Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Fired UDOT worker ‘anxious’ about return to work

Government » Civil rights manager not sure how she’ll be treated.

First Published Mar 29 2012 07:47 pm • Last Updated May 12 2012 10:22 am

A former civil rights manager at the Utah Department of Transportation heads back to work Monday after it was determined she was wrongly fired.

But Denice Graham returns with anxiety and apprehension after a year out of work that she said took an emotional and physical toll.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I’m anxious. Unsure. I’m hopeful that they can be professional and accept the fact that they were wrong and that I was vindicated and not treat me differently or retaliate in any manner," Graham said Thursday. "It’s going to be uncomfortable, for sure, but I’m also excited."

UDOT fired Graham in April 2011, accusing her of leaking confidential information about the $1.1 billion contract to rebuild Interstate 15 through Utah County.

Graham denied providing any confidential information and appealed her termination. Last month, the Career Service Review Office ruled the firing was "clearly not supported" and ordered her reinstatement.

UDOT said at the time they were exploring an appeal but opted against it, said UDOT spokesman Nile Easton.

"We met with our attorneys and it sounded like it was really 50-50 whether we were going to win" an appeal, Easton said. "We believe the hearing officer didn’t understand what she’d done, and we don’t feel it was fully explained properly. But, at this point, we felt like it was just time to move on. For us, for Denice, for taxpayers, it’s better to just move on."

Easton said she will return to the position of civil rights manager with her previous salary and expects her to be welcomed back.

"For the team she works with, everybody’s busy. We all have day jobs that keep us busy. I don’t think they’re even thinking about it," he said. "I don’t foresee any kind of weirdness, at least on our UDOT employees’ part."

Graham’s firing and reinstatement followed the mishandled, billion-dollar contract, which saw a quiet $13 million settlement with a bidder and revelations of improper relationships between another contractor and a UDOT employee.


story continues below
story continues below

Her replacement, Debra Charleston, was also fired by UDOT, in January.

A former director of black affairs for the state, Charleston suggested her dismissal was racially motivated. She said her supervisor was disappointed that she was organizing a Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission luncheon featuring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

As for Graham, she said that the investigation, firing and year out of work have been grueling.

"It’s been a living hell," she said. "It has taken a toll on me emotionally and physically and I literally almost had a stroke, and I’m under a doctor’s care right now and have been over the last year for the physical toll that the stress was taking on me."

She said she slept little during the year and her husband bought only food and "bare necessities," skipping birthdays and Christmas. They sold possessions and borrowed money from family members.

"Even after winning I still haven’t won because I’m still left with the financial burden," she said, "and that’s heart wrenching to know that you win but you really don’t win," she said.

Graham said UDOT has made no offers for back pay. Easton said the order from the Career Service Review Office required only her reinstatement.

In late 2009, Graham, who was part of the team reviewing bids for the I-15 project, was asked by an officer from Wadsworth Brothers Construction, part of the team bidding on the project, whether another team, Flatiron Construction, had won the contract.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.