The legislator pushing to abolish the controversial Granite School District Police Department is backing off after the Deseret Morning News learned that Granite police arrested his son last year, and some suggested he sought political payback.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, is furious that information from legally confidential reports about his juvenile son was leaked to the newspaper by a woman who initially misrepresented who she was. The newspaper later found out she is the wife of a Granite officer.
Holdaway also said several women, who would give him only their first names, called him on his cell phone to accuse him of "ulterior motives" in pushing the bill, which he says were veiled threats to release information about his son. He suspects they obtained that number, which he gives to few, from the police report on his son.
Granite district officials said Wednesday they are reviewing how information about Holdaway's son was handled and whether any disciplinary action for officers is warranted.
Holdaway said: "I am going to back away from this idea. I don't want this to be clouded by what happened to my son." He said he worried focus would now be on whether he was seeking political payback over the arrest of his son instead of on the worth, cost and risks of school districts running their own police departments.
"I hope someone else will pick up the bill, " he said. "In retrospect, I should have had someone else run it. . . . I had no idea that they would try to bring up privileged information about a juvenile in order to justify their existence."
Holdaway, who is a teacher at Granite district's Taylorsville High School, acknowledged a son was arrested last year after a fight. "But I have no ulterior motive in pushing the bill at all. My concern is whether we have the best approach. . . . Frankly, we should contract with other police agencies."
Holdaway had said he had decided only last week to push the bill after Granite Lt. Todd Rasmussen was charged with armed assault in the October shooting of an unarmed burglary suspect after a high-speed chase in Salt Lake City, which is outside district boundaries (although officers have statewide jurisdiction).
Holdaway said managers of state insurance pools told him that the likelihood of lawsuits over that incident and other heavy-duty police work could lead them to increase rates for Granite, possibly erasing savings the district says it achieves by discouraging vandalism and theft with extra police presence.
The police department has been controversial because of some shootings and high-speed chases, and its costs. A Deseret Morning News Sunday Extra looked at those issues in depth earlier this month, and is available online: School patrol: Granite police force praised, criticized.
The Morning News was first tipped by a caller identifying herself only as "Holly" that Holdaway's son had been arrested last May. She said her children attended Granite schools, so she was concerned by what she had read of Holdaway's bill.
She said she had done some digging on her own and found that Holdaway's son had been arrested by district police. She said the report also said the son warned police would regret arresting him, so she questioned if the bill was payback.
When the newspaper used a "reverse directory" on the phone number she used, it identified the caller as Holly Orton of Herriman, who lives outside Granite district. Further research showed she is married to Granite officer Jeromy Orton.
Holly Orton confirmed that information when contacted again. "I should have been honest with you," she said. She said the idea of calling the newspaper was her own, not that of her husband or anyone else at the police department.
"We absolutely did not ask anyone to do that (tip the newspaper). That's not the way we do business in Granite School District, and it is not the way the Granite School District Police Department does business," said Martin Bates, assistant for policy and legal services to Granite Superintendent Stephen F. Ronnenkamp.
Bates added that under the law, records about the arrest of a juvenile "are protected. But personal knowledge (about what those records say) is not protected." He said if someone released information from personal knowledge, "it is not a violation of the Family Rights and Protection Act."
Still, he said the district was looking into how information was handled and released and whether any discipline should result.
Bates added that Holdaway has been up-front with the district about plans for his bill, and that the district suspects no ulterior motives. "I know Rep. Holdaway, and I believe his motives are what he says they are."
Bates said the district will continue to oppose his bill, however, if someone else pushes it.Comment on this story
"Our Board of Education believed that a need existed and created the police department. Right now, our Board of Education continues to believe that need continues. Our preference would be that if we determine it is no longer needed, we ought to be the ones to make that decision," not the Legislature, Bates said.Holdaway, meanwhile, said he has requested a meeting with Granite Police Chief Jerry Nielsen. "I feel all this shows he may have lost control over what his officers are doing," Holdaway said. "I know they are concerned about losing their livelihood . . . but bringing my family into it is not right."