Thursday , June 26, 2014 - 6:28 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — The state’s former chief veterinarian, Bruce L. King, who retired under pressure this month over conflict of interest accusations, disputes some of the allegations against him and complains he was felled by a disgruntled employee who disliked him.
King, 62, was accused by one of his longtime former employees of taking private veterinary jobs on the side, which was only this year outlawed for the state veterinarian position.
One of King’s former staff veterinarians sent a letter in March to state regulators with a number of allegations against King, which led to a two-month investigation ending in King’s retirement.
Wyatt Frampton, now a veterinary instructor at the Layton campus of Broadview University, said King used a state car to commute from Axtell, Sanpete County, with a state gas card during his entire career, refusing to move to Salt Lake; once hired his son-in-law as a meat inspector; and went into business with a man whose meat-packing plant he was assigned to inspect.
King, in an interview with the Standard-Examiner from his home in Axtell, said he retired effective June 1 after a May 28 meeting with Commissioner of Agriculture LuAnn Adams.
Adams, he said, gave him the option of stepping down voluntarily or being fired, citing “some cloudy areas as to conflict of interest.”
Adams, a former Box Elder County commissioner, was named to the statewide post by the governor in December.
“She was only three months on the job, and 45 days of that was the Utah Legislature, which is like being in a tornado,” King said. “I feel like she never had a chance to gain any confidence in me.”
King said he holds no grudge against Adams or the Department of Agriculture, but questions the motives of Frampton, whom he said he fired in September of last year for insubordination.
He said Frampton’s accusations amount to “half-truths and innuendo ... on the gray side of being true. I’ve lost my job because of a disgruntled employee who didn’t like me.”
King admits to bad judgment regarding one of Wyatt’s accusations.
In 2006 he did enter into a business relationship with a fellow horse owner who was also a member of Dale Smith and Son’s meat-packing business in Draper at the time. He was also a field veterinarian with duties involving inspections of the Smith operations.
“I bred some mares for him,” King acknowledged. “My supervisors found out about it and told me not to do that anymore and I didn’t. I was written up for that. It wasn’t very good judgment on my part and I was reprimanded for it.”
As far as the private veterinary work on the side, King said, to which Frampton agreed, it’s common practice among state ag employees.
“I never did it on state time, or using state equipment,” said King, noting supervisors even encouraged the practice.
King said he did not hire his son-in-law Cameron Peterson as a meat inspector in 2000. But he acknowledged he was involved in the interview process.
“But the decision to hire was made by the state veterinarian at the time, Mike Marshall, and he knew he was my son-in-law and cleared it with Human Resources. They said it was OK as long as I was not his direct supervisor. I was a field veterinarian at the time, and not over meat inspections.”
As to using a state car all these years, King said he was never told he had to move to Salt Lake City after he was appointed assistant state veterinarian in 2006 and state veterinarian in 2011.
He noted he is one of only three or four veterinarians in the state who is also trained as a foreign animal disease diagnostician, which leads to extra hours, and extra travel. “I’ve been on call for 15 years.”
Frampton said King landed a contract with the federal Bureau of Land Management that paid him $2,000 a month or more for as long as four years while King was assistant state vet, then state vet. The work was providing veterinary services to the thousands of horses passing through the wild horse ranch at the state prison in Gunnison, a few miles from Axtell.
King said he never made that kind of money, signing a contract in 2010 for the ranch vet work, a 3-year contract worth $80,000. But he canceled it after six months when he was appointed state veterinarian. With the time constraints of the new job, he said he had to tell the BLM he had to pull out.
“I just don’t want it to look like I was a thief and a liar and a robber,” King said.
Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister
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