SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals has rejected a whistleblower lawsuit filed by an ex-Ephraim police officer because it didn't properly take into account the Christmas holiday.
In a ruling published Saturday, a three-judge panel reversed a lower court's ruling on Darren Pead's lawsuit against Ephraim City.
"We conclude that the district court erred when it failed to exclude December 24 and 25 in its computation of the sixty-day notice of claim period under the [Governmental Immunity Act]," Judge Jill Pohlman wrote. "The sixty-day period expired on December 26, and in filing his complaint in federal court on that day, Pead filed his complaint prematurely. Accordingly, the district court erred by denying the City’s motion to dismiss, and we remand with instructions to enter judgment in the City’s favor."
Ephraim City argued that he should have filed it Dec. 27.
Pead initially filed a federal lawsuit in 2017, alleging that he had faced retaliation after he and other officers went to state authorities to complain about their police chief. They accused then-Chief Ron Rasmussen of not filling out paperwork and police reports for crimes dating back a decade. The officers reported it to the Utah Attorney General's Office.
"In his notice of resignation, Pead explained that he had no choice but to resign given the illegal conduct and retaliation against him," Judge Pohlman wrote.
The federal lawsuit was dismissed, but Pead pursued a whistleblower claim in state court. The Utah Court of Appeals ruling notes a lower court judge rejected Ephraim's claims that it was filed too early.
"The resolution of this appeal therefore hinges on whether the district court erred in its computation of the sixty-day notice of claim period. If it did not, and the sixty days expired by operation of law on December 24, then Pead’s December 26 complaint was not prematurely filed under the GIA (and was timely under the WBA). In contrast, if the district court erred in its computation and instead ought to have excluded December 24 and December 25, then the notice of claim period extended through December 26, rendering the filing premature," Judge Pohlman wrote.
Under Utah law, the judges ruled, the filing was a day too early.
"On this basis, we conclude that the earliest Pead could have filed his complaint was December 27 and that his complaint filed on December 26 was therefore prematurely filed," it said, siding with the city of Ephraim.