Lawsuit filed against Provo, former 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 lawsuit was filed against him and Provo City on March 20. (Provo City)

The five women making sexual assault allegations against former Provo Police Chief John King filed a lawsuit in Fourth District Court Tuesday, March 20, against King and Provo City.

The lawsuit, which requests a jury trial, comes after the filing of four Notices of Claim and a demand letter. The Daily Universe previously reported on the Notices of Claim, the demand letter and the nature of the allegations, including lewd comments, leering, groping and rape.

The lawsuit also claims then-Provo Mayor and now Republican congressman John Curtis and other officials were aware of complaints against King not long after King was hired in 2013, and that Curtis called a meeting to discourage further complaints.

The demand letter gave Provo City until March 19 to mediate or face litigation; with that deadline now past, the lawsuit asks for damages of attorney’s fees and $300,000 for emotional distress.

The lawsuit also asks for non-monetary damages, including annual harassment, discrimination and retaliation training for all Provo City Police Department members and all Provo City Mayor’s Office employees; guidelines for investigating and resolving harassment and discrimination complaints; guidelines for hiring and/or promoting the police chief and other supervising positions; and a third-party hotline where people who have suffered from sexual assault or harassment can report their complaints.

Michael Young, an attorney for the claimants, did not immediately return an email requesting comment. Provo Deputy Mayor Isaac Paxman said in statement that Provo City  received a copy of the complaint the morning it was filed and that Heather S. White, head of the Governmental Law Group at Snow Christensen & Martineau, has been hired to represent the city. The statement continues that the city is carefully reviewing the allegations, which includes an internal investigation, and that Provo City will not comment on particulars while the investigation is pending.

“Provo City does not and will not condone sexual harassment, nor does it condone intimidation or retaliation against employees for reporting misconduct or pursuing rights under the law,” the statement continues. “Mayor Michelle Kaufusi is continuing her efforts to spread that word far and wide throughout city departments. It is a top priority for her to ensure that every employee here has a safe and comfortable work environment.”

The Daily Universe previously reported that King was forced to resign as chief of the Gaithersburg Police Department in Baltimore, Maryland, after allegations of sexual misconduct. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, King was hired to lead the Provo City Police Department in 2013 after no criminal charges were filed in the Maryland case, and he resigned in January 2017 when the local allegations came to light. Then-Provo Mayor John Curtis also told the Tribune the city hadn’t known about King’s background, but a Notice of Claim states he later admitted to knowing for months about King’s misconduct.

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