UDOT employee asking for executive director’s apology

Posted at 6:21 PM, Apr 24, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-25 00:04:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The woman who says the Utah Department of Transportation wanted to silence her in regards to communicating with the Utah Democratic Party, now wants an apology and an independent investigation conducted.

UDOT employee, Denise Graham, says she wants executive director John Njord to issue an apology, along with her back pay and attorney fees reimbursed after she was deemed wrongfully terminated. In addition, Graham says she wants her old position back, a position that UDOT says no longer exists.

An administrative law judge ruled Graham was wrongfully terminated in 2010 when she spoke out about a $15 million payout during the bid process for the I-15 CORE Project. Now Graham, with support from the executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah, is pushing for concessions.

"I am hopeful that UDOT and the governor will do the right thing and make me whole, that's all I've ever asked though this whole process," said Graham.

Graham says UDOT wanted her to sign a letter in exchange for $67,000 in back pay. The letter said she would only get the back pay as long as she would not speak with the Democratic Party. The letter was pulled off the bargaining table after the Governor’s Office found out.

On Monday, UDOT spokesperson Nile Easton, speaking on behalf of executive director John Njord, admits a mistake was made.

“He [Njord] actually felt it was wrong right after the Governor's Office chimed in,” said Easton. “He acknowledged it was a mistake, it was an idea he had at the beginning, just try to get things to move on, get her back here, take the politics out of it.”

Graham was not satisfied with simply having the letter off the table. She not only wants her old position back, but wants her attorney fees paid along with an apology from Njord.

“I think he's sorry about including the letter, but an apology for the whole situation it's so complicated,” says Easton.

Whether Njord would offer a personal apology to Graham, "probably not, that wouldn't be his job. His job as an executive director is to manage our agency whether she wants an apology or not, for us, it's about get her back to work," said Easton.

Better Utah says the transportation agency has until the end of the week to meet their demands. The organization also wants the governor to step in.

“We call on Governor Herbert to appoint an independent commission to investigate UDOT’s practices,” said Better Utah’s executive director Maryann Martindale. “Better UTAH calls on Herbert to explain his allegiance and his support for John Njord who has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of judgment as UDOT’s director.”