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City Council Questions Police Chief's Delayed Response to Sexual Harassment

Whittney Evans

Members of the Salt Lake City Council say Police Chief Chris Burbank took too long to respond to sustained allegations of sexual harassment within the police department. Now, one member of the council wants to pass a rule to require department heads respond to such complaints more quickly.

Salt Lake City Human Resources Director Deb Alexander laid out a timeline Tuesday of how HR dealt with the sexual harassment complaint against then Deputy Police Chief Rick Findlay. The office first received a statement in March 2013 that indicated Findlay had shown an inappropriate photo of a female officer. Alexander says when the investigation was complete and all of the allegations were confirmed, HR delivered a report to Chief Burbank in January 2014 that said Findlay had violated the city’s harassment policy and appropriate action should be taken. Salt Lake City Councilor Erin Mendenhall took issue with the fact that Findlay remained on the payroll through June 2014, when he retired.

“A sixth month lapse between the issuance of the report of multiple sustained allegations,” Mendenhall said. “How do we explain this half a year lapse in response from the chief?”

Mendenhall suggested the council create a policy that outlines a specific timeline for department heads to act on sustained allegations.

“In what case do we really, truly feel comfortable saying this is unacceptable behavior and yet you may continue to do your job and we will protect you?” Mendenhall said.

Chief Burbank wasn’t available Tuesday night to respond to the questions. Deputy Police Chief Tim Doubt declined to comment citing pending litigation. Three former female officers are filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city claiming each one has been the subject of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Mayor Ralph Becker told reporters Monday he supports Burbank’s actions. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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