FARMINGTON — The number of officers investigated at the Davis County Sheriff's Office for harassment over the past two years went deeper than the six deputies and jail commanders who were the subjects of a recent investigation, new documents indicate.
Earlier this month, Davis County's Human Resources Department announced five corrections deputies and supervisors had been disciplined following a two-month investigation into sexual misconduct at the jail. A sixth deputy, who likely would have faced discipline, resigned from the sheriff's office.
The investigation concluded at least six to seven women within the corrections department were subjected to unwelcomed behavior for years, mainly from three deputies whose exploits earned them the nicknames the "sexual harassment trio," the "creeper team" and "team sexual harassment" from other employees, the report states.
Two additional deputies were recently found to have violated the county's harassment policies, according to new county investigative reports obtained by the Deseret News through a public records request. Both men have since resigned from the sheriff's office.
Two investigations were conducted involving deputy Jeremy Varela. In 2016, Varela had an affair with a woman whose husband was attending Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training classes taught by Varela, the report states. The woman claimed Varela would often return to his home to have sex with her while on duty, according to the report.
On one occasion, "Varela had to respond that he was enroute to a call while undressed and (the woman) said Varela was routinely out of uniform while on duty during these encounters," the report states.
The woman also said that Varela, who was a police K-9 handler, told her he "had ties to the Mexican mob," according to the report. Fearing that "Varela might be dangerous," the woman ended the relationship in November of 2016. But after cutting it off, the woman claimed Varela continued to phone and text her, the report states.
When interviewed by the county, Varela denied having sex while on duty. The county concluded, however, that the allegations of harassment against the woman were substantiated.
About a month after that complaint was submitted, another woman filed a complaint against Varela. The woman said she had a nearly yearlong relationship with him, but she ended it in August 2016 because she believed he was cheating on her and was verbally and mentally abusive, the report states.
But after ending the relationship, the woman said she received "over 200 calls and texts from him," including one in which he threatened "to shoot himself in Ogden Canyon," according to the report. She also allegedly spotted Varela driving around her neighborhood at night.
Again, the county concluded its harassment policy had been violated. When the county set up an interview with Valera to give him the opportunity to respond, "he resigned his position about one hour before the scheduled interview," according to the report.
A complaint against Lt. Ken Hammon was filed in August. The investigation found that Hammon, who worked in the jail, made unwanted physical contact with employees, including punching them, sometimes under the guise of teaching self-defense, and sometimes as discipline.
"Witnesses stated Hammon's management style reflected a tendency toward physical altercations," the investigation found.
In one case, a female employee was confronted by Hammon during a lunch break. The conversation started with kickboxing and ended with rape, the report states.
Hammon ended up punching the woman on the right side of her chest, knocking the air out of her, according to the report.
Other corrections officers told investigators that Hammon would "punch, hit, grab/twist arms, do wrist locks and bar arm moves" and that it was "an ongoing pattern of conduct," the report states. Sometimes he would punch employees when they made a mistake, the report states. Hammon would allegedly threaten to retaliate if a complaint was filed.
When interviewed, Hammon said he did not intend to hurt anyone and denied bullying. He said some of his actions were defensive tactic trainings. But other employees noted that the "middle of the hallway or just walking around is not training."
The report concluded that while some employees had positive things to say about Hammon, overall the lieutenant "at a minimum … (has a) lack of awareness about others."
"It also appears Hammon himself is not clear about when actions are appropriate and when they are not appropriate," the report states.
Hammon resigned effective Jan. 1.
Last week, Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson issued an open letter saying he takes "full responsibility" for the actions of "these few" who violated policy and was "in no way" dismissing or lessening what they did.4 comments on this story
"These harassing behaviors will not be tolerated by me, my staff, or any other employee," he stated. "I am deeply saddened by the actions of these employees, and offer my sincere apology to the public and the rest of the employees of the Davis County Sheriff’s Office."
The officers named in the reports had been disciplined, he said, "new senior supervisors have been promoted with additional specific training to cover the above identified areas."
Richardson also pointed out that his office employs 365 people and despite the actions of a few, "my deputies accomplish amazing work each and every day which often goes unnoticed."