An organization representing government workers has accused Utah Department of Transportation director Eugene H. Findlay of "hand-picking" someone from his LDS ward to apply for a job, and the group wants the attorney general to investigate.

"We want the hiring practices within the entire agency scrutinized," said Ray Taylor, deputy director of the Utah Public Employees Association.But the state's director of human resources said his preliminary probe into didn't uncover any wrongdoing.

"The woman does not attend Gene's ward," said Felix McGowan, executive director of Human Resource Management. "He (Findlay) did nothing out of the ordinary. It was no more than receiving a referral for an applicant."

A press release issued Wednesday by the UPEA said a letter to Attorney General Paul Van Dam requesting an investigation was prompted by a string of complaints about UDOT's hiring and promotional procedures.

The latest incident involved the "hand-picking of a job applicant who is a neighbor to (Findlay) and who attends church with him.

"According to UPEA, the applicant was not given the position so Findlay abolished the job and impeded promotional opportunities for current employees," the release said.

The association dismissed UDOT's reported explanation that the position was dissolved because of possible violations of federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws in the agency's District 2 office in Salt Lake County.

UPEA said that particular UDOT district had been previously cited for compliance of federal hiring regulations.

"Dedicated District 2 workers have been accused of equal employment law violations when, in fact, the problems rest with the agency's administration," Taylor said.

"There is widespread knowledge within the department that job candidates residing within the ecclesiastical boundaries of the executive director are receiving personal attention and preferential treatment."

Findlay is bishop of a South Jordan ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But McGowan said he didn't find the incident brought up the UPEA the result of religious discrimination. Instead, he said Findlay froze the job opening because the director feared sex discrimination in the hiring process.

According to McGowan, Findlay arranged interviews for a woman after a friend of his told her she was looking for a job. "The woman lives in his neighborhood, but does not attend his church," McGowan said.

She applied and interviewed for two positions requiring the same qualifications. One of the jobs was filled by another woman, while those hiring for the second position questioned the qualifications of the woman Findlay had arranged to be interviewed, McGowan said.

Findlay froze the position, suspecting a sex bias because the woman's qualifications came into question for one job and not the other. Further fueling his fears of discrimination were accusations last fall of statements by District 2 employees unhappy about working with women, McGowan said.

He added that complaints concerning hiring are not handled by the attorney general, and that UDOT is conducting an ongoing investigation into District 2 hiring practices.