PROVO — Provo Mayor John Curtis insisted that neither he nor Provo Police Chief John King lied when it was announced earlier this week that the chief was stepping down due to family issues.
"Everything he said was not a fib. It was the truth. He had not broken any policies. He had not broken the law,” Curtis said Thursday.
But what the mayor declined to mention on Monday was that a sexual assault allegation had been levied against King. The Unified Police Department investigated that claim and submitted its report to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, which, after reviewing the case, declined to prosecute due to "insufficient" evidence.
Still, based on the totality of King's personal situation — his mother being very ill, his own health issues, and the sexual assault allegations — Curtis felt it was in the best interest of the city for King to step down.
"I know not of a single policy that was broken. It appears the law was not broken. He, in my opinion, lost his ability to govern this department with the confidence of the city,” Curtis said. "It was the totality of that that led both he and I to say, ‘You need to go back east.’"
Thursday, Curtis held a press conference in the Provo City Council chambers after the sexual assault allegations were confirmed Wednesday night by reporters.
The allegation of sexual misconduct was made Feb. 8 while King was on administrative leave in his home state of Maryland to attend to family matters. On March 1, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office sent a letter to Curtis stating that they had declined to file charges.
But on March 10, the mayor said he received additional information about the investigation from Salt Lake County. On Monday, he met with King and “we mutually agreed his resignation was in the best interest of the city and the department."
Curtis declined to go into detail about the allegation, saying he didn't know all the details himself. He said the woman who made the allegation is not a city employee and is not a minor.
When asked why he didn't come out right away with information to the public about the allegation, Curtis said he had to make the "difficult balance" of taking the allegations seriously, and King's reputation and career into consideration.
"Regardless of how valid the charges were, he has been tainted as damaged,” Curtis said. "And yet, I have no polices broken in the city, no laws broken. And so, I feel at the same time it’s perhaps unfair of me to further taint him."
When pressed further about why he would ask the chief to resign if no laws or city policies were broken, Curtis again referred to the totality of King's situation, saying his "head is not in the game," which is important when events like a homicide investigation are launched, as happened earlier this week.
"I need somebody, when something like that happens in my city, to be 100 percent head in the game. And then they have to stand before the public and I can’t have the public questioning them. I can’t have their credibility (questioned). And to me, that’s the totality of the situation. And I think as unfair as that may sound, that those of us who accept that public role, that public limelight, that’s part of our package, part of our deal. Public trust is so fragile that if that’s lost, it’s very difficult to govern,” Curtis said.
"The very fact that the accusations were made make it very, very difficult for a person in that position. These things go on for years before they are resolved,” he continued.
Curtis described the chief as "crushed" by the situation.
"I know that he deeply regrets that shadow that’s cast by the situation," he said.
When asked what he would have done if King had not agreed to resign, Curtis replied, "I don't know."
Curtis said he did not know how many people within the police department knew of the allegations against their chief when he resigned, but he believes it was only a small handful.
He said he will now turn his attention to naming an interim police chief and start the process of finding a new one.
"We will come out the other side of this better than the way we into it,” he said.