OGDEN — Police Chief Jon Greiner was fired Wednesday after 38 years with the city because of a federal Hatch Act violation.
City officials “regretfully” announced Greiner’s termination, effective Friday, in a prepared statement.
“Greiner’s termination was unwanted and involuntary on the part of the city, but was required by the Federal Merit Systems Protection Board, pursuant to the Hatch Act, as a prerequisite to receiving future federal grants and loans,” the statement says. “It is imperative to point out that Greiner’s campaign activities that triggered the Hatch Act do not constitute a crime or a violation of a legal duty on the part of the Chief; rather, they affect only the city’s ability to qualify for future federal funding.”
Greiner, who is reportedly on vacation, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Outgoing Mayor Matthew Godfrey said he phoned Greiner on Tuesday and informed him of his termination.
“He’s been a fantastic public servant,” Godfrey said. “Greiner has done so much to reduce crime. He deserves better than this.”
Mike Caldwell, who will be sworn in Tuesday as Ogden’s new mayor, agreed that it’s too bad Greiner has been forced out after more than three decades of distinguished service.
He also blasted the federal government’s administration of the Hatch Act.
“The federal government has been a real bully,” Caldwell said. “They have been inconsistent in their approach across the board.”
Assistant Police Chief Marcy Korgenski will head the police department until Tuesday, when Assistant Chief Wayne Tarwater will take over as interim chief, Godfrey said.
Caldwell hopes to hire the city’s next police chief from within the ranks of the department, but hasn’t determined when that will occur.
“I want to make the right decision for the community,” he said.
Greiner’ termination follows a ruling by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board that the city must fire him or forfeit $215,000 in federal grants because of the Hatch Act violation.
The Merit Systems Protection Board earlier this month reaffirmed Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke’s 2010 decision that Greiner violated the Hatch Act because he signed off on a half-dozen federal grants worth more than $1 million and already in place during his successful 2006 campaign for the state Senate.
The city appealed Parke’s decision and Greiner, a Republican, didn’t run for re-election to the Senate in 2010.
The appeal contested the merits of the complaint against Greiner, saying his job as police chief was not sufficiently connected with federal grants to make him subject to Hatch Act restrictions.
It also claimed that Parke conducted a 2009 hearing in Salt Lake City in a biased manner that prevented Greiner from fully presenting his case.
The majority of the three-member Merit Systems Protection Board disagreed with the city’s claims and upheld Parke’s decision.
The ruling meant the city could either appeal the board’s decision in U.S. District Court, remove Greiner from his job or give up future federal grants totaling about $215,000, which equals two years of Greiner’s salary.
Ann O’Hanlon, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which is the agency responsible for prosecuting Hatch Act violations, declined to comment Wednesday on Greiner’s termination.
However, Carolyn Lerner, who is in charge of the OSC, said in a prepared statement earlier this year that the Hatch Act needs an overhaul.
“The Hatch Act injects the federal government into state and local contests thousands of times a year, its penalties are inflexible and sometimes unfair, and it is out of date with the 21st-century workplace,” she said.