An investigative report finds the Grantsville mayor, accused of aggressive behavior, violated city policies

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall welcomes the Prison Relocation Commission while also taking a moment to express his strong opposition to the possible placement of the state prison just west of town. The public was invited to a question-and-answer session at Grantsville High School on Thursday evening.

Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall — who was accused by multiple residents and city officials of aggressive behavior — engaged in conduct that constituted “clear violations” of the city’s employee code, an outside investigator determined.

That conclusion is part of a 16-page investigative report commissioned by the Grantsville City Council last year but was initially redacted from the version turned over to The Salt Lake Tribune, after the city was ordered to do so by the State Records Committee.

After a mediation session with the city’s outside attorneys and the records committee, a less-redacted version of the report’s conclusions was provided to The Tribune.

Spencer Phillips, the outside attorney hired to conduct the investigation, wrote in the report that a “careful review of all witness testimony and relevant documentation” revealed the mayor had on several occasions behaved in ways that “constituted clear violations of the [personnel] policies of the City of Grantsville,” particularly in terms of professionalism and courtesy.

The city spent $5,000 on the investigative report and $12,569 trying to prevent its release, according to information obtained from an open records request.

Marshall did not respond to a request for comment.

In many of the 24 interviews detailed in the report, mostly unnamed witnesses paint a picture of Marshall as an occasional “bully" who often “raise[s] his voice at others” and “puts everyone on edge.” Several said they had seen him engage in workplace conduct they felt was inappropriate, while others said they found his behavior harmless, describing the mayor’s tendencies to violate personal space and use a loud voice as part of his personality.

In his review, Phillips was able to substantiate four allegations of wrongdoing, said two were inconclusive in part due to a lack of outside substantiation and called one, which was completely redacted in the version given to The Tribune, inconclusive.

In interviews with investigators, Marshall admitted that he once zip-tied the hands of the city’s zoning and planning administrator, Shauna Kertamus. He also confessed to raising his voice at City Recorder Rachel Wright after they’d had a dispute over his handling of a contract negotiation and to putting his arms on Susan Johnsen, a resident who was trying to push through an initiative with the City Council, during a conversation in his office.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Susan Johnsen, a 10-year resident of Grantsville, is fed up with Mayor Brent Marshall's way of running City Hall as she describes his tendency to stand extremely close to people during discussions. Six people have told The Salt Lake Tribune that Marshall uses physical aggression to intimidate those who disagree with him politically. Johnsen found herself at odds with the mayor over a historical park issue in 2016.

But while the women involved in these incidents viewed them as evidence of aggressive and intimidating behavior — and Kertamus and Wright told The Tribune they’d left their jobs, in part, because of it — Marshall suggested these were innocent reflections of his outsized personality.

Phillips said in the report that he found most of the witnesses credible but questioned some of Marshall’s statements, including his assertion that Kertamus had “wanted” to be zip-tied.

“Although Mayor Marshall may have believed the incident ‘was all in fun,’ I do not find him credible in his assertion that Ms. Kertamus ‘wanted it done’ or that she ‘laughed about it when the zip ties were on,’” Phillips wrote in the report.

The mayor’s use of restraints is “directly contrary to the stated expectation that all city employees [treat] each other with ‘professionalism and courtesy’ and that employees seek to ‘maintain good relationships with each other,’ ” he concluded.

The allegations against the mayor surfaced last year during the peak of the #MeToo movement, a social media hashtag that demonstrated the scope and frequency of people’s experience with sexual assault, harassment and abuse. Johnsen, Kertamus and Wright were three of six people who’d had political dealings with the mayor and told The Tribune he runs the city in a bullying manner, sometimes using physical aggression to intimidate those who disagree with him.

None had filed a formal complaint at the time of the incidents but said they hoped speaking out would improve the mayor’s behavior.

Yet in the year since his actions came to light, it appears the mayor of nearly 11,000 people in Tooele County has faced few consequences.

Councilwoman Krista Sparks told The Tribune upon release of the initial version of the report that the council was “relieved” to learn the allegations did not constitute criminal activity or legal wrongdoing. She said the council has taken steps to update its employee handbook, ensure there are ways for workers to file complaints and has conducted trainings in the wake of the accusations.

“We took those matters very seriously," Sparks told The Tribune on Friday in reference to Marshall’s violations of the city’s employee code. "There are a couple council members and I have met with him personally, privately and we kind of gave him a check list of things we would like him to do and he has done and did so willingly. There was a lot of his behavior — this is my personal opinion — I think he recognized and did some reflection on his own behavior. I believe that happened.”

She declined to elaborate on the “check list” the council had brought to Marshall.

It’s unclear how much more the council could do, even if it wanted to, barring a conviction in court. State law allows for removing a municipal officer who is found guilty of “oppression, malconduct, misfeasance, or malfeasance in office,” a class A misdemeanor.