Complaint alleges misconduct by LaVerkin police chief

LaVerkin Police patrol truck. | File photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A complaint filed against the LaVerkin chief of police alleges that he compelled a subordinate female officer to come to his house while she was on duty to be lectured by his wife.

The complaint was filed with the city of LaVerkin against Police Chief Ben Lee based on allegations of misconduct. According to statements from two sources, both of whom preferred to remain anonymous, the complaint alleges that discriminatory actions were taken against a six-year veteran female officer of the LaVerkin City Police Department.

The discriminatory actions allegedly included shift changes made arbitrarily, removal of posts from the department’s social media page without explanation or cause and derogatory comments about the officer’s work performance outside of the scope of a performance review.

The incident that prompted the filing of the complaint allegedly occurred in February when the officer, who was on duty at the time, was asked by Lee to go to his home to meet with his wife.

During the meeting, one of the anonymous sources said the officer was accused of inappropriate behavior toward the police chief that was either misinterpreted or never took place. According to the source, the officer attempted to defend herself against the allegations, but the conversation devolved and she left the residence without coming to a resolution in the matter.

After the complaint was filed with the city of LaVerkin, it was dismissed and no action was taken. The decision was appealed, but that appeal was also denied about a week later.

After submitting a formal request for a copy of the complaint in mid-March and making multiple inquiries to the city about the status of the records request, St. George News contacted LaVerkin Mayor Richard Hirschi on March 20.

During a phone conversation, Hirschi said “we know we have to give this to you, we’re just working on how to go about that,” later saying the city attorney was out of town.

Five days later, the city formally denied the records request in an email, based on the grounds that the information requested contains and would disclose private, personal information involving Lee that the city “does not have the consent of the subject of the records to release.”

The complaint has since been sent to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office forwarded the information to the Utah State Bureau of Investigation for review, which is standard operating procedure when it involves another law enforcement officer in order to provide an objective assessment of the situation.

Utah Department of Public Safety Lt. Nick Street confirmed the complaint was received by the bureau.

“We are currently in an assessment phase on the matter to determine if the investigation needs to go in a criminal direction or in an administrative direction,” Street said, adding that no further details could be released at this time.

St. George News contacted Hirschi and Lee by telephone Wednesday, and both said they were unable to comment on the matter.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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