Greiner testifies in Hatch Act hearing
Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY -- Police Chief Jon Greiner testified during a Hatch Act hearing Thursday that his only involvement with federal grants during his successful 2006 bid for the state Senate was the 15 minutes it took to sign about a dozen documents.
However, Peta-Gay Irving Brown, an attorney for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, argued during the Merit Systems Protection Board disciplinary hearing in Salt Lake City that Greiner's signature meant he was ultimately responsible for the grants, which clearly violated the Hatch Act.
Brown also argued that Greiner, a Republican, should be terminated from his job because he signed off on a half-dozen federal grants valued at nearly $700,000 that were in place during his campaign for the state's Senate District 18 seat.
The Office of Special Counsel informed Greiner in October 2006 he could remedy the Hatch Act violation by quitting his job or withdrawing his candidacy for Senate.
Brown also took issue with Greiner's contention that his signature and initials on grant documents were a mere formality.
"It's a surprisingly cavalier attitude for a law enforcement officer," she said.
However, Jim Bradshaw, a Salt Lake City attorney representing Greiner, said it was the Office of Special Counsel -- not his client -- that had shown an abuse of power.
"The abuse of power is an agency that contacts you three weeks before an election and says you have to resign from the race or quit your job," he said.
If Administrative Law Judge Lana Parke upholds the federal government's complaint, the city either will have to terminate Greiner or forfeit to the federal government grants equal to two years of his salary, a total of $215,088.
Individuals found in violation of the Hatch Act are prohibited from working for a local or state governmental agency for 18 months.
Parke does not have the power to force Greiner to step down from the state Senate, and Greiner's voluntary resignation would not resolve the complaint.
Greiner testified Thursday he was unaware of the Hatch Act until Mariama C. Liverpool, an attorney for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, phoned him Oct. 2, 2006, to tell him he had committed a violation.
Greiner said he couldn't understand how the Hatch Act applied to him.
"I'm not involved in federal grants," he said. "I had no involvement at all."
John Patterson, the city's chief administrative officer, testified during the hearing he is ultimately responsible for all municipal grants, including those received by the police department.
The original purpose of the Hatch Act was to protect federal workers and other citizens from experiencing improper political pressure.
It has been expanded to include the political activity of state and local government workers if they are employed by an agency in connection with programs financed by federal loans or grants.
Greiner testified that after being contacted by the Office of Special Counsel he temporarily suspended his Senate campaign.
"I am the face of the Ogden city police department," he said.
"I don't want that tarnished."
Greiner said he sought legal opinions from City Attorney Gary Williams, and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who both told him they didn't believe he was violating the Hatch Act.
Greiner said contrary to the way a police department handles an investigation, it appears the Office of Special Counsel did not interview anyone associated with the federal grants.
"It's just not the way I operate," he told the Standard-Examiner following the hearing.
Attorneys representing Greiner, the city and Office of Special Counsel have until Dec. 15 to submit final legal briefs to Parke, who will render a decision.