The Utah Department of Transportation employee who was wrongfully fired after being accused of leaking confidential information about a contract bid wants to be compensated for her time out of work and she wants her old position back. She is calling on Utah Governor Gary Herbert to help her reach an agreement with UDOT, but it’s doubtful he’ll be on board.
Former UDOT Civil Rights manager Denise Graham says what UDOT gave her after a judge determined her termination was unjust was a new position and essentially a gag order.
“I won’t be able to bring anything to anybody’s attention from now until whenever I retire, resign or leave the agency and I’m just not willing to sign away those rights.”
She’s now working under the same title, but doing what she calls clerical work in the research department.
“It was a fabricated position just simply to find some place to put me away from everything that had to do with construction in civil rights which is where my training and expertise and knowledge is.”
Graham and advocacy group Alliance for a Better Utah held a press conference outside UDOT offices in Taylorsville to ask Governor Gary Herbert to demand UDOT properly reinstate her, to pay her back wages and legal fees, and investigate whether or not the Attorney General’s office handled the matter ethically.
Eric Ethington with Alliance for a Better Utah says this is a citizen who has been ruled innocent by a judge who continues to be attacked by UDOT Executive Director John Njord and Governor Herbert:
“How did it end up that you are not only refusing to give her her real job back but you’re also trying to leverage and maybe even blackmail her backpay from her unless she signs these letters saying that the judge was wrong when he ruled that she was innocent. That she’s never allowed to talk about this again. It’s absolutely mind boggling that this could happen.”
UDOT Spokesman Nate McDonald says the Department has been actively trying to finish the negotiation process with Graham but she has stopped communicating with them over the past week. He adds there was a request on the table as part of the negotiations that asked her to keep quiet about the issue: “It was felt at the time by UDOTs executive director to ask for that to cease as part of the negotiation. We later acknowledged that the letter was not a good idea and defended the request."
Graham's original position has been dissolved, so he says there is not position for her to go back to.
But Herbert Spokeswoman Ally Isom says the situation is a UDOT agency personnel matter and external attempts to politicize the process are neither constructive nor appropriate:
“The governor will not get involved. The governor has 22,000 plus employees across the state and it would be micromanaging for him to insert himself in every situation.”
She says the department of human resource management will assist UDOT on this issue.