OGDEN A flurry of controversy has surrounded Ogden City police officer Matt Jones being put on administrative leave.
Wednesday morning Utah State Rep. Neil Hansen, R-Utah, told the Deseret Morning News he would ask the Ogden City Council to order an independent investigation.
"The mayor and the chief are saying this has nothing to do with the sign," Hansen said. "If it didn't, why was the mayor following the truck? Why was the mayor asking for the license-plate number? All that just doesn't make sense if this issue is not involved in his administrative leave."
Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner is standing by what he has previously said: The van in question, which has signs critical of Mayor Matthew Godfrey hung on it, and Jones being put on administrative leave are not related.
"We do not care about that van, we don't care about who drives that van, we don't care about what the van says," Greiner said. "He is on administrative leave for something that at some point is going to come out."
Greiner said he does not yet have all the facts and neither does the other side. He is waiting for a lieutenant to finish an internal investigation before any decisions are made.
He said he would not have a problem having an outside agency conduct another investigation, saying "we ask other agencies to do investigations all the time."
Jones said he was told he is being investigated for "conduct unbecoming of an officer." While he and other officers are not sure what that means, Jones said it will be at least two weeks before he knows anything.
Greiner said he remembered he was going to put Jones on administrative leave only after running a personal license plate, which Godfrey called and requested, and which came up with Jones' name.
Godfrey reportedly followed a moving van with a sign on it saying, "Welcome to Ogden City, home of Godfrey's ticket quota" and wanted to know who the vehicle belonged to.
While Ogden City Attorney Gary Williams would not comment on the matter, the Utah Department of Public Safety said it does not run a license plate unless there is a "legitimate police reason."
Right now Jones, who has worked the department for 2 1/2 years, is on administrative paid leave, "getting paid to sit home while we figure this whole thing out," Greiner said.
Jones' wife, who was driving the van in question Thursday night, worries about what her actions might have caused.
"She feels like her speaking out is going to make me lose my job," Jones said. "She is pretty scared for our income."
The Ogden City Police Department conducts about one internal investigation every two weeks. Greiner said only about 25 percent of those result in someone being put on administrative leave.Comment on this story
Normally when an officer is put on administrative leave, their badge is not taken away. Greiner would not comment on why Jones' was taken.
"I can't comment on that at this time," he said.
On the side of free speech rights for government employees, the American Civil Liberties Union is interested in the situation."There are a lot of interesting cases out there about the limitations of free expression and the rights of public employees," said Dani Eyer, executive director of the ACLU of Utah. "But we don't have all the facts and have not yet analyzed it (this case)."