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FOX 13 Investigates: Utah police chief was collecting sick pay while promoting other employment

Posted at 9:43 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 23:43:17-05

MOAB, Utah — On November 8, Bret Edge’s Twitter account posted a photo of someone wrapped in a blanket holding a dog while sitting on slickrock.

“Did a really fun shoot for @voitedbrand tonight,” the tweet said. Voited makes outdoor blankets and apparel.

The Twitter account promotes Edge’s work as a photographer. But on the day of that tweet, according to payroll records, Edge was collecting sick pay from his day job as Moab’s police chief. In all, the city paid Edge $192,497 in salary and benefits in 2021.

A FOX 13 review of public records and Edge’s own social media posts show how he spent time on his leave from the city to promote his business, which has been incorporated as Bret Edge Photography.

There’s records Moab doesn’t have, too. City policies require employees to declare what’s called “outside employment.” Yet, in response to a FOX 13 public records request, city staff said Edge had never filed such paperwork, nor did he ask to work another job while on leave.

The employee handbook also reads, “Employees who have accepted outside employment may not use city paid sick leave to perform work on the outside job.”

Edge did not respond to requests for comment. A city spokeswoman said she could not discuss the matter because it was a personnel issue, but that Edge was due to return to his job as chief as soon as he completes a standard fitness evaluation.

“When you have large amounts of money that are going out,” said Maggie Johnston, a Moab resident who last year spoke against a tax increase in the town, “it’s really important that it’s really open, it’s transparent, everyone knows where it’s going and the rules are being followed.”

FOX 13 showed Johnston what it found regarding Edge.

“If these are the policies and they’re not being followed, it would certainly be super important to get that addressed,” Johnston said.

Edge’s time away under the Family and Medical Leave Act was well publicized. Moab announced it in late September – days after the city released video of two of Edge’s subordinates investigating Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie for a domestic altercation.

Read - Moab PD chief takes leave following outcry over department's handling of Petito incident

Petito was later found strangled in Wyoming. Laundrie died by suicide in Florida. A review of the of the domestic violence investigation, released earlier this month, found the officers did not follow the law when they decided to not cite or arrest Petito and that other mistakes were made.

Read - Moab police made 'unintentional mistakes' in Gabby Petito incident, review says

Petito and Laundrie drove through the tourist destination in the same year as one Moab officer resigned following an investigation into a police report that didn’t match the video.

Also in 2021, a judge dismissed a misdemeanor child abuse case – and threatened to toss future cases – because Moab officers didn’t properly record it with cameras, and another Moab officer ended his employment by going on a countywide radio channel and calling the assistant chief a vulgar term.

Edge has worked as a photographer for years. Utah State Parks has hired his company at least six times over the years. Grand County has hired it at least once. The government work has added to about $8,500.

But Edge was using his time away from the city to tweet about his photo business and his travels in southern Utah and northern Arizona. At least two of his tweets discussed e-guides sold on his website for $25.

April Hollingsworth, an employment law attorney who has no connection to Edge or Moab government, said not enforcing the outside employment policy against one worker could expose the city to liability if it tries to enforce the policies on someone else.

“There’s an argument for the citizens to make,” Hollingsworth said, “about, ‘Why are you guys allowing the violation of this policy and allowing this violation to go on?’”

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