Utah officials move to fire controversial trooper Lisa Steed
The Utah Highway Patrol has begun the process of firing Cpl. Lisa Steed, her attorney said Wednesday.
UHP has been investigating Steed since April, when a state judge in Salt Lake County and one in Davis County found she had been untruthful on the witness stand during DUI and drug possession cases.
Then, last month, The Salt Lake Tribune reported on a 2010 memo in which Steed's then-supervisor, Sgt. Rob Nixon, referred to "a pattern" of conflicting information between Steed's arrest reports and laboratory results. In seven of 20 cases Nixon said he reviewed, toxicology tests showed drivers arrested by Steed for DUI had only the remnants of drugs or pharmaceuticals in their blood, not necessarily the illegal kind, and four other drivers had no drugs in their systems.
UHP sent a letter Nov. 1 to Steed notifying her she will be fired, attorney Greg Skordas said. Skordas said his client has requested a meeting with the commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, Lance Davenport.
"She loves her job and she would like to keep it in some fashion," Skordas said. "She's certainly willing to be reassigned or moved to a different area."
Skordas said UHP hasn't replied to schedule the meeting. Such meetings are the first step in an appeal process available to state employees facing termination. It could be months before there is a resolution. The appeals process for state employees includes a hearing before an administrative board. Even if that process ends in Steed's firing, she could file a lawsuit contesting the termination.
Skordas said the letter from UHP cited the findings by at least one of the judges and said the ruling meant she could no longer testify in court. The letter also accused Steed of creating an unfavorable public perception of the UHP, Skordas said.
Dwayne Baird, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, which includes the UHP, declined to discuss Steed on Wednesday.
"It's still an internal matter," Baird said, "and it would be inappropriate for us to discuss it."
In a news conference after the disclosure of the 2010 memo, UHP Maj. Mike Rapich confirmed Steed was not disciplined for the discrepancies between arrest reports and lab results. He said the issues raised in Nixon's memo were addressed with Steed, though he declined to say how.
Rapich said he wasn't aware of any cases in which defendants were wrongfully arrested or convicted because of Steed. Last week a Weber County man, Clifford Ray, filed a notice with UHP saying Steed arrested him in 2010 and falsified a report, eventually leading to his conviction for DUI. Ray's notice is the first step toward a lawsuit.
As of April, Steed had received two written reprimands in her career, both in 2010. One was for removing a microphone from her uniform during a traffic stop. The other was for drawing a blood sample from a suspect on the side of the road when she previously had been told not to do so without assistance. Skordas has described both transgressions as minor.
Skordas said Steed was placed on administrative leave and ordered to leave UHP offices the same day she served with the letter. She continues to draw a paycheck from the state while appealing.
Skordas last month said Steed was working for UHP out of uniform and without a gun. He also said there were discussions about Steed taking a civilian post within the Department of Public Safety, but Skordas said no such option was discussed in the letter.
"She's pretty discouraged," Skordas said of Steed. "This wasn't something we had expected."