Provo • Utah County has released a complaint against County Commissioner Greg Graves, spurred by an employee who said he made sexually suggestive comments to her and rubbed her leg above the knee.
Another employee said she complained to her supervisor about Graves’ conduct, which she likened to bullying that led her to search for a new job outside Utah County government earlier this year.
A report, apparently sparked by the first employee’s allegations, paints a picture of workers who felt intimidated by Graves, a first-term county commissioner. An employee said Graves talked with her about sex and rubbed her leg above her knee while the two rode in a cart during an employee golf outing.
The county didn’t release the results of its investigation of Graves, who said he has been cleared of the sexual harassment claim. Instead, it released the more-than-100-page complaint that depicts an intimidating commissioner whom employees also saw as vindictive and prone to what a witness described as “outbursts.”
Commissioners Nathan Ivie and Bill Lee called on their colleague to resign after the investigation into the complaint, which they voted earlier in the day to make public.
“The conclusion of that investigation confirmed my personal feelings,” Ivie wrote in a public Facebook post. “He abuses his power, intimidates employees and is vindictive to those who disagree with him. This type of abuse of power cannot be allowed.”
“We live in a world where we’re elected out of public trust,” Lee said. “He has lost the public trust. ... It’s in the county’s best interest for him to resign.”
Graves didn’t attend a hearing on a Daily Herald journalist’s appeal for the county to release the complaint, at which Lee and Ivie decided the public had a right to know the allegations against an elected official. The Salt Lake Tribune also requested the complaint, which the county attorney’s office denied to release until Wednesday evening, after the commissioners voted to make it public.
The report was heavily redacted, making it difficult to understand whether allegations about Graves’ behavior come from one witness or more. On more than one page, a witness account describes Graves as intimidating. There are multiple references to fear of Graves trying to get county employees fired.
Graves was upset in October that an employee wasn’t in the office at 8 a.m. and called the female employee a “worthless piece of s---,” according to a witness account of a conversation with him. He repeated the phrase in a separate conversation in April, a witness said.
During one interaction about his plans to cut staff positions and the department’s budget, Graves even referred to himself as “the bully commissioner,” an employee said.
One female employee told another witness: “It’s just easier not to say no to Commissioner Graves.”
A second woman, Emily Gillingwater, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday that she left her job with the county’s tax administration office “after Commissioner Graves created a hostile work environment for me.”
“I loved the people I worked with at the county, but I could no longer work in that environment with Commissioner Graves, who I had frequent contact with,” Gillingwater said in an emailed response to questions from The Tribune.
Gillingwater said Graves was pleasant to work with “most of the time.” Occasionally, though, Gillingwater said, he would raise his voice and once threatened her job.
“During an abrupt personal conversation with me, he threatened my job as a county employee,” Gillingwater said. “After that threat was made, I chose to look for employment elsewhere, as he created a hostile work environment.”
The account echoed others in the complaint, in which witnesses described Graves yelling on occasions in the county building.
In a phone call Wednesday, Graves said he won’t resign, but he also won’t seek re-election to the commission in 2018. The details of the investigation, when released, will clear him of wrongdoing related to the sexual harassment claim, he said.
“I will tell you it has 100 percent exonerated me from any of the claimant’s claims,” Graves said.
Graves tied the complaint against him to the recent national wave of women publicly accusing powerful men of sexual misconduct.
“People [are] using all of the events in the national news to create stuff that’s not there,” Graves said.
In response to Ivie’s suggestion that other employees complained that Graves uses intimidation, Graves said he could understand that his conduct may offend people.
“When you’re blunt and you try and hold people accountable, it comes across — I can understand why people may be offended at times,” he said.
Commissioners didn’t say whether the county attorney’s completion of the review meant all investigations into the behavior were complete.
“There could be something at the state, or civil or others,” Ivie said.
Lee said the investigative file would be available Thursday or Friday, and he declined to discuss the review’s findings.
Graves also declined to discuss the investigation’s full findings, aside from denying wrongdoing related to the sexual harassment complaint. He didn’t respond to a request for comment on Gillingwater’s account.
Ivie wrote in his public Facebook post that if Graves didn’t resign, Ivie would look to drastically limit his power as a commissioner.
“I am committed to ensuring the abuse of power ends,” Ivie wrote. “I believe Mr. Graves should resign his position effective immediately. If he is unwilling to do so I will look to censure him, remove his portfolio assignments and take the required steps to limit his power to prevent future abuse.”
Graves made headlines in late November after he joined the Democratic Party, saying he was trying to make a political point to prove he was the only true conservative on the three-member commission.
At least one of the commission’s votes wasn’t conservative enough for him, Graves said, leading to the switch. The move surprised the other two Republican commissioners, who said they routinely disagree with Graves during debates.
Clarification: Dec. 6, 10:17 a.m. >> An earlier version stated that multiple employees accused Graves of harassment. That is not yet confirmed, though Commissioner Ivie in a state referenced "claims filed against him by multiple employees."