Sunday, April 18, 2010

City Of Ogden To Appeal Federal Ruling That Police Chief Jon Greiner Must Resign Over Alleged Hatch Act Violation

On March 31st, 2010, after months of controversy over his dual roles, District 18 Utah State Senator Jon Greiner (R-Ogden), who also serves as Ogden's police chief, finally realized that merely being a position to both make laws AND enforce laws constituted a conflict of interest, and did the right thing. He gave up one of the jobs, choosing to terminate his campaign to become re-elected to the Utah State Senate. He remains the police chief of Ogden. Greiner also apologized to Ogden voters and elected officials for the embarrassment caused by the "locally, legally misunderstood process". Conflict of interest problem now solved, although it should be noted that his decision wasn't totally altruistic; on March 23rd, 2010, he was given two weeks to drop out of the Senate race or else have the city of Ogden face immediate loss of Federal funds.

But Greiner's retirement from the Senate race is not good enough for the Federal government. The Feds are demanding that Greiner also resign as police chief or else forfeit about $215,000 in Federal grants because of an alleged Hatch Act violation. In March, Federal administrative law judge Lana Parke ruled that Greiner violated the Hatch Act because he had signed off on half a dozen federal grants, valued at more than $1 million, already in place during his successful 2006 bid for the State Senate.

As a result, the city of Ogden will file an appeal with the federal Merit System Protection Board by the April 20th, 2010 deadline. John Patterson, the city's chief administrative officer, said he's confident the city will prevail, because of procedural and substantive issues to be raised. One procedural issue to be raised is Judge Parke's failure to permit due process to the city of Ogden; Judge Parke prohibited the city from putting Assistant Police Chief Wayne Tarwater on the witness stand during a hearing in October 2009. Tarwater would have testified that he oversees federal grants for the police department, and that Greiner's signature on grant applications is a mere formality and a requirement for funding. Thus Judge Parke deliberately stacked the case in favor of the Federal government.

Even if the city loses its appeal and is forced to give up the Federal grants totaling about $215,000, which equals about two years of Greiner's pay, he will be retained as police chief. The Utah Risk Management Mutual Association, the city's insurance carrier, is paying Jim Bradshaw, a lawyer defending Greiner, and Stan Preston, an attorney representing the city administration. However, as part of URMMA's recapture loss program, the city will be required to fully reimburse the organization for defense costs. This has generated some concern within the city council, particularly from City Councilwoman Susan Van Hooser.

Analysis: Although some Ogden residents may be concerned over the fact that Jon Greiner is still a "double-dipper", drawing both a full police chief's salary and a full retirement from the city of Ogden, there should be greater concern over the Federal government's attempt to economically blackmail the city into getting rid of Greiner. Ogden residents should be absolutely outraged that a Federal judge attempted to restrict testimony and witness participation on behalf of the city in an administrative hearing. It is unacceptable for the Federal government to determine who the police chief of Ogden should be; this is a power specifically reserved only for the citizens of Ogden to exercise through their elected mayor and city council.

The "double-dipping" is permitted by Utah state law as a mechanism to induce experienced bureaucrats to bring their expertise back into the system after their retirement. The best way to resolve this separate issue is through the state legislature.

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