Provo officials respond to sexual harassment lawsuit against former police chief, Provo City

PROVO, Utah - Provo City officials are responding after five women filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Provo Police Chief John King and Provo City.

The lawsuit also accuses then-Provo Mayor John Curtis of sweeping the allegations under the rug.

Curtis is now a congressman and denies it; King resigned last year.

Provo City is filing a response Thursday to the women's complaint brought against the city and King.

The attorney for Provo City, Heather White, says the city was not reckless in hiring John King in 2013. An outside company conducted a thorough background check on King and didn’t reveal any problems.

But the plaintiffs say a Google search showed King left two previous positions in Maryland.

“It didn't reveal anything other than prior resignations by Mr. King," White said. "I think one was a conflict with another employee.”

In response to a sexual harassment claim made by a dispatcher in July 2014, who quit because King made inappropriate comments about her breasts, White says the woman filled out a questionnaire a month later. She said she was leaving the city to pursue a better career and hailed Mayor Curtis as a “great leader.” The woman stayed on as a dispatcher for nine months and never reported any future problems.

Another woman claims King sexually assaulted her in January 2017. White says Curtis referred her case to the Utah County Attorney’s Office. It was then turned over to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and they declined to file criminal charges. They re-investigated at the woman’s request, and it was declined a second time. The city then forced King to resign in March 2017.

“The city went beyond relying on others to self-report. It invested significant time and resources in proactive efforts to root out and eliminate discrimination within the city,” said White.

The city is not representing John King so they did not speak on his behalf. Attorney, Leon E. Weiss, who has not been formally retained by King just yet, did provide a statement to Fox 13 on King’s behalf:

“Chief King has asked me to tell you that he unequivocally denies all allegations of wrong-doing or misconduct in the Complaint filed against him and Provo City. He is confident in the Court Process and in the Rule of Law; and he is certain he will successfully defend himself.”

One of the attorneys representing the Plaintiffs in the Provo lawsuit, Katherine Venti issued the following statement:

“We are disappointed that the City of Provo has chosen to extend litigation in this matter instead of taking responsibility and accountability for the actions of their Chief of Police, whom they should not have hired or retained as long as they did. The Plaintiffs obviously strongly disagree with the City of Provo's versions of events expressed today. We disagree with the City’s statement that it did not have a culture of harassment or discrimination and disagree that it followed its policy on harassment with regard to these Plaintiffs. Mayor Kaufusi could resolve this and allow everyone to move forward. Instead, the City of Provo is again failing these women. We do believe it’s time for Provo to do right by the women they hurt.”

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