UTAH COUNTY, Utah — Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner underwent workplace harassment training after calling a former employee her “gay democratic assistant” and referring to him as one “of us women,” according to an investigation by the county attorney’s office.
An attorney’s office investigator began his inquiry two days before Powers Gardner announced her bid for a vacant County Commission seat, according to a report obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
The former employee, whose name is redacted, asked to meet with human resources on Oct. 20, 2020, after Powers Gardner threw her keys and purse at him twice and berated him in front of other staff, the report said. The former employee also noted examples of when the clerk/auditor, who took office in 2019, made inappropriate references to his sexual orientation. She allegedly called his performance “great for being a gay democrat,” according to the report.
Four unnamed employees confirmed the inappropriate behavior, according to the report, and two said Powers Gardner made a joke about giving the former employee a “flaming hot Cheeto” during sexual harassment training.
The former employee did not terminate his position with the county due to Powers Gardner’s conduct, however, the report noted. He told the county attorney’s office he wanted the case to finally be closed, that he considered the matter resolved and that he “didn’t want it to be escalated this far.”
The clerk/auditor added that she believed the human resources department had adequately investigated the matter before the attorney’s office became involved.
Human Resources had asked Utah County Attorney David O. Leavitt to conduct a review of the harassment claims in early December, per an April 2 cover letter included with the investigation report. Leavitt decided to turn the matter over to his office’s own investigation bureau to save taxpayers $8,000 to $10,000 from an external investigation, according to the letter.
But the attorney’s office waited nearly four months to look into the matter because of its current workload, the fact that the employee making the allegations was no longer employed by the county, and because no discipline could be imposed since Powers Gardner is an elected official, Leavitt, a 2020 candidate for attorney general, wrote.
Asked whether throwing her purse and keys at an employee was appropriate, the clerk/auditor explained to the investigator that she was trying to get his attention while on a phone call with a news reporter calling with questions about the 2020 election, according to the report.
Powers Gardner confirmed with The Tribune that she completed workplace harassment training in December.
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