Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Federal Judge Rules Triple-Dipping Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner Violated The Hatch Act By Running For The Utah State Senate

A federal administrative law judge has ruled that Ogden's triple-dipping District 18 State Senator and police chief Jon Greiner violated the federal Hatch Act by running for the State Senate. The Hatch Act restricts government workers from running for office when their agencies receive federal funds, depending on how insulated those workers are from the money. Greiner has until April 1st to appeal the opinion, resign or see federal funds equal to two years of his salary withheld from Ogden City. Greiner has said he would abide by whatever decision Ogden's mayor and city council make. Media stories published on March 23rd, 2010 by KSL Channel 5, the Deseret News, and KSTU Channel 13.

Update: On March 24th, the Ogden Standard-Examiner editorially called on Jon Greiner to resign his position as Ogden's police chief. Their justification: A judge has determined he violated the Hatch Act during his successful bid for the Utah State Senate in 2006. Administrative law Judge Lana Parke sided with previous rulings that the law was broken when Greiner approved a half-dozen federal grants -- totaling more than $1 million -- during the campaign. And, if Greiner does not resign, the city of Ogden will lose $215,000 in future federal grants, equal to two years of Greiner's salary as police chief.

More details about this long-running issue are available in my December 10th, 2008 post. In addition, the Weber County Forum has been tracking this story; their preference is that it's about time the issue be resolved once and for all, and quit dragging it out.

Greiner could face more trouble, depending on whether he proceeds with his 2010 re-election campaign. Another opinion from a federal special counsel suggests another run for the Senate seat could be considered another separate violation of the Hatch Act. KSTU news video embedded below:

Jon Greiner has been identified as a "triple-dipper" because he not only draws full salary as Ogden's police chief, but also draws full retirement from his previous service in the rank-and-file of the Ogden Police Department. In addition, he collects the salary paid to a member of the Utah State Senate. It should be noted that all of this is legal, and Greiner appears to be as clean as a hound's tooth. Nevertheless, it is the appearance that is disturbing; it also implies a potential conflict of interest in the sense that Greiner is in the position of both making laws and enforcing laws simultaneously.

While it remains unclear how the city and Greiner will proceed, city officials are expressing support for the police chief. "This isn't the reason the Hatch Act was instituted decades ago," Ogden chief administrative officer John Patterson said in a phone interview with KSL Newsradio Tuesday. "To have it imposed upon our chief is just inappropriate and wrong."

Regardless of the letter of the law, Jon Greiner should consider one of two courses of action to restore public confidence in his stewardship: Either resign as police chief, or stand down from the State Senate and not run for re-election. Since I don't live in Ogden, it does not matter to me which choice he makes, but he should make a choice. In addition, the Utah State Legislature should consider legislation restricting the ability of someone to draw both a full salary and a full retirement from the same agency simultaneously; in such cases, the retirement should be curtailed, or else the person should only be re-hired as a part-time worker.

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