After living two agonizing years with a damaged reputation, no permanent job and no medical insurance because of a wrongful "guilty" label, Don Harman is asking "to be made whole."
He wants his job as an investigator with the Salt Lake County attorney's office back with compensation for lost wages.If Salt Lake County Attorney Dave Yocom refuses to rehire him, Har-man will likely sue the county, Har-man told the Deseret News Wednesday.
In a recent ruling by the Utah Court of Appeals, judges vindicated Harman of any wrongdoing in connection with a 1987 misdemeanor conviction.
Indictments handed up by the 1986 Salt Lake County grand jury led to a subsequent jury conviction on charges of attempted evidence tampering. After the guilty verdict was returned, Harman was fired from his job as the county's chief investigator. Because of the conviction, he also lost all his benefits and his teaching job at the University of Utah. Additionally, he received a notice from his automobile insurance company indicating his insurance policy had been canceled.
His wife suffered ill health because of the stress created by his guilty conviction.
"Every day I lived with the negative ramifications of that verdict - knowing I was innocent. Yet I'm not asking for any damages. I don't blame the county for what happened, I blame the grand jury system.
"But I believe after serving more than 18 years for the county with an exemplary record, I at least deserve to be reinstated," Harman said.
The county commissioners agree with Harman. They are willing to pay Harman more than $100,000 in back pay and believe he deserves to be reinstated at his $42,000-a-year job.
The funds for his back pay would likely come from a county immunity fund.
But Salt Lake County Attorney Dave Yocom said Harman's job as chief investigator has been filled by Sam Dawson.
Yocom told Harman that he could receive back pay but could not be rehired, Harman said.
Dawson and others in the county attorney's office testified as witnesses for the prosecution during Har-man's trial.
Harman was accused of covering up a written report on a fire that destroyed a Murray office building and could have made the county liable for $2.5 million.
Realizing that the county could not have kept Harman's exact position open for the past two years, Harman has offered Yocom two options that would not disrupt the office structure.
Harman has offered to serve as an investigator in the county attorney's satellite office or in the juvenile court. Then, after a year and a half, Harman would agree to retire, at age 55. The service would allow him to receive his retirement benefits.
While many believe Yocom may be reluctant to rehire Harman because of the tension it could create between those presently working in the office who testified against him, Harman says he doesn't hold any grudges.
"But I don't think I should have to be penalized. They are the ones who have to live with what they testified to," said Harman.
Besides the money the county will pay Harman for lost wages, attorney Ed Brass, who defended Harman at his trial and on his appeals, will likely receive approximately $150,000 in attorney fees. State law mandates that an attorney who represents a government official in a trial must be reimbursed if the official is found to be not guilty.