Ravell Call
Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves' chair is empty as he participates by phone during commission meeting in Provo on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.

PROVO — A Utah advocacy group on Tuesday renewed its call for embattled Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves' resignation — but he left the room before they could speak.

Graves was present throughout the commission's three-hour meeting, but he stepped out a back room right before the public comment period when Katie Matheson, spokeswoman for Alliance for a Better Utah, read excerpts from the complaint that ignited the scandal that has surrounded Graves since late last year.

As the group continued its press for Graves to step down, Matheson read an allegation from an employee claiming that Graves, while sitting next to her in a golf cart in 2017, "rubbed my leg just above the knee and laughed and said, 'Don't show it if you don't want it touched.'"

Matheson also read from an investigator's report in December detailing findings that while the investigator was unable to identify any witnesses to corroborate allegations of sexual harassment, he did conclude based on interviews with 14 other employees that Graves is "widely viewed as a 'workplace bully,' 'dishonest,' 'demeaning,' 'intimidating,' 'threatening,' explosive' and someone with whom personal interaction is to be avoided as much as possible."

"We would just like to remind this body that harassment, assault and retaliation are not appropriate in any circumstance and perpetrators of such actions must be held accountable," Matheson said.

"As our nation continues to move forward in breaking the silence on instances of sexual misconduct, we must all commit to creating a better society," she continued. "Commissioner Graves' abuse of his position of power is unbefitting of a publicly elected official."

"I see he has stepped out, but Commissioner Graves, we call on you — wherever you are — to immediately resign from office," Matheson said.

Graves did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Ever since insisting in December that the investigative report would clear him of wrongdoing "100 percent," Graves has not returned multiple requests for comment.

He also stopped physically attending public meetings for about a month and a half, before he quietly reappeared at a commission meeting Jan. 16. But since then, while he has been attending weekly commission meetings, Graves hasn't been attending most other board meetings and other departmental meetings, the Daily Herald reported earlier this month.

Since that March 1 news story, Graves' attendance has slowly begun to increase, said his fellow Commissioners Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie on Tuesday. But before then, Graves had mostly been "working from home," Ivie said.

Lee and Ivie both said Graves didn't tell them where he was going before he slipped out of Tuesday's commission meeting.

Matheson said Graves' absence from the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting and having requests for his resignation to "continue to fall on deaf ears" is "incredibly frustrating, not just for me — but I imagine all of his constituents, for the claimant in the investigation and for the people who still work with him."

"Now taxpayers are not only subsidizing bullying and harassment, they're also subsidizing poor work ethic," Matheson said in an interview later Tuesday.

Graves in 2016 took in nearly $120,000 in salary and about $48,000 in benefits, according to Utah's transparency website.

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Both Graves' fellow commissioners called for Graves' resignation when allegations against him surfaced back in December. They said on Tuesday it's frustrating that little can be done since Utah has no recall law.

"My feelings haven't changed — but it is what it is," Ivie said. "Regardless of what he decides to do, I have to get the work of the county done."

Ivie said the issue continues to be a distraction for Utah County, but according to state law, there is no way to force Graves to resign.

"It is what it is. He fulfills his statutory duties by coming to commission meetings," Ivie said. "That's between him and his conscience, not mine."