Five women make sexual misconduct claims against former Provo Police Chief John King

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Former Provo Police Chief John King, is pictured when he became the new chief in 2013. King resigned in Jan. 2017 over sexual assault allegations, and a Notice of Claim was filed against him in Jan. 2018. (Provo City)

A total of five women have now made misconduct claims against former Provo Police Chief John King.

The allegations are detailed in notices from women identified as claimants one through five that attorneys filed with the Provo City Recorder’s office between Jan. 18 and Feb. 26.

Attorneys for the women also filed a letter on Feb. 26 demanding mediation for all five claimants. “Rather than offer a response to any of these Notices, officials from Provo City have made troubling statements questioning the harm suffered by our clients,” the letter reads.

The letter says the claimants will proceed with litigation if Provo City does not agree to participate in mediation. “The time for ‘investigation’ is over,” the letter says. “It is time for our clients to receive the closure they deserve.”

The claims

The first claim, filed on Jan. 18, came almost a year after King resigned in the wake of sexual assault allegations, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The Salt Lake District Attorney’s office, which investigated the allegations in January 2017, did not find sufficient evidence to pursue prosecution at that time, said Salt Lake County Attorney Chief Deputy Blake Nakamura.

Nakamura added that in order to ever pursue prosecution, they “would need evidence sufficient to show probable cause to believe a criminal act occurred, and we did not have enough evidence to conclude that we had probable cause.”

He also said the Salt Lake District Attorney’s office is no longer involved with the case.

Provo Deputy Mayor Isaac Paxman said the city is investigating the claims stemming from when King served in Provo.

“And the city is working to ensure that to the extent the allegations may be valid, they will never happen again,” Paxman said. “Mayor (Michelle) Kaufusi is emphasizing that Provo City will not tolerate sexual harassment, and that every employee here is entitled to a safe and comfortable environment.”

Assistant City Attorney Camille Williams declined to comment and referred inquiries to Paxman. Provo Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Taylor said he could not comment on his own chief’s employment matters and also referred inquiries to Paxman.

The Jan. 18 claim centers on allegations made by two women, identified as Claimant 1 and Claimant 2.

According to the first Notice of Claim, Claimant 1 is a former Provo Police Department employee who worked as a dispatcher from 2012 to 2015. The notice states that during her time as a dispatcher she “suffered repeated instances of sexual harassment and misconduct,” such as King leering at and making comments about her breasts in public, engaging in unwanted physical contact and telling Claimant 1 that he had dreamt about her.

The claim states that Claimant 1 made a formal complaint to the Provo Police Department as she was leaving her job, but Provo City took no action to stop King’s behavior.

The demand letter further details that when Claimant 1 expressed her interest in filing a complaint against King, a lieutenant told her that could not be done based only on an “icky feeling.” Claimant 1 persisted through the human resources department, however, which gave King a “heads up” that a complaint was being filed. Following this “heads up,” the claim says King approached Claimant 1 and her husband at a basketball game, making it clear that the husband’s career as a Provo City police officer was in King’s hands, according to the letter.

Claimant 1 is seeking damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and punitive damages.

The first Notice of Claim continues that Claimant 2 is a 26-year-old woman who was raped by King in January 2017. She came into contact with King while attending Utah Valley University and while she was a member of the Provo Police Citizens’ Advisory Board, which was instituted and run by King.

The claim states that during their months of contact King made sexually suggestive comments to Claimant 2, disregarded the boundaries that Claimant 2 set and touched her without consent, including kissing, fondling and groping. This culminated in King raping Claimant 2 four separate times on two separate occasions, according to the demand letter.

The claim also states that Claimant 2 felt she could not report King out of fear of retribution due to his position as the police chief. She is seeking damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, attorneys’ fees and costs, and punitive damages.

The second Notice of Claim, filed on Feb. 19, identifies Claimant 3 as a longtime employee of Provo City and details how King “conspicuously leered at her breasts” and groped her. The demand letter recounts several more of King’s advances, which eventually drove Claimant 3 to hiding in the bathroom if she heard King coming toward her office. The claim letter says she ultimately reported King’s actions to Assistant City Attorney Camille Williams and human resources, “but indicated that because of Chief King’s position of power, no one felt comfortable coming forward about his action…. (and) nothing was ever done in response to this report.”

The third Notice of Claim, filed on Feb. 23, identifies Claimant 4 as a 22-year employee of Provo City who was sexually harassed and assaulted by King. According to the claim, King would “look down her shirt at her breasts making statements like ‘You look beautiful today’ or ‘Wow.'”

The claim said King repeatedly touched Claimant 4 without her consent, consistently made sexually suggestive comments to her, and sent her personal, inappropriate and non-work related texts. It also alleges that King sought opportunities to be alone with Claimant 4, including ordering her to meet him in a supermarket parking lot.

The Feb. 23 claim continues that King made “inappropriate comments” to Claimant 4 intended to stop any further reporting of his actions.

The fourth Notice of Claim, filed on Feb. 26, identifies Claimant 5 as a police officer with the Provo City police department for nine years. The claim states that King sexually assaulted her on four or five separate occasions, such as “hugging” her from the side while groping her breast. This caused Claimant 5 to “stay as many feet away as possible” when in the same room as him.

“His behavior would make Claimant 5 extremely uncomfortable; yet, she had no one with whom she could report Chief King’s behavior and feared retribution,” the claim states.

Claimants 3, 4 and 5 are seeking damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and punitive damages.

Liability

The demand letter says Provo City is liable for the harm perpetrated against all five claimants because King was a final policy-maker within the police department. It also claims Provo City is liable because then-Mayor John Curtis and the Provo City Council were “deliberately indifferent” to King’s misconduct.

The letter further states Curtis violated confidentiality obligations by giving King a “heads up” when a formal complaint was filed in 2014, effectively chilling any further reporting. The letter also says the city is liable for doing nothing to supervise, train, discipline, or correct King, failing to properly investigate King’s background before his hiring, and retaining him as police chief despite sexual misconduct allegations. Rather, Curtis placed King on administrative leave and “made up an excuse regarding Chief King’s sick mother rather than admit the consequences of Provo City’s years of indifference,” the letter states.

Curtis has not responded to an email requesting comment. The Daily Universe has not been able to contact King for a response, nor been able to determine whether he is being represented by a lawyer in the claims against him.

Michael W. Young, an attorney who is representing the five women, said Provo City hired a police chief who should never have been hired. “That person ultimately hurt people and this case is essentially about Provo doing right by the people that (King) hurt.”

Prior Allegations

King held several law enforcement positions in Maryland before coming to Utah in 2013, including chief of the Gaithersburg Police Department and head of the Baltimore Police Department’s education and training division, according to the Baltimore Sun. He abruptly resigned from the latter position in 2012 according to the same article, denying that it was over an employee’s complaint.

According to the Feb. 19 notice of claim, King was forced to resign as chief of the Gaithersburg Police Department after it was discovered he had engaged in improper sexual conduct. He resigned from the Baltimore Police Department director of education position after it was claimed that he sexually assaulted a female staff member, the claim states.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported last year that he resigned from the Baltimore Police Department’s education and training division due to sexual assault allegations, with the Baltimore Police Department paying $24,000 to settle the case in which he was accused of groping a female staff member. As part of the settlement, King was released from any liability. In that article, then-Provo Mayor John Curtis said the city was unaware of the Baltimore case.

“A simple background check by the City of Provo would have revealed King’s proclivity for sexual misconduct and predation,” the Feb. 19 claim states. It further states that, upon firing King, then-mayor Curtis admitted he’d known about King’s misconduct for months, and apologized for not doing something sooner.

Inquiries to the Gaithersburg Police Department were forwarded to their records department, which has not responded to a Daily Universe request for records pertinent to King. The Baltimore Police Department also has not responded to a records request as of this writing. A request for comment from the Hagerstown Community College Police Academy, where King was the police academy director, has not been returned.

Background Check

Multiple media sources reported that John King’s background check was done by Citygate Associates, LLC, a management consulting firm based in California. The firm’s website contains an article from Dec. 2, 2013, about Executive Search Practice Leader Steve Harman helping place King as the Provo Chief of Police. Citygate did not respond to requests for comment and it is not known whether Citygate discovered or made Provo City aware of the sexual assault allegations King faced in Maryland.

The demand letter says Provo City has implied that King’s hire is at least partly Citygate’s fault. This position also does not acknowledge Provo City’s decision to retain King as chief despite allegedly being aware of his misconduct.

Citygate’s Public Sector Executive Search website page states, “The outcome is everything. Our searches result in positions successfully filled with exceptionally talented leaders whose work exceeds expectations. As a result, you can trust our record, not rhetoric.”

 

 

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