DAVIS COUNTY, Utah – An investigation into a two and a half year sexual harassment case within the Davis County Sheriff’s Office led to two demotions, and at least two suspensions after a months-long investigation into the conduct of three corrections deputies.
The investigation, conducted by Davis County Human Resources, stated that Deputy Larry Hubbard, Deputy Nicholas Chard, and Deputy Preston Ellsworth were known as the “sexual harassment trio” by staff members, and were “relentless” in their harassment of female coworkers.
“They hunt in a pack. The three of them would come to the pod, the door would close behind them, and they would make comments,” an employee told Davis County HR.
Documents sent to Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson on March 27 from Davis County Human Resources described the investigation, which focused on complaints about harassment, sexual harassment, and the failure of supervisors to address the issues within the corrections department.
During the course of the investigation into the reports, the Davis County Sheriff’s HR department interviewed more than 35 people and produced 220 pages of documentation about the investigation.
The investigation outlines multiple incidences where all three deputies exhibited inappropriate behavior toward younger female coworkers.
The report stated that Hubbard had a reputation for being very “flirtatious” with younger female employees, despite the fact that he was married. Hubbard denied wanting to have a romantic relationship with anyone and told HR he had never cheated on his wife. When asked if he dated any employees, Hubbard reportedly responded, “They were my friends- I would choose them as friends again.”
According to the report, Hubbard was also a member of a Facebook group where graphic photos- sometimes of coworkers- were posted. He also allegedly grabbed or slapped the buttocks of a co-worker while they were in the weight room.
Deputy Nicholas Chard also was said to “flirt heavily” with female coworkers which was seen as offensive, since he was married. He was also found to have, “a tendency to romantically or sexually pursue very young females,” the report said.
Many of the sexual assault allegations against Chard were too explicit to be reported and included graphic sexual contact with coworkers.
Deputy Preston Ellsworth also was accused of similar misconduct, including texting employees and behaving in an inappropriate manner despite the fact that he was married. Preston was accused of routinely asking female employees for their phone numbers.
The report also outlined ways the leadership of the Davis County Sheriff’s Office allegedly ignored reports of misconduct.
Deputy Chief Kevin Fielding was accused of being aware of multiple occurrences of sexual harassment, and not taking action to address the issues. Fielding was reportedly made aware that a deputy was stalking an 18-year-old female inmate who was working at the jail’s work center. Fielding told HR he had written the deputy up for the incident, but HR was unable to find documentation of the disciplinary action. HR found numerous instances where Fielding allegedly ignored or did not take proper action against problem employees and instances of sexual harassment or improper workplace culture.
An employee told Davis County HR in an interview that, “Everything goes up to Fielding and stops there.”
Davis County HR said that after conducting the investigation, they found that Fielding had violated Davis County Policy 12 times.
Captain Henry Jaquez was also found by HR to have overlooked multiple instances of sexual harassment and reports of excessive force. Jaquez was found to have had knowledge of an inmate being stalked by a deputy, and, “did not address the concern.”
When asked in an interview about Jaquez’s lack awareness of issues, an employee told HR, “I told Jaquez- we have a problem, we need to address it. He acted like ‘whatever’ and did not address it. He did not address a lot of things.”
When asked about holding accountability within the department, Jaquez told HR that there was accountability.
Both Fielding and Jaquez were demoted following the release of the report. Ellsworth and Hubbard were placed on administrative lead. There were no records of corrective action taken against Chard.
A spokesperson for the Davis County Commission released the following statement regarding the report:
“In January, the Davis County Human Resources (HR) Department was made aware of allegations of harassment, sexual harassment and a fail to address these issues within the Davis County Correctional Facility. With the full support of the Commission, our HR Department undertook a comprehensive investigation of the allegations.
The resulting investigation, which we believe was thorough and accurate, confirmed there were indeed many instances of conduct which violated county policy. Under state law, the responsibility and authority to discipline employees lies with the elected official in that department – in this case the Davis County Sheriff.
As a County Commission, we firmly denounce the type of conduct identified by the investigation. We find this type of conduct to be entirely reprehensible. Furthermore, such conduct will not be condoned in Davis County.
We actively strive to create an environment where employees are comfortable in the workplace. Davis County policy provides employees with multiple avenues by which inappropriate conduct can be reported. We want all employees to understand they can do so, have confidence their complaints will be taken seriously and appropriate action taken.”