City Attorney Gary Crane said Thursday the city council approved the out-of-court settlement agreement in December 2016 after receiving a claim for damages from an attorney representing Tanis Ukena and his family over the Aug. 8, 2016, drama at the Subway on Highway 193 in Layton.
Crane said he was able to reveal the settlement now because Ukena family attorney Robert Sykes mentioned the agreement’s existence during a Salt Lake City press conference Wednesday. Sykes was announcing a lawsuit against Layton City on behalf of Subway franchise owners who said the fruitless arrest of Ukena and the swarming investigation of the highly publicized incident severely damaged their business.
“In good faith we made the settlement ... because of the effect and inconvenience this had on him (Tanis),” Crane said in a phone interview.
“We felt there was no fault on the part of our officer and the other officers,” Crane said. “The city council is 100 percent behind our police officers.”
He added, “The difference in this case is that we weighed the effects this had on people’s lives, especially Tanis’.”
Ukena, 18 at the time, was jailed on the day of the investigation, which brought drug-sniffing dogs and a heavy police presence to the restaurant. Police said initial tests indicated the presence of narcotics in the lemonade that Ukena served to the officer through the drive-thru window. However, state crime lab tests completed weeks later showed the lemonade samples contained no narcotic contamination.
“We did not have the evidence that would sustain the charge,” Crane said.
After he was freed, Ukena returned to work at Subway and later went on an LDS church mission.
“We still don’t know to this day” what caused the incident, Crane said. He said police are still looking at possible causes, such as synthetic substances that toxicology screens can’t detect, to biological agents, “to even the type of vehicle the officer was driving.”
Some cars’ emissions of carbon monoxide have been found to adversely affect drivers, he said.
Crane said he told Sykes in a phone conversation after the press conference that Sykes had “essentially opened the door” to allowing Layton to discuss the settlement, with his comment to journalists that the family’s claim had been resolved.
Restaurant owners Dallas Buttars and Kristin Myers alleged Layton police knew the lemonade was not poisoned but continued to pursue the case. Their U.S. District Court suit said sales dropped 30 percent in a day and several of their employees quit.
“We are discouraged that Subway would ... sue us for police officers doing their jobs,” Crane said.