Wednesday , May 16, 2018 - 5:00 AM2 comments
FARMINGTON — A Davis County sheriff’s deputy resigned after two sexual harassment investigations and a jail lieutenant stepped down amid allegations that he bullied and harassed staff members, disciplinary records show.
The newly disclosed personnel records, obtained with a public records request by the Standard-Examiner, follow revelations earlier this spring that five other deputies participated in or failed to stop a spree of sexual harassment by a “creeper trio” of deputies.
Two new reports detail findings against former Deputy Jeremy Varela. County Human Resources Department investigations in 2016 and 2017 determined that Valera sexually harassed another law enforcement officer’s wife after she broke off an affair with him, and that he harassed a female colleague after she kicked him out of the home they had been sharing.
In a separate investigation, Human Resources found that former Corrections Lt. Ken Hammon violated county policies prohibiting violence in the workplace and harassment as well as guidelines regulating discipline and standards of conduct.
Sheriff Todd Richardson issued a statement Friday complaining that news reports in recent months “have flooded the community suggesting a disregard for the welfare and safety of employees within the Davis County Sheriff’s Office.”
He said his office’s 365 merit and part-time employees regularly receive thorough training about sexual harassment and harassment. He said they have clear direction on how such incidents should be handled.
“In no way am I dismissive or lessening the misconduct of these few who violated Office and County policy,” Richardson’s statement said. “I realize and take full responsibility of the mishandling of the situations as it occurred during my tenure.”
Richardson, first elected in 2010, chose not to run again this year and will leave office in January.
Valera was conducting a police dog officer training class in September 2016 when he met a woman who had accompanied her husband to the class, according to the human resources investigation. Valera and the woman soon after began a sexual relationship.
The woman told investigators that during the affair, October through late November, they had sex at Valera’s residence while he was on duty and he once took her with him on a call to Antelope Island.
She ended the affair on Thanksgiving, but she said he continued to text and phone her.
When interviewed by Human Resources, Valera denied having sex on duty, but he “acknowledged he sometimes returned to his residence while on duty and alleges others in the DC Sheriff’s Office do the same thing.”
In January 2017, a deputy with whom Valera lived while they had a romantic relationship in 2015 and through August 2016 filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.
The woman told investigators she put his belongings on the driveway in August 2016 because he had been mistreating her and cheating on her.
Human Resources records said she filed a police report with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 29, 2016, alleging he had been harassing her since the breakup. A supplemental report by Weber County Sheriff’s deputies in September 2016 said Valera called or texted the woman 200 times.
Human Resources investigators said they scheduled an interview with Valera for Jan. 19, 2017, but he resigned from the sheriff’s office an hour before.
IMPROMPTU SELF-DEFENSE TRAINING
In Hammon’s case, a corrections division clerk filed a complaint against him on Aug. 11, 2017, accusing him of harassment and violence.
The complaint stemmed from a July 1, 2017, incident in the jail’s medical bay. She said Hammon “told a story about an older woman who had been raped and began to talk about women being attacked by men.”
Hammon told her to “never end up on her stomach” if a man was trying to rape her and encouraged her to “grab, twist and pull his testicles.”
Then Hammon told her to hold still and he struck her on the right side of her chest so hard that it “knocked the air out of her and mucous out of her nose.”
The clerk told investigators she is an epileptic and has a nerve stimulation device implanted in her chest. She “got a migraine instantly” and a jail nurse gave her ibuprofen and an ice pack.
During his interview with Human Resources, Hammon said he did not know the clerk had a medical condition. He said he was merely teaching self-defense moves, as he does with other jail staff.
“It’s very important for women to have an understanding of self-defense,” Hammon said, adding that grabbing testicles “is a proven technique women should know.”
The lieutenant said the blow to the clerk’s chest was “so benign” and “it had been demonstrated on hundreds of people.”
One corrections employee told investigators Hammon “gets excited and enjoys teaching self-defense. In the process of teaching, he might have hurt somebody, but not intentionally.”
Some other employees said Hammon sometimes hit subordinates as punishment for mistakes.
Another employee said Hammon used a “brachial stun” strike on him without permission
Added another witness, “Employees in Corrections would not file a complaint about this conduct because Hammon will look for a way to retaliate. He’ll rip you a new one — with write-ups, poor evaluations, denying leave requests, assigning poor schedules, denying special assignments or training.”
The employee said Hammon “also might not address a legitimate performance or conduct issue and protect an individual if that person was “under his wing.”
“He tries to bully people and tries to make people afraid of him — he thinks he has ‘dirt on everyone,’” the employee added.
Hammon denied the bullying allegations, saying, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Also, he said, “I don’t retaliate. That’s a lie.”
Investigators concluded that Hammon “has demonstrated an ongoing pattern of conduct of striking employees inappropriately and calling it training.”
Human Resources Director Debra Alexander said Hammon was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation
“The majority of those allegations were substantiated,” Alexander said. “Pursuant to his due process requirements, the department was considering termination but Hammon resigned.”
Hammon was the supervisor of three male deputies who, according to a recent investigation, were known by jail employees as “team sexual harassment,” the “sexual harassment trio” or “the creeper crew.”
One of the three resigned and two others were put on paid leave for two and five days, respectively. The chief deputy sheriff and a jail captain were demoted.
Richardson said in his prepared statement that he has appointed new senior supervisors with additional training in prevention of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
“These harassing behaviors will not be tolerated by me, my staff, or any other employee,” he said.
“I am deeply saddened by the actions of these employees, and offer my sincere apology to the public and the rest of the employees (of) the Davis County Sheriff’s Office.”
He said Davis deputies “accomplish amazing work each and every day which often goes unnoticed.”
You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEMarkShenefelt.
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