SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank says he was given an ultimatum Thursday afternoon by mayor Ralph Becker to sign an apology, resign or be fired—and Burbank said he believes the move was political in nature and only comes because it’s an election year.
“This decision is not in the best interest of the public,” Burbank said of the ultimatum he resign or apologize after nine years as chief. “It's election politics.”
Burbank’s resignation comes after he says he was called to Mayor Becker’s office at 3 p.m. and told he could either sign a pre-written statement and apologize in regard to the police department’s handling of accusations of sexual harassment, or he could resign, or he would be terminated.
“I have been the police chief, in fact I think there’s only one who has been longer than I have for 9 years, and if you don’t think there were disagreements with two different mayors, with many, many city employees--absolutely," Burbank said. "The difference is those disagreements, those decisions were not made in an election year.”
Becker said Thursday he believes making the issue is political is a disservice to the three female officers involved in the lawsuit.
“This is an election year, and I understand how a campaign can heighten rhetoric,” Becker said. "…But our political process should focus on legitimate areas of policy and leadership differences among the mayoral candidates and not trivialize or politicize issues as serious as sexual harassment, which involve victims who deserve respect and privacy."
Candidate for Becker’s job in the upcoming election spoke about their take on the issue.
“I believe the mayor needs to also be held accountable,” Mayoral Candidate Jackie Biskupski said. “He knew about this harassment case a year ago, and it wasn't until these women filed a lawsuit that he decided he needed to pay a little bit of attention to it. But why didn't he let the chief go a month or so ago when this came to light?”
Mayoral Candidate Luke Garrott also weighed-in on the timing of the announcement.
“It seems a bit coincidental to the election season,” he said. “I don't know what would have happened if this didn't become public, and that is what's really disturbing: Is it only wrong if you get caught? In this case, clearly action should have been taken earlier by the chief. The action to sit on Deputy Chief Findlay's administrative leave was one that has large repercussions for female employees across the city."
Click here for more details on the press conferences held by Becker and Burbank regarding the issue, including the full text of Becker’s statement and the complete video of Burbank’s remarks.