Sandy • Police Chief Kevin Thacker has been fired for “inappropriate touching” of other employees, Sandy Mayor Kurt Bradburn said during a Tuesday news conference.
Bradburn said Thacker had been “cautioned” for “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” behavior in the past, but since the chief had not changed his behavior, the mayor said he decided to fire Thacker.
The chief had been on administrative leave since April 2, after city human resources personnel told Bradburn about the allegations.
The mayor declined to give details of the allegations — such as a timeline for the alleged misconduct or how many employees had come forward — other than to say there were allegations over a number of years.
“Again, I’m not going to get into the specific timeline,” Bradburn said after being asked for it multiple times. “I think it’s sufficient to say it’s been a number of years, and there’s multiple instances.”
When asked whether the previous mayoral administration knew about the allegations, Bradburn said to ask his predecessor, Tom Dolan.
Dolan did not immediately respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment. Thacker also didn’t return calls from a Tribune reporter.
Bradburn, who was sworn in as mayor in January, said the city’s investigation was not a criminal investigation. He declined to comment on Thacker’s job performance outside of the investigation, saying his three months in office wasn’t long enough to form an opinion.
Police spokesman Sgt. Jason Nielsen didn’t respond to The Tribune’s request for comment regarding a possible criminal investigation. Individuals at the Police Department’s front desk directed all questions about the Thacker’s firing to city officials.
Bradburn said William O’Neal, who was chief deputy under Thacker, will be the interim police chief. Bradburn said the city would soon begin a nationwide search for a new chief.
Thacker had been an officer with Sandy police since 1983. He became chief in 2014.
Councilman Steve Fairbanks said Tuesday that he worked closely with the Police Department and got along with Thacker. Bradburn told Fairbanks on Tuesday why Thacker had been placed on leave, the councilman said.
Fairbanks said he was shocked and “heartbroken” by the allegations, which he believes to be true. He also said he hates that Bradburn is faced with something like this so early in his mayoral tenure.
“It’s a tough time in our society,” Fairbanks said. “It seems to be difficult for men and women to have any sort of relationship at all without something like this either occurring or being alleged to have occurred.”
Fairbanks said he has never heard of anything similar happening at the city, but this sort of complaint likely would not reach him. He said he is worried about how this situation will affect employees.
“I just worry that the overall, the #metoo kind of movement, could end up being damaging to the overall [morale] to our employees,” Fairbanks said.
If anyone is being assaulted or harassed, Fairbanks said, the misconduct needs to be reported and stopped immediately. But he said the city is a “tight-knit” community. He doesn’t want to see people stop hugging each other or shaking hands because they are worried about how it could be perceived.
He also said workplace romance happens. Employees have met on the job and later got married. He said he doesn’t see a problem with that.
“What I worry about is things like this preventing our employees from having congenial relationships,” Fairbanks said.