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Ex-fire chief of W.V. charged with 3 counts of lewdness

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Criminal charges were filed Monday against a former West Valley fire chief, accusing him of sexually harassing a city employee.

Walter John Williams, 50, Taylorsville, was charged with three counts of gross lewdness, a class A misdemeanor. A $10,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest.According to the charges, a woman told police that Williams approached her on three separate occasions, each about a week apart. West Valley City public information officer Ed Quinlan said the woman is still employed with the city.

On Feb. 12, the woman said Williams grabbed her shirt and "pulled it away from her neck so that Williams could see (her) breasts," the charges state. Then Williams also pulled the woman's pants down.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Lt. Steve Bartlett said the first incident took place in Williams' fire chief car. The two were coming back from a fire, where the woman had been an observer.

A week later, on Feb. 19, Williams "approached (the woman) from behind and touched her buttocks while inquiring about the color of her panties," the charges state. This incident took place in Williams' office, Bartlett said.

On the third occasion, on Feb. 27, "Williams ordered (the woman) into his office and showed her some computer pictures of naked women," the charges state. After locking his office door, Williams began to fondle the woman.

Williams also took the woman's hand and forced her to fondle him, the charges state. The woman tried to leave, but Williams stepped in front of her, facing her, and fondled her. Then Williams followed the woman to her work area and fondled her again, prosecutors say.

The woman told police that Williams "acted without her consent and that she repeatedly told Williams to stop," according to the charges.

Williams resigned as chief of the West Valley Fire Department March 2 when confronted with allegations that he had sexually harassed a female city employee. West Valley's city manager and police chief asked the district attorney's office to investigate the allegations a week later after the victim requested a criminal investigation.

Bartlett would not comment on why the investigation took about four months but said Williams is living out of state and that officials are making arrangements to bring him back.

Prosecutors will allow his attorney, Ron Yengich, to make Williams' first court appearance for him, Bartlett said.

Williams worked for West Valley City for more than 17 years and served as fire chief for four years.

City Manager John Patterson said he was advised of the problem and met with Williams, who resigned that same day. At the time, Patterson said the chief had resigned to avoid going through an investigation of multiple incidents reported by the female employee.

Van Summers, a career firefighter from Phoenix, was hired in June to replace Williams and began his term as the city's top fire official Monday.