Rep. John Curtis may be happy in his new federal office, but the city of Provo is still causing him headaches.
As mayor of Provo, Curtis oversaw the recruitment, supervision and eventual resignation of Police Chief John King. King and the city are currently embroiled in a lawsuit brought by at least five women who allege King sexually harassed them.
Curtis knew about at least three of them over the three-year span of King’s employment.
Curtis oversaw the recruitment and hiring of King. Under his supervision, the city spent tens of thousands of dollars to retain an outside firm to conduct a nationwide search and perform background searches on potential employees.
But for King, a free Google search would have shown that he had abruptly resigned from the Baltimore Police Department after, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun, “being confronted with a complaint” from a another department employee. King at the time denied there had been any such complaint.
Somehow, the recruiting firm failed to uncover King’s background. Curtis lays the blame on their shoulders for that.
Curtis does accept responsibility for the decision to let King resign for “family reasons.” In fact, after multiple claims from women against King, Curtis told King he could not continue working for the city.
But Curtis should have believed the women who claimed King was harassing them. After hearing complaints from at least three women in Provo, Curtis should have realized that one was too many.
Instead of sitting King down to have a talk, he should have conducted his own review after the first allegation. With just a little due diligence, he would have uncovered King’s background. And knowing, Curtis should have fired him immediately.
Curtis claims that, as the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office did not press charges against King, he was justified in allowing him to resign on his own terms. And he says he did not shield or protect King on his way out.
But he did. Or at least he tried to. He told the Tribune’s editorial board that he would not sugarcoat King’s reputation when called by potential employers for references on King. Then why did he not afford his own constituents that same truth?
Instead, Curtis allowed King to shape the narrative. He said King never broke any policies or laws. He did, and Curtis was party to helping King cover up his predatory behavior.
As Curtis admits, the stench of John King will leave a mark on Curtis’ campaign.
And it should.
Correction: The original version of this editorial said that allegations of sexual assault raised against John King when he was a manager of the Baltimore Police Department were publicly available before King was hired to be police chief in Provo. Before King was hired in Provo, published allegations against him reported by The Baltimore Sun were only that he had "resigned after being confronted with a complaint from an employee. King denied that he had been presented with any complaints."