EPHRAIM — One of three former Ephraim police officers who resigned because of controversy surrounding hundreds of police reports left incompleted by the former chief, has now filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit.
Darren Pead filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the city of Ephraim and City Manager Brant Hanson.
Pead, along with former officers Larry Golding and Jared Hansen, had raised concerns with the city that longtime Chief Ron Rassmussen was not properly completing police reports.
"Upon information and belief, the chief’s failure to complete police reports was common knowledge within the police department. The types of calls that were not documented by the chief ranged from minor disturbances to domestic assaults and felony sexual assaults," the lawsuit says.
In June, the officers were asked to use a new template for filling out reports.
"The officers were having trouble implementing the new template, and as such, officer Pead reviewed the chief’s and sergeant’s reports to determine how to use the template. Upon reviewing the chief’s reports, officer Pead realized that Chief Rasmussen had failed to fill out or complete hundreds of police reports, dating back to 2008," the lawsuit states.
The suit contends that Sgt. Len Gasser "cleared" hundreds of blank reports filed by Rasmussen.
"Indeed, even in serious calls involving child abuse, missing person and sexual assault calls, Sgt. Gasser had gone into the chief’s reports and had changed event information, deleted involved persons, and added the classification of 'miscellaneous' before approving the empty reports. As a result of Chief Rasmussen’s and Sgt. Gasser’s illegal misconduct, hundreds of reported crimes had gone undocumented and un-investigated," according to the lawsuit.
The three officers went to the Ephraim City Council with their concerns on June 6. But Pead contends in his suit that no action was taken by the city for a week. Because of that, the officers contacted the Utah Attorney General's Office.
According to Pead, that prompted Hanson to call the officers into his office to be interviewed. During Pead's interview, Hanson "threatened to eliminate all personnel from the police department because the officers had 'elevated' the problem by contacting the (attorney general's) office, and stated that the officers needed to let the city 'take care of itself,'" the lawsuit states.
The Utah County Sherriff’s Office was asked to conduct an independent investigation and found that since February 2007, Rasmussen was responsible for 237 of the department's 272 incomplete reports. The investigation found that while the chief's conduct was not criminal, the lack of report writing was "serious" and opened the door for possible lawsuits against the city.
Rasmussen was placed on administrative leave for five days by the city but allowed to return to the department as chief.
The decision to bring Rasmussen back prompted the three officers to announce their "reluctant" resignations in a strongly worded letter to the City Council, effective the moment Rasmussen returned to work.
"We have lost all confidence in our chief and in the city officials that are responsible now for a coverup of epic proportions," the letter said.
In addition, Pead states in his lawsuit that when Hanson asked the sheriff's office to look into the report writing allegations, he also asked the department to investigate the actions of the three officers. As a result, Utah County's investigation focused as much, if not more, on the three officers and ignored other important issues related to neglecting reports, the lawsuit contends.
"The investigators inexplicably issued a Garrity warning to Chief Rasmussen, confirming that anything he said during the interview would not be used against him in a criminal proceeding," court documents state. "Almost as an afterthought, the investigators questioned Chief Rasmussen on his incomplete reports and did not challenge his explanations for why they were incomplete."
Once the investigation was completed, Pead contends "the city issued statements to the press that downplayed Chief Rasmussen’s and Sgt. Gasser’s misconduct and that disparaged officer Pead and the two other officers.
"The report’s biased and faulty investigation and findings cast officer Pead in a more negative light than Chief Rasmussen," the lawsuit states.
Rasmussen retired from the department on Sept. 30.