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Davis County deputies nicknamed the ‘sexual harassment trio’ disciplined for ‘relentless’ advances toward young, female colleagues

A monthslong investigation into the conduct of three Davis County corrections deputies found they had been “relentless” in making unwanted and inappropriate advances toward young, female co-workers.

The inquiry identified numerous instances of policy violations and also found that the deputies’ supervisors ignored, or did not fully investigate, complaints about the deputies’ behavior.

One deputy resigned, two others got time off without pay and two supervisors were demoted.

In addition to habitually hanging around the work area of young, female clerks, and repeatedly calling them and sending them messages, the investigation found that the deputies had, on multiple occasions, physically made female co-workers uncomfortable — including forcing a woman into an unwanted hug, grabbing a woman’s buttock at the gym and making sexual advances that were inappropriate, leading at least one woman to quit her job with the county, according to the documents.

One deputy, Nicholas Chard, resigned in early April, about a week after the investigation concluded but before disciplinary notices were issued, according to Davis County Human Resources Director Debra Alexander.

Deputies Larry Hubbard and Preston Ellsworth were suspended without pay for their offenses — Hubbard for two days and Ellsworth for the equivalent of five workdays — according to letters of notice issued to them April 19 and shared with The Salt Lake Tribune in response to a records request.

Records show that two supervising officers also were disciplined for failing to appropriately address harassment issues: Kevin Fielding was demoted from chief deputy to captain and Henry Jaquez from captain to lieutenant.

In interviews with investigators, co-workers referred to Chard, Hubbard and Ellsworth as the “sexual harassment trio,” “team sexual harassment” and “the creepers” because of the way they targeted young women at work.

New hires were warned that the trio might “ogle” or flirt with them in a “creepy” way, staff members told investigators.

“They were relentless,” a witness told investigators. “They were sending emails constantly after you shut them down. They were wanting to engage constantly. They hunt in a pack. The three of them would come into the pod, the door would close behind them and they would make comments.”

One woman, who no longer works for the county, said a person yelled at her “in the middle of the hallway and [told] me I was the ‘Davis County whore.’ ”

All three of the deputies are married, the report said, a fact that made their co-workers view their advances as especially “offensive.”

Chard, Ellsworth and especially Hubbard’s conduct ended up being “one of the primary reasons” a female employee quit her job at the sheriff’s office, the probe found.

The deputies were warned by a supervisor in June 2014 to “stop hanging out, calling on the steno phone and constantly emailing the new young clerks,” the supervisor told investigators. “I told them the crew was concerned about their behavior, and the clerks were sick and tired of it.” The deputies said they understood, according to documents.

But in March 2016 while the three deputies were in the gym about 4:30 a.m., Chard allegedly slapped or grabbed a 19-year-old female clerk’s buttock while she was on a treadmill near the men’s locker room. Someone walking past the gym reported the behavior.

When a supervisor asked the clerk about it, she acknowledged it but “did not seem to realize how inappropriate the action was.”

A supervisor emailed all three deputies and instructed them to leave the clerk alone, documents say.

The clerk later told investigators that the contact was not welcome and she tried to push Chard away, but she did not report it because she “did not want to deal with it.”

Chard denied the physical contact and said he could not remember the incident.

Chard also is accused of inappropriate sexual relationships with co-workers, documents say, though he denied to investigators ever having had a romantic or sexual relationship with anyone who worked for Davis County.

One woman told investigators that her first sexual encounter with Chard occurred while she and Chard were riding together in the back seat of a car to a funeral. Other co-workers were present, she said, and Chard reached up her dress to perform a sex act.

“I was hoping nobody would notice,” the woman said. “I did not want to make a scene.”

The two later had a “full sexual encounter,” she told investigators, and their relationship lasted a few months before she went into a female supervisor’s office one day and started crying. She then “just stopped talking” to Chard, she said.

The woman described their relationship as ”consensual,” but elaborated that she was both “OK with it and not at the same time. I did not want it to happen, but I did not object either.”

Chard said he remembered going to the funeral but did not remember the sex act. “I might have been stupidly grabbing her leg but no more than that,” he told investigators.

Witnesses also said that on at least one occasion sometime in 2016, Chard claimed to have masturbated into a paper cup and gave it to a female co-worker at work, saying, “Here is your daily shot of protein. Drink it.”

At least one witness had seen text messages that Chard had sent the woman relating to the incident, the witness told investigators.

The woman told investigators she didn’t remember whether such an incident had happened more than once, but on at least one occasion, she said, she took the cup, told Chard she would drink it and threw it away in the restroom.

Chard denied the allegations.

Chard also was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female inmate, records show. An inmate had told another deputy that Chard had been following her around and calling her, documents say. Phone records showed that Chard had made calls to the woman, a witness said.

Another witness said Chard was texting an 18-year-old “girl at the work center” and that he was written up for it, but Chard’s personnel files revealed no disciplinary action.

Chard acknowledged that he has been accused of being “too friendly” with inmates but said he has never been in trouble for it. “I like my job too much,” he told investigators. “I would never go that way to do anything.”

Hubbard and Ellsworth are also accused of behaving inappropriately, according to the probe.

On one occasion, a young, female clerk had dealt with a difficult situation at work and was upset. She’d gone to the restroom and when she came outside, the trio of deputies was “spread across” the hall “like a wave,” a witness said.

The witness said she burned a DVD of surveillance footage from the incident. “Hubbard saw her upset and started forcefully trying to hug her,” the witness told investigators, “and she is visibly pushing him off and fighting him. It was so evident she didn’t want to be touched.”

One witness told investigators that when Ellsworth tried to get phone numbers for the young, female clerks, she told him he was “not the patron saint of clerks” and to leave the women alone.

Ellsworth also allegedly sent sexually explicit text messages to co-workers and used pet names for them in messages. The behavior negatively affected the work environment, witnesses said.

“I don’t have a filter,” Ellsworth told investigators when they asked him about “inappropriate texting.”

Ellsworth cited “dark humor” as the reason for the term “sexual harassment trio,” according to documents. “A lot of intense flirting stems from the fact that’s our humor style and coping mechanism. … It’s not meant to offend — it’s our way of dealing with work. We know [the] older generation of clerks don’t want to hear that. That’s why we would be with younger clerks.”

The deputies also allegedly sent out unwanted friend requests via Facebook.

One woman said she declined to be friends with Hubbard on Facebook, citing the fact that he was married, and he allegedly replied, “My wife doesn’t have to know.”

Hubbard told investigators he doesn’t believe he said that.

Any discipline more serious than a written warning must be issued by a captain, chief deputy or someone of higher rank, according to the report.

Jaquez and Fielding reportedly overlooked the inappropriate behavior and sexually suggestive comments that the deputies made, and when Jaquez was asked to address problems, witnesses said, he “blew it off” rather than fully investigating the allegations.

Of the trio, Jaquez told investigators he “knew these guys were a little high maintenance” but he “did not know a lot of details” about the issues with them. He told investigators he was not aware that the county was “losing people because of these guys.”

Similarly, Fielding appeared to have failed to understand the extent of the allegations of harassment against the deputies. He said Jaquez would have been the one to report it to him.

Emails showed that Fielding had been informed of the incident involving Chard and a clerk at the gym, but he said he did not remember it. He also told investigators Chard had been disciplined for the incident with the girl at the work center, but that was not reflected in the deputy’s personnel file.

Jaquez and Fielding also reportedly ignored concerns from staff members of a “heightened liability” while working with a particular person, who was not named in documents.

The “concerning” allegations about the deputies’ behavior and supervisors’ lack of action were first reported to human resources Nov. 20, and multiple people brought forth complaints. The office was conducting a different investigation at the time and, at its conclusion, opened its probe of the alleged harassment Jan. 25.

During the course of the investigation, the office interviewed 35 people, some multiple times, and collected 220 pages of notes and documents. At the conclusion of the investigation March 27, human resources submitted its findings to the sheriff’s office for discipline.

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