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Investigation finds Utah County clerk/auditor sexually harassed employee, violating policy



An investigation into a complaint brought against the Utah County clerk/auditor found that Amelia Powers Gardner violated the county’s workplace harassment policy by sexually harassing a former male employee over his sexual orientation.

According to the investigation by the Utah County Attorney’s Office, obtained by 2News through a public records request, Powers Gardner’s “comments as a supervisor and an elected official towards (her former employee) certainly can be categorized as sexual harassment.”

However, the April 2 report noted, Powers Gardner underwent workplace harassment training after the complaint was brought, and investigators recommended taking no additional action.

Powers Gardner, in a statement to 2News, called out “certain officials within Utah County” who want to possibly “hurt my chances in the upcoming special election” for Utah County commissioner by bringing up issues from last year. Powers Gardner is one of the candidates running to fill the vacancy created by Tanner Ainge’s resignation.

According to the report, the Human Resources director interviewed four other employees in the office who corroborated the accusations. The director later met with Powers Gardner who “was very upset and incredulous that this was being investigated” and said she had “no idea her conduct was offensive.” On Dec. 9, the complaint was referred to the Utah County Attorney’s Office which later conducted an investigation.

“Though Ms. Powers at times has rationalized and minimized her behavior towards (the former employee), it is clear she is more conscientious now of her actions and comments,” the Utah County Attorney’s investigator wrote. “She has also completed Utah County’s workplace harassment training and has taken active steps in drawing attention to potential and future workplace harassment problems.”

In her statement, Powers Gardner said “a conflict arose within our office with one of my all-star employees, whom I also consider a long-time close personal friend. The conflict arose from personal miscommunication during the most stressful time of the 2020 election and briefly became a problem within the office.”

She went on to say, “In the course of resolving the conflict, county human resources became involved. Our director of Human Resources handled the matter appropriately, conducting interviews and gathering information. I regretted my part in the conflict with such a valued friend and am committed to improve moving forward. HR made some recommendations, which we gladly followed, and everyone involved believed the matter was resolved and closed.”

Powers Gardner, who took office in January 2019, also provided 2News a statement from the former employee, who remains unidentified. In that statement, the former employee acknowledged meeting with Human Resources over an “incident at the peak of the stressful 2020 election,” but “it was never my intent to seek any sort of disciplinary action.”

The former employee said he was “dismayed” that this issue surfaced after Powers Gardner announced her candidacy for the Utah County Commission, and he said he has “no part in this apparent political vendetta.”

Former Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie also issued a statement in support of Powers Gardner.

Former Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie also issued a statement in support of Powers Gardner.

“Without fail, she treated me, an openly gay colleague, with professionalism and respect,” said Ivie. “More impressive to me is her commitment that all with whom she deals, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, are treated fairly and equally. I repeatedly witnessed that commitment firsthand.”

However, the investigator interviewed the four other employees in the clerk/auditor’s office who had previously corroborated the allegations, and they reiterated their concerns about their boss’s behavior.

One of them, the investigator wrote, said “they left the office due to the comments Ms. Powers would make as well as other unrelated poor behavior that was occurring in the office.” Another said Powers Gardner’s comments toward the former employee about his sexual orientation were “very inappropriate and offensive.”

All four employees said they were afraid of “retaliation from Ms. Powers and her administration” and asked to remain anonymous.

Regarding those four employees, Powers Gardner said they “were indirectly affected” and “are very concerned about this violation of their privacy and have no desire to be involved publicly. I support them in their wishes.”

According to the dates referenced in the investigative report, it took the Utah County Attorney’s Office several months to assign the complaint to an investigator.

In a cover letter preceding the report, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt wrote that he did not immediately assign it due to his office’s workload, the fact that the former employee was no longer working for Utah County, and that “apart from a censure from the Utah County Commission, there was no discipline that could be imposed because the subject of the complaint was an elected official.”

Leavitt said he felt an urgency to get the report completed after Powers Gardner entered the race for county commissioner. “An uncompleted internal investigation into the conduct of a fellow elected official would diminish public trust in the independence and thoroughness of the investigation,” Leavitt wrote.

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