Provo • An investigator hired by Utah County could not substantiate a female employee’s claim that County Commissioner Greg Graves sexually harassed her, but he did conclude that Graves retaliated against her after she asked the commissioner to skip an off-site training session she planned to attend.
After her request, Graves demeaned the employee publicly, calling her “worthless” and “stupid,” making lewd gestures at her and telling others publicly and privately he wanted her fired, the investigator wrote.
In response to media requests, the county released a redacted version of the investigator’s report late Thursday afternoon. On Thursday night, the county Republican party urged Graves to quit.
Graves did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. Before the report’s release, he said it “100 percent exonerated” him of the sexual harassment claim and said he had no plans to resign, despite calls from his two fellow commissioners to do so.
On Wednesday, the county released 100-plus pages containing the employee’s complaint and related documents. She alleged that Graves made sexually suggestive comments to her on several occasions in April and May, and that he rubbed her leg above the knee while the two rode in a golf cart at an outing and told her: “Don’t show if you don’t want to be touched.”
The investigator, attorney Spencer Phillips, interviewed 16 people last month, including the female employee and Graves. Graves “denied most of the factual allegations,” Phillips wrote in his report, dated Monday. Graves did admit making a few specific comments, but with “variations or explanations that are contradicted by himself or other witnesses,” Phillips noted.
Graves denied touching the employee on the thigh. He said he did not wave his “clothed buttocks” in the employee’s face at a meeting, an incident described by the woman and other witnesses.
Phillips found the employee to be “a credible witness,” he wrote, “and the evidence shows that she complained to several county employees that (Graves’s) ‘harassing’ behavior made her feel uncomfortable.”
But despite “extensive interviews,” Phillips was “unable to identify any eyewitnesses who could either confirm or deny the various allegations of sexual or suggestive comments and behaviors.”
He was, however, able to find by a “preponderance of evidence,” the standard of proof generally required to prevail in civil litigation, that Graves took retaliatory measures against the employee starting last May, after she asked him not to accompany her on a training trip. From that time on, Phillips wrote, Graves treated her in “a very poor manner.”
Graves is “widely viewed as a workplace bully, dishonest, demeaning, intimidating, threatening, explosive, and someone with whom personal interaction is to be avoided as much as possible,” Phillips wrote. The commissioner’s “unfair, demeaning and offensive” behavior towards the woman was “fully consistent with the way Graves treats many other employees of the County,” the attorney wrote.
There is no procedure to remove or force Graves from office based on the report’s findings, but his two commission colleagues again urged him to step down Thursday. All are Republicans.
His fellow commissioners could vote to censure him and take away his commission responsibilities. But they acknowledged Thursday that a censure carries little weight.
“From my perspective he’s lost the public trust, the party’s trust, and he’s definitely lost employee trust,” Commission Chairman Bill Lee said. “A change needs to be made and I hope that he would step up to it and say, for the best of all concerned, he’d just step down.”
The commission is working on the county budget and has a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. Lee said he expects Graves to attend.
“And frankly, as a commissioner, he has the right to be there and discuss what’s going on,” Lee said. “It’s going to be a high anxiety meeting.”
Commissioner Nathan Ivie said the harassment complaint “is a ‘he said, she said,’ which 99 percent of these things are.”
Ivie added: “But there’s no question about the retaliation, and that’s how this guy works.” Like Phillips, he said he found the employee “to be a credible good employee, and I find (Graves) to be a dishonest individual, and if you look at the track record that’s proven.”
Rob Craig, chairman of the Utah County Republican party, said in a statement that Graves “has made a mockery of his office as a county commissioner and also of the principles of the Republican Party.” He said the party had “zero tolerance” for any Republican officer who creates a hostile or intimidating environment and that the party would also pursue Graves’ censure or, if possible, his removal.
“His conduct is unacceptable,” Craig said. “These actions demand his immediate resignation. He no longer has the confidence of the Utah County Republican Party and its members.”