The Utah Supreme Court is standing by Ogden city's decision to fire an Ogden police officer involved in the department's "towgate" scandal four years ago.
In a ruling posted Thursday, the high court found that the Ogden Civil Service Commission acted appropriately in finding that officer Anthony Huemiller lied to authorities about taking actions to circumvent city policy to give towing jobs to a local tow company.
After a three-day hearing, the commission concluded that Huemiller had lied to superiors when he denied making calls to Ogden Auto Body in exchange for favors. The commission found that Huemiller was friends with the owner of Ogden Auto Body and was vying for employment at the business.
An internal investigation by Ogden city showed that Ogden Auto Body had given at least three officers cell phones to call for towing jobs after auto accidents. Police department policy mandated that officers send towing calls to a dispatcher, who rotated a list of local auto shops. An audit of tow calls showed that Ogden Auto Body received an estimated 46 percent of police-related business between July 1999 and February 2000.
In addition to Huemiller's termination, officers Kelly Zaugg and Ron VanBeekum were fired.
Huemiller claimed that he felt he was forced to prove his innocence before the commission and that the hearing was based on rumors and unsupported allegations. He also claimed his termination was severe punishment.
In their ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court justices found that the commission backed its findings with "substantial evidence" including testimony from several police department officials, including the chief of police, Jon Greiner, and an internal investigation.
As for the severity of his punishment, the high court pointed out that two other officers involved in the scandal were also fired.
Yet despite all their findings, the justices found that the bottom line was that Huemiller had not been truthful about his dealings with Ogden Auto Body.
"Although Huemiller also violated OPD's towing policy, had a conflict of interest and disobeyed a superior officer's order, his answering falsely, by itself, permits the sanction of termination," the decision stated.