduct regarding Chief King" on Feb. 8 from a woman who was not a city employee. He alerted the Utah County Attorney's Office to the allegations, who passed the investigation on to the Unified Police Department and the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office to avoid any conflict.

On March 1, Salt Lake County prosecutors sent a letter to the Utah County attorney informing him that there was insufficient evidence for criminal charges to be filed against the police chief. Curtis added that King did not break any city policies.

UPD Lt. Brian Lohrke said Thursday he was not familiar with the investigation, and therefore, could not provide any more details about the allegations. Chief Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Blake Nakamura also declined to comment about the specific allegations because charges were not filed.

"Allegations were made, it was investigated and charges were declined," Nakamura said Thursday. "I'm not at liberty to go into more details."

King did not immediately return a request for comment. The Tribune has submitted a public records request seeking more details about the allegations.

Curtis said the resignation was a mutual decision between himself and the police chief.

When asked why city officials did not initially cite the sex assault allegations as reason for the chief's departure, Curtis said he was trying to balance a desire to protect an alleged victim, while recognizing a career and reputation was a stake. The mayor added that King's family health issues are legitimate.

"Everything he said was not a fib," Curtis said of King. "It was the truth. He had not broken any policies, he had not broken the law."

King had been on a short leave of absence to be with his family on the East Coast about the time the allegations were made, Norman said. Once the investigation began, the mayor called King and asked him to extend his leave.

Norman said that initially, city officials were told King was not going to be charged, and he was taken off administrative leave.

But later, more details of the investigation were made available to Curtis, Norman said, and the mayor was "uncomfortable" with those details.

Curtis said Thursday the situation involved "deep complexities," but he would not provide any further details.

Given the "totality" of King's situation, the mayor said he needed a police chief who could deal with important events — like investigating a homicide that occurred in the city earlier this week.

"I need somebody, when something like that happens in my city, to be 100 percent head-in-the-game," Curtis said. "And then they have to stand before the public and I can't have the public questioning them. I can't have their credibility [questioned.] And to me, that's the totality of the situation.

"And I think as unfair as that may sound, that those of us who accept that public role, that public limelight, that's part of our package, that's part of our deal. Public trust is so fragile, and if that's lost, it becomes very difficult to govern."

As they search for a new person to lead the police department, Curtis said he will appoint one of the four captains in the department as interim chief.

jmiller@sltrib.com

 

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