A judge has thrown out the lawsuit filed by the former University of Utah police chief who said he was retaliated against after he tried to reform the troubled department.
Rodney Chatman’s case was dismissed after a drawn-out process that has stretched over two years since his departure — a longer time than he had been in his position at the U., originally hired after the murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey.
In a decision on Aug. 9, Judge Elizabeth A. Hruby-Mills determined that Chatman had not provided enough evidence to support his claims of discrimination and retribution by the U. She granted summary judgment — a ruling that resolves claims without going to trial — in favor of the university.
That effectively ends Chatman’s high-profile lawsuit and the last of the legal claims that had come in the fallout of McCluskey’s death in fall 2018, which exposed widespread failures by the U.
The police chief who Chatman had replaced, Dale Brophy, at one point also submitted a notice with his intention to sue the school for harm to his reputation, but he never actually filed a case. Brophy had retired amid criticism over how his department handled concerns reported by McCluskey before she was killed by a man she briefly dated.
Miguel Deras, the officer who showed nude photos of McCluskey to other employees in the office, was going to file along with Brophy, but also did not move forward with that. He was fired after a state investigation confirmed Salt Lake Tribune reporting about his conduct. The time limit for them to sue under Utah law has passed.
Chatman was hired and took over the embattled department in February 2020.
Almost immediately, he said, the U. tried to push him out because of his transparency. He said he tried to blow the whistle on other alleged safety problems, including his belief that sexual assaults were not being property reported. He said administrators dismissed those issues each time he brought them up and blocked his attempts to create meaningful change.
The school put Chatman on leave less than a year after he started to investigate accusations that he had been carrying a gun and wearing his badge before he was a certified officer in Utah. He said the U. used that investigation to shame him and silence him.
After he was cleared of wrongdoing, the school did not reinstate him.
Chatman had been asking for $2.5 million for violations of his contract and the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act.
With the case now dismissed, his attorney Kathleen McConkie said Chatman is considering whether or not to appeal.
“He was quite disappointed” by the judge’s decision, she said. “They say they don’t believe he’s a whistleblower. It’s unfortunate.”
The judge said Chatman never provided actual information that the U. was violating reporting requirements for sexual assaults, saying the chief only made a “speculative” remark a few weeks into his tenure that he figured the school wasn’t complying based on early observation. That didn’t afford him protection for “protected reporting,” she concluded.
Chatman has since taken a position with Brown University, the Ivy League school in Rhode Island, where he holds a higher title than he did at the U.
The University of Utah declined to comment on the judge’s ruling.
The U. has restructured its department again. Instead of a police chief, it has hired Scott Carver to serve as deputy chief safety officer of police services.