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PROVO — Additional Utah County elected officials are calling on embattled Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves to resign after an investigation concluded he's widely viewed by county employees as a bully with explosive and vulgar tendencies.
A handful of state legislators have agreed to sign a letter calling upon Graves to resign, Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said Tuesday.
McKell said a copy of the letter has been circulated to Utah County elected officials, and he expects the letter to be delivered to Graves later this week after everyone has a chance to decide whether to sign on.
McKell, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, and Reps. Brad Daw, R-Orem, and Norm Thurston, R-Provo all said they have agreed to sign the letter.
"We see no need to debate the merits of any particular allegation; the sheer volume of negative evidence included in the county investigator's report, public accounts and first-person testimony over the past few weeks has left us fully convinced that your comportment and interactions with county staff employees in a public workplace have been unacceptable by any standard," the letter states. "As such, we have lost all confidence in your capacity to continue serving the citizens of Utah County."
"We hope that you will recognize that it is in the best interest of all concerned — including you and your family — for your to resign and move on to other endeavors," the letter continues.
Graves' two colleagues on the Utah County Commission, the Utah County Republican Party, and the group Alliance for a Better Utah have all previously called for Graves to resign. So has Cedar Hills Mayor Gary Gygi.
Last week, county leaders decided to release a 100-page complaint detailing a sexual harassment complaint against Graves — including the allegation that Graves rubbed a female employee's thigh above the knee during an employee golf outing.
The next day, the county released an investigative report which found Graves' accuser to be "credible," but said no witnesses were located to corroborate sexual harassment claims.
But the investigator did find — based on interviews with 14 other witnesses — that Graves is "widely viewed as a workplace bully, dishonest, demeaning, intimidating, threatening and explosive," citing multiple encounters in which witnesses described Graves has having angry and at times vulgar outbursts in the presence of employees.
Graves said Wednesday the investigator's report would clear him "100 percent" of wrongdoing. He hasn't returned multiple requests for comments since.
Graves did not attend Tuesday's commission meeting, but he did call in by phone to debate issues related to the county's 2018 budget. The allegations against him were not addressed during the meeting.
"I read the investigator's report — that didn't exonerate him at all," Bramble said.
The senator noted that even though the investigator didn't find corroborating testimony that might have opened the door to criminal charges, he thinks other witness accounts of bullying and inappropriate behavior are "absolutely untenable" and "not appropriate for an elected official."
"It's time for him to step away," Daw said. "There are no criminal charges, but I think we need to do a little better than 'I haven't broken any laws.' And he's clearly gone above and beyond and created a hostile work environment."
McKell said he also believes the report shows a "volume of negative evidence" that Graves' interactions with employees have been "unacceptable by any standard."
We hope that you will recognize that it is in the best interest of all concerned — including you and your family — for your to resign and move on to other endeavors.
–Letter to Greg Graves
"We expect a higher level of integrity from our elected officials," McKell said. "I've lost confidence in Commissioner Graves and his ability to lead, given the allegations and the first-hand testimony in that investigator's report."
For the "reputation of the county" and the Utah County Republican GOP, Graves' resignation is needed, Thurston said.
"What is the most bothersome is the retaliation — the clear documentation that there was some form of retaliation going on, and we can't have elected officials doing stuff like that," Thurston said.
Commissioners Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie, who have both called on Graves to resign, said they intend to censure Graves if he does not leave his post.
Ivie said he did not bring up the allegations against Graves during Tuesday's meeting because he didn't think it was an "appropriate setting" to do so since "we still have to get the business of the county done and still have to pass the budget."
Asked when the censure will be voted upon, Ivie said he doesn't expect it to be placed on the agenda until the county's 2018 budget is passed.
"And hopefully he gets the letter from the legislators and others and he'll do the right thing and step aside so we don't even have to go there," Ivie said.
Removing elected officials
Under Utah law, elected officials can only be forcibly removed from office after being convicted of high crimes or certain misdemeanors.
Lee and Ivie said have been in early conversations with state lawmakers about potentially drafting a law to remove elected officials for creating hostile work environments — but they acknowledge that could be a tricky endeavor.
"Whether it's a Gary Ott situation in Salt Lake County or a Greg Graves situation in Utah County, we currently don't have a process for recall," Bramble said referencing the former Salt Lake County recorder who stayed in office despite suffering from dementia.
Bramble said he thinks lawmakers will discuss a new law but he doesn't know if a solution can be found without creating a law that could potentially be used as a political weapon.