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.