Ogden police chief Jon Greiner fired over Hatch Act

Deseret News

OGDEN — Police Chief Jon Greiner was fired Wednesday in an action city officials called “unwanted,” “involuntary” and “unfair.”

City officials said the termination was necessary in order for Ogden to continue receiving future federal grants and loans from the Federal Merit Systems Protection Board, pursuant to the Hatch Act.

Earlier this month, a federal panel ruled that the longtime police chief was in violation of the Hatch Act when he launched his candidacy for the state Senate in 2006. He subsequently went on to serve in the Utah Senate but did not seek re-election.

The Hatch Act prohibits the involvement of certain government employees in a partisan, political race if the entity they work for receives federal funding. The panel gave Greiner 60 days to resign following their ruling.

“We think (the Hatch Act) is a real antiquated, ridiculous law that has been inconsistently and unfairly applied to different people,” Ogden Mayor-elect Mike Caldwell said.

Caldwell said the city has committed “a tremendous number of resources and time and energy” over the past five years to make sure Greiner had a fair, thorough hearing on the matter.

“He didn’t, in our opinion, get a fair hearing at all,” the mayor-elect said. “We don’t feel due process was followed.”

The federal government put a strict timeline on the issue, Caldwell said, giving Ogden until Dec. 30 to comply with the ruling.

“We didn’t feel we had an opportunity to present all of our information,” he said.

A news release from Ogden states that Greiner leaves his post in good standing and has an excellent record of success.

“If a law had been broken, it would have been much easier to jump in and make decisions with this,” Caldwell said. “But no laws were broken. It was the federal government being a bully, and that’s the most frustrating part.”

Greiner began his time as a law enforcer in Ogden in 1973. He was named Utah Chief of the Year in 2005.

The city intends to fill the post internally, if possible, Caldwell said.

Utah lawmaker pulls back on collective bargaining changes

The Salt Lake Tribune

A lawmaker who had hoped to explore changes to Utah’s collective bargaining laws said Wednesday he no longer plans to pursue such legislation this session.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, along with fellow Education Interim Committee co-chairman Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, had asked legislative leaders in the summer for permission to have their committee study the elimination of collective bargaining for public employees — an issue that has sparked protests and consternation in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.

The lawmakers got that permission, and Stephenson opened two bill files in his name regarding collective bargaining. He said he was considering drafting a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining and one that would just limit it to salaries and benefits to see which would gain the most support. But the lawmaker, who also co-chairs the Legislature’s education budget committee, said Wednesday he no longer plans to run those bills this session.

“I’ve got so many other high profile bills I’m running this year,” Stephenson said, referring to other proposals, including one that would create tuition tax credits to help struggling students attend private schools. “I want to focus on the bills that are going to take a lot of my time and energy.”

That’s not to say another lawmaker might not pick up the baton and carry similar collective bargaining bills instead — but it’s unclear if anyone will.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, and House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said they haven’t heard of anyone else looking to push the issue this session. Both said collective bargaining hasn’t come up in either of their caucuses.

“I’m not hearing anyone else talking about it,” Jenkins said.

Dee said he believes collective bargaining should be a local issue.

“I think Ogden City schools were one example of the fact that it is a local issue and possibly the state shouldn’t be in that type of business,” Dee said, referring to the Ogden City School District’s decision over the summer not to negotiate with its local teachers’ union and instead give teachers take-it-or-leave it contracts to be individually signed.

In Utah, collective bargaining is optional. Nationwide, 34 states and the District of Columbia require collective bargaining for public employees and five states bar collective bargaining, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, Utah Education Association (UEA) president, said she’s pleased to hear that Stephenson may no longer be running the bills.

“I’m really grateful,” she said. “I think that Senator Stephenson has recognized that teachers and public employees deserve to have a voice in their salaries, benefits and working conditions.”

Audry Wood, executive director of the Utah Public Employees Association, said she believes it would be more reflective of the public will to not run bills limiting collective bargaining.

“A lot of these individuals are the ones who are in charge of ensuring public safety and the safety of our children,” Wood said of public employees. “I think the public is, overall, supportive of public employees and their ability to negotiate their work situations.”

But just because Stephenson is no longer planning to sponsor bills to limit collective bargaining doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind about it.

“Privately, many school board members admit they have basically given away the store to the union through negotiations,” Stephenson said Wednesday, “and collective bargaining should either be eliminated as it has been in some other states or it should be restricted to salaries and benefits.”

Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem, already has opened a bill file that would bar unions from collecting dues straight from public education employees’ paychecks. Stephenson said Wednesday he would support such a bill.

Also, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, has asked legislative attorneys to draft a bill on collective bargaining. Wimmer said previously he likely would resign before the legislative session to run for Congress, but on Wednesday said he hasn’t made a final determination on that. If he is around for the session, he said he would carry the bargaining bill; if not, he will likely hand it off to another lawmaker.

Still, his bill doesn’t prohibit collective bargaining for state employees or teachers.

“It would just require that collective bargaining discussions be conducted publicly,” Wimmer said.

Also, Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, is still working on a bill that could make potential changes to collective bargaining, mainly aimed at performance and accountability for teachers and administrators, but he said, “I certainly am not trying to send a message that collective bargaining isn’t important or there isn’t a role for collective bargaining in representing our teachers and giving them a voice.”

Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.

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One Utah lawmaker to resign

A law prohibiting fundraising during Utah’s legislative session has at least one Republican resigning his post and another considering stepping down instead of challenging the ban, as candidates have successfully done in other states.

The two state House representatives are seeking congressional seats and say they can’t spare the weeks-long gap from fundraising that would start with the Jan. 23 opening of the 2012 legislative session.

“Any candidate who is looking at federal office will find it becomes extremely difficult to do both jobs,” said Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, who will resign next week to run for Congress.

Political donations during sessions are banned in part in at least 28 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some limits apply only to lobbyists and, in most states, they don’t apply to federal candidates. In the past several decades, judges have struck down similar laws in Florida, Ohio, Missouri and North Carolina.

Clark says he won’t challenge the Utah ban in court. Neither will Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, who also is running for Congress and is considering resigning from the state Legislature.

“I am a middle-class, blue-collar American worker,” Wimmer said, adding that he can’t afford to not campaign during the session.

In Missouri, lawmakers tried for a second time in 2006 to institute the ban by applying it to challengers as well as officeholders.

But a state judge blocked it, saying it violated free speech rights and did not address problems raised with a similar 1994 Missouri law.

As the former House Speaker, Clark has a strong reputation among Republicans. But he is also running for the 2nd Congressional District against multiple GOP candidates and will face a convention fight in mid-April, barely a month after the end of this year’s session.

“The amount of money that would be needed for a federal race is a multiple many times of what is needed for a state race,” Clark said.

One of Wimmer’s congressional opponents, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said he’ll stay in the Utah Legislature because of an ongoing battle over immigration laws. He has said he too will resign to focus on the federal race, but only after the state session ends.

“If I’m a legislator, I’m going to be a legislator,” said Sandstrom. “I may not have the time to be out talking to people. But I have an obligation to those who elected me to remain serving.”

Dan Liljenquist resigns en route to expected challenge of Orrin Hatch

The Salt Lake Tribune

State Sen. Dan Liljenquist resigned his legislative seat Thursday evening — a clear sign that he will run against U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The Bountiful Republican has not been shy about his interest in challenging Hatch, traveling the state to give a series of stump speeches about solving the nation’s debt crisis and touting his record as a legislator.

Liljenquist said in an interview Thursday that he has made a decision about his political future and “I’ll make an official announcement about my plans early next year.”

Conservative groups and activists have urged Liljenquist to run against Hatch, believing the policies the U.S. senator has advocated during his 36 years in Washington have expanded the reach of government and increased the debt.

Hatch’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said he assumes Liljenquist will get into the Senate race, and he has indicated several times that was the way he was leaning.

“We’ll have to wait and see what he decides to do, but it’s too bad he didn’t honor his commitment to the people of his state Senate district to complete his term there, his first and only term,” Hansen said.

Hatch is campaigning aggressively and has been for months, Hansen said.

“When it comes right down to it, the voters of Utah are going to elect [Hatch] to serve another term because of what he can do in the positions he will be in,” Hansen said. If Republicans take over the Senate, Hatch could become chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

Utah law prohibits legislators from raising money for any campaign during the 45-day legislative session, which begins in late January. Liljenquist has said previously that he would resign if he was going to run for Senate.

Quin Monson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said it’s hard to gauge whether Liljenquist can tap into the same delegate frustration that led to the ouster of Sen. Bob Bennett last year.

“He’s starting late, and it’s hard to tell who the delegates will be in advance and if they’ll be as grumpy as they were last time,” he said. “I think Hatch is being more aggressive, he’s had more time to reach out, and it may be that the unhappiness reached its peak with Bennett.”

State Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, said Thursday he is still considering running against Hatch and will make up his mind after the holidays.

Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson’s announcement on Thursday that he would seek re-election in the 4th Congressional District leaves open a possibility that Liljenquist could run in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the area of Davis County where he lives.

Asked about that possibility, Liljenquist chuckled and said to wait for his announcement next month.

Liljenquist submitted his letter of resignation to Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, Thursday evening. It was effective immediately.

“I want the people of south Davis County to have a chance to choose a new senator to represent them in the next legislative session,” Liljenquist said.

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