Former Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves is suing his former fellow commissioners for alleged damages following their release of documents, including a sexual harassment claim and a subsequent investigative report against Graves.
In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Utah’s 4th District Court, Graves’ states that the sexual harassment allegations were false, and asks for relief, including “an award of economic damages to be proven at trial as well as non-economic damages and court costs.” The statements by the defendants have resulted in difficulty finding meaningful employment for Graves, the complaint states, and have damaged his relationships with his wife and children.
The lawsuit names both Commissioners Nathan Ivie and Bill Lee in the lawsuit, both of whom served on the commission with Graves and are still on the commission. Graves claims in the complaint that Ivie and Lee harbored malice toward him because they had many political disagreements and they “did not like the plaintiff.”
The lawsuit also names the female Utah County employee who filed the sexual harassment claim against Graves. It is the Daily Herald’s editorial policy not to name alleged victims of sexual harassment or abuse.
The complaint claims that Ivie and Lee knew or should have known that the allegations of sexual harassment were false, and that the employee who filed the harassment complaint did so for “malicious and improper purposes, including but not limited to retaliation, leverage to avoid termination, and/or leverage to force a settlement with Utah County when she was terminated from her job.”
Andrew Morse, with the law firm Snow, Christensen and Martineau, represents Ivie and Lee in the case. Morse has already done extensive research in the case last year when Graves first filed a notice of claim against the county in April 2018. That investigation, Morse said, concluded that Graves’ claims have no merit.
Morse said he plans to file a motion to dismiss Graves’ case on Monday.
“Each of (Graves’) claims are meritless,” Morse said.
The complaint claims that the person who filed the complaint was worried that Graves’ looking into privatizing certain county departments could be a threat to her job, and that Graves had openly stated to other employees that if it were his choice he would terminate that employee’s employment with the county.
“(The employee) acted with malice in asserting false allegations against Graves,” the complaint says.
The complaint goes on to say that Ivie and Lee did not like Graves, and wanted to find a way to remove him from office, acting with malice when they published the “false statements” against Graves.
The Daily Herald requested the sexual harassment complaint against Graves through a public records request in 2017, which Ivie and Lee granted in an appeals hearing on Dec. 6, 2017. The commissioners also released a redacted investigative report into the matter the following day, which did not find proof of sexual harassment, but did say “Based on statements from nearly all of the witnesses, that (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.”
Shortly following that hearing, Ivie identified Graves in a Facebook post, calling for his immediate resignation. The call for resignation was followed by Lee, the Utah County Republican Party, multiple state legislators, U.S. Rep. John Curtis, among others. Despite the calls for resignation, Graves stayed in office until the end of 2018, when his term naturally ended.
The complaint says Ivie and Lee released the sexual harassment complaint to the media without releasing the report for the “purpose of portraying Graves in a false light as a sexual harasser to malign him in the public eye and damage his reputation.”
As a result, the complaint says Graves incurred economic and non-economic damages due to the “false statements made and/or published by the defendants.” Graves’ marriage was negatively impacted, the complaint says, and his children were bullied at school. Graves, who was a high school referee part time, says several public schools asked that Graves not be allowed to referee their sporting events.
He also claims that due to the stress of being falsely accused, the symptoms of a pre-existing traumatic brain injury were exacerbated.
Graves claims in the complaint that his disagreements with Lee and Ivie went back years, and the other commissioners had previously accused him of “not acting like a conservative” and threatening to force his resignation.
Graves’ claims in the complaint that the efforts of his fellow commissioners to “impugn the character and reputation of Commissioner Graves in the public eye” going back to when Graves first won the Republican nomination for the seat in 2014.
The complaint acknowledges that Graves had been a controversial public figure prior to the release of the sexual harassment complaint. It notes media coverage of Graves having an account on Ashley Madison, a website that connects married adults looking to have affairs.
“The defendants knew that many Utah County constituents were predisposed to believe Graves would sexually harass an employee because of the prior coverage of the Ashley Madison story,” the complaint said.
In April 2018, Graves sent a notice of claim to Utah County, claiming he had been defamed, slandered and libeled by Ivie, Lee and the female county employee who filed the sexual harassment claim. Utah County had the option to accept that claim and negotiate a settlement with Graves, or deny it after which Graves would have one year to file a lawsuit against the county.
A chorus of church bells rang out to mark 3 p.m.
“There is our bell,” said Jared Carman, turning his head to look out the window of a future classroom.
Come fall, classes at Belmont Classical Academy will begin and end based on the chimes of the bells in the American Fork Community Presbyterian Church.
The new, private, nondenominational Christian school will be utilizing the church’s sanctuary and corresponding building when classes begin Aug. 20.
School will be held Monday through Thursday for the sixth through 10th grades. Tuition begins at about $7,200. Uniforms will be required.
The school was co-founded by Denise and Jared Carman, whose own children have attended a similar school.
“We wanted to offer a nondenominational Christian offering here in Utah County, because that isn’t really available right now,” Denise Carman said.
School will begin with prayer and Bible study, and each week will include an all-school devotional. The school will use both the church’s education building, along with its 1879 sanctuary building.
Hosting educational services in the historic sanctuary, Jared Carman said, is part of the culture they wanted for the school.
“It really is a different feeling when students can come to a place and feel a sense of history and feel a sense of connectedness,” he said.
He emphasizes that while the school is not a church — the Carmans believe parents should be the primary teachers of religion — it is inside of one.
While Utah County has private schools aligned with specific religions, the Carmans wanted Belmont Classical Academy to be nondenominational Christian.
“It’s nice to be able to give your children a little bit broader perspective and realize we are all children of God, we are all created in God’s image,” Jared Carman said.
He refers to the school’s culture as “high standards with a lot of love.”
Classes will be made up of 16 students. The Carmans plan to add an 11th grade to the school’s second year, and then a 12th before expanding to the elementary years. They hope the school will eventually house two classes for each grade in kindergarten through 12th grade.
They are starting with sixth through 10th grade because their two youngest children fall within those grades.
Belmont Classical Academy is currently enrolling students for its first year.
Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer has been working triple time with several stakeholders to get the Vineyard FrontRunner station up and running.
Wednesday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation has given the city up to $6.8 million in a matching grant has made moving forward possible.
The U.S. DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration announced that grant funds under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program and Special Transportation Circumstances Program would fund 45 projects in 29 states, including the FrontRunner project in Vineyard.
“These investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability,” said Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Transportation Secretary, during the announcement.
The money for the Vineyard Rail Consolidation Project will help “relocate two miles of Union Pacific track that bisects Vineyard, thereby eliminating three public crossings, two private crossings and two inactive crossings to make room for residential and commercial growth, including an intermodal bus and rail stations,” according to the grant press release.
The project will cost close to $18 million, Fullmer said. The money is coming as a combination of local, state and these federal funds.
“We put tireless effort in getting Union Pacific Railroad to sign the agreement. That was quite an undertaking,” Fullmer said. “There are no words to describe it, or too many. Watching this grant come in this morning felt like such an accomplishment. The impact, the change and affect it will have is hard to express.”
Fullmer’s relief and enthusiasm over the news has been felt throughout the state.
“It’s a very momentous thing for us, the state, other cities, the Utah Valley University (and) the people who first started the discussion,” Fullmer said. “There have been phone calls all day. I called our recent mayor to let him know it happened — we did it.”
Fullmer said the city is thankful to the Utah Department of Transportation in letting them partner in this process and helping make this possible.
“We will purchase ground, construct a new alignment next to the front runner and light rail easement and then remove the spur line off Geneva,” Fullmer said. “We are starting as soon as possible and hopefully in the next year and a half we will see it transform.”
“We’ve been working on this project for 12 years and we are all really excited about it,” said Jake McHargue, city manager. “This is the last piece to the puzzle and we feel excited to have this come in.”
Stewart Park, project manager at Geneva Anderson who purchased the properties at the old Geneva steel mill, has been waiting to hear the news as well.
“For over 13 years, those of us working on the Geneva project along with the city of Vineyard have worked tirelessly to find a way to remove the spur line from Geneva Road,” Park said. “Because of the multiple facets of the project affected by this deal, it is one of the most exciting developments that had happened to Geneva. The benefits to the project and the city will be significant.”
Val Peterson, vice president of finance and administration at Utah Valley University, said this gives the impetus the school needs to move forward with its expansion plans.
“It allows us to revitalize the Geneva site and Geneva Road from a hard industrial use and run down road to be used as a key component to the expansion and restoration of the Geneva corridor in UDOT’s plan, Orem’s Geneva renewal project and invites retail, businesses, and new possibilities and access for UVU’s master campus and sport campus,” Peterson said.
According to Peterson, “It allows for light rail to come into the multimodal hub to move students through the Vineyard and Orem campuses, and onto the BRT system.”
UDOT will also be able to fix the 400 N. Geneva Road intersection, making it a safer place to drive, and will allow Orem and UDOT to widen center street.
“UVU is excited for the continual progress and development in Vineyard as the university plans for the future of its nearly 280-acre campus within the city,” Peterson said. “The collaboration between UVU, @Geneva and Vineyard to move the rail spur signals the willingness of each entity to plan for a vibrant future for our community.”
Morgan Brim, Vineyard community development director, said, “This removal and relocation opens up better and safer access points taking our city out of a box. From an economic development standpoint it opens up and allows us to utilize a significant portion of our city at a higher level. It will enhance our pedestrian walkways and make the area clean and beautiful.”