A former Davis County constable has sued the sheriff and two county commissioners, claiming he was wrongfully terminated and demanding his job back, plus damages.
Sheriff Rob Davis, in the midst of a tough re-election campaign, said the suit filed in 2nd District Court on Thursday is politically motivated. "It's a feeble attempt to bring up an issue," Davis said. "This is a frivolous lawsuit, and it really doesn't involve me."Phil Leonard claims Davis and commissioners Gayle Stevenson and Dan McConkie conspired to eliminate the constable position and consolidate his duties in the sheriff's office.
Leonard, 54, claims in his suit he was denied due process in his termination, was subject to age discrimination, received retaliation from sheriff's deputies and had emotional distress inflicted on him by the three defendants.
He is asking for more than $60,000 in damages as well as reinstatement as constable and an injunction to protect him from future retaliation.
Davis said he has not been served with the suit but that its timing, just before Tuesday's primary elections, is not a coincidence. And he insists it was up to the commissioners to terminate Leonard.
But the suit alleges that Davis ordered his deputies to harass Leonard during a dispute involving stray cattle at his ranch.
Leonard said it took him a long time to file the suit because he was waiting for a decision from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recently said he had a right to file the lawsuit, having exhausted all other avenues of appeal.
But he admitted the timing serves a political purpose. "There might be a bit of political skulduggery involved," he said Friday.
McConkie and Stevenson were both out of town Friday and unavailable for comment.
Davis faces Bud E. Cox, a sheriff's captain, in Tuesday's Republican primary. Leonard said he supports Cox. Davis said he suspects that the Cox campaign influenced the suit's timing, an allegation Leonard denies.
Davis County Search and Rescue members also came forward this week alleging Davis tried to coerce the volunteer group into supporting his campaign, despite their professed neutrality.
According to Search and Rescue Commander Jeff Tibbits, Davis told the rescuers they needed to support his campaign to offset damage done by a letter a former sheriff's officer wrote to newspapers criticizing Davis' campaign fund-raisers.
"He would not take no for an answer," Tibbits said. Davis gave Tibbits a letter to sign, pledging support for Davis, but Tibbits refused, writing a letter affirming the group's neutrality.
Davis denies pressuring Tibbits and says the letter he gave him was only a suggestion. He blames the Cox campaign for blowing the incident out of proportion.
Cox denies any involvement.