On the homepage of Republican Salt Lake County district attorney candidate Nathan Evershed’s website, he lists three main reasons he’s running against his boss, Democrat Sim Gill, to lead the office.
His No. 1 motive? Internal politics.
“In the last two years, we lost over 30 percent of the district attorney employees,” he says. “They are leaving because of politics within the office. We are losing experienced attorneys and staff, and that costs taxpayers as well as victims.”
Gill has disputed Evershed’s use of the data, noting that turnover is generally expressed as an annual percentage — and that his eight-year average attrition rate is just under 8 percent. He also argues that most of the turnover isn’t because of bad blood in the office, as Evershed asserts.
“He’s not counting people who went on to become judges,” Gill said. “People went on to the U.S. attorney’s office. People made lateral moves for more money. People retired. In one year, that’s only 10 percent. If you actually drill it down to just the attorneys, it’s a really small percentage of the total workforce on an annualized attrition. But it’s not as sexy as saying 1 in 4 people are leaving the office.”
Annual turnover data released to The Salt Lake Tribune through an open-records request shows the number of separations in the office has increased from 6.9 percent in 2015 to over 10 percent in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The data show 64 percent of the 82 full-time employees who left from 2016 to 2018 resigned voluntarily, while 21 percent retired and the remaining 15 percent were terminated.
A spokeswoman with the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest professional HR society, said research has found the nationwide turnover rate is 16 percent.
Average numbers can vary across professions, but an article from BCG Attorney Search, a national legal recruiting firm, says “attrition has been a chronic problem in the legal industry for decades” due to high workloads and lack of training, mentoring and developing opportunities.
Evershed says people in the office have told him they’re leaving because they feel “belittled” and “micromanaged." Their departures, he adds, are costing the taxpayers extra money and valuable experience.
“It’s gotten to a point where people that were just experienced, good, dedicated prosecutors — staff, as well — are saying, ‘Man, I was planning to be here for a long time, but just the way things are right now, it’s time for me just to go,’” he said.
“When you now have to reach to train and hire and re-energize and get things going again, that’s a big cost,” he said. “It affects the community because now our experience level has just gone down. You’re replacing an experienced veteran prosecutor that’s going to Summit County with someone that’s just coming over from the justice court that’s been there for a few months.”
Evershed says most of the people in the office are supporting his candidacy. His website lists testimonials from three current employees in the District Attorney’s Office — the human resources coordinator, a prosecutor and support staff — and one former employee who points to issues with management, office culture and transparency under Gill’s administration as the reason.
Several other former employees from both sides of the aisle have also endorsed Evershed in statements on his Facebook page.
Wendy Glackin, the office’s HR coordinator, has been in the office for nearly two years and said the office culture has grown worse as the election nears, to the point that employees are “afraid to come to work” or to voice dissent against Gill and his administration.
Under his leadership, Glackin echoed Evershed’s statement that office administrators are “belittling" and “micromanaging” and said there’s also a culture of favoritism in which rules apply to some people but not to others.
“I want the public to understand that that office is broken inside and we employees love our job, we love what we’re doing, we love helping the community — but it’s a myth what Sim’s projecting the office to be like,” she said. “It’s not a happy work environment.”
Glackin said she is supporting Evershed because he’s open, honest and will listen to the concerns of people within the office to improve the culture there.
“I see the way he treats me, I see the way he treats other staff, the 90 percent of the staff in the office that supports him, and that’s the kind of leader I want,” she said. “I want someone with integrity. Someone that cares more about the employees than they do about the news stories.”
Gill said there are people in the office who are supporting him but that he’s consciously declined to seek them out.
“I make the decision to run for office, not the people who are in the office,” he said. “And it is not fair to put them through that process. So I absolutely do not ask for or seek out support or testimonials from people in the office for a very deliberate reason.”
Instead, Gill has touted his endorsements by eight Salt Lake County mayors — from Republican Troy Walker in Draper to Ben McAdams, Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County.
Historical turnover data requested by The Salt Lake Tribune show the turnover rate during Republican D.A. Lohra Miller’s tenure from 2007 to 2011 was slightly higher than Gill’s over the past four years at 10.9 percent, according to approximate numbers from the District Attorney’s Office. The highest annual turnover rate in Miller’s administration was roughly 17.27 percent the first year she took over the office.
Interestingly, Evershed’s rhetoric matches Gill’s from eight years ago, when the now-district attorney was Salt Lake City’s chief attorney and prosecutor.
“There is a perception and, to a certain extent, a reality that the District Attorney’s Office is broken and needs to be fixed,” Gill told The Tribune in 2010, painting his opponent as a person who pursued prosecutions for political reasons, much as Evershed has done to Gill.