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OGDEN — Police Chief Jon Greiner has 60 days to step down as the city’s police chief after a federal panel upheld an administrative law judge’s ruling that he was in violation of the Hatch Act.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Matt Godfrey said it will be up to Mike Caldwell, the city’s newly-elected mayor, to decide what to do once he takes office in January.
A Monday decision by the panel does say the city can opt to keep Greiner if it decides to forfeit federal funding that is the equivalent of two years’ of Greiner’s salary that he was earning at the time of the violation.
Greiner, a long-time veteran of the police department who took over as chief in the mid-90s, was found to be in violation of the act when he launched his candidacy for the state Senate in 2006. He subsequently went on to serve in the Utah State Senate, but did not seek re-election.
The act prohibits the involvement of certain government employees in a partisan, political race if the entity they work for receives federal funding.
Greiner was informed of the potential violation 22 days prior to the general election and continued his candidacy based of the advice of his attorneys and the interpretation of the act.
Greiner’s legal team argued the amount of federal funding the police department receives is so minimal it could not be construed as a violation. In fighting the violation, Greiner argued that his department’s budget receives less than 1 percent in grants from the federal government such as the U.S. Department of Justice and his involvement was "minimal."
But in Monday’s ruling by the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, Greiner’s candidacy was deemed a “serious” violation of the act, backed by findings that Greiner was listed as a point of contact on grant paper work and that the end date for Byrne grants the department received extended to the time of his candidacy.
Greiner had argued that the administrative law judge abused her discretion when she did not allow the testimony of certain witnesses on his behalf and that the Hatch Act was being too narrowly applied in his circumstances.
The panel did agree that Greiner’s length of service to Ogden City and his reputation in the profession was the most “significant mitigating factor” in deciding if removal was not necessarily warranted.
“The undisputed evidence shows that the respondent is an outstanding employee with no disciplinary record in his long career with the OPD, that he is well-respected in the local community, that he has dedicated his life to public service, and that he has rendered that service both faithfully and well,” the decision states.
Still, the board found that his removal was warranted, with one dissent by member Anne Wagner.
Greiner could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.