SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys have filed a formal grievance on behalf of two Hyde Park employees who quit their jobs after their supervisor pointed a gun at them during a meeting and was demoted, but was later reinstated to his position.
According to the grievance provided Friday to the Deseret News, the decision to reinstate Public Works Director Mike Grunig came after a closed hearing during which his friend, a former mayor, defended him but the employees weren't present to share their sides of the story.
Grunig's son-in-law, Councilman Mark Hurd, was also involved in the decision to reinstate him.
The grievance filed Wednesday on behalf of Justin Bodrero and Kolby Christiansen — who have both quit their jobs as a result of the incident — seeks a new, fair hearing, as well as possible damages from the city. The men also ask the city to preserve all evidence in the matter.
"Some of that will involve the employment of Kolby and Justin because we believe they were constructively terminated by the City Council's decision. None of them were comfortable working with or under Mike Grunig any longer," attorney Erin Byington explained.
In the time leading up to Grunig pointing a 9 mm handgun at three men during a meeting in November, the men had noticed he "doesn't seem to be the same person" and "seem(ed) paranoid about a lot of things," according to the grievance.
Before the November incident, one of the employees reported Grunig "took him out for a drink during work hours to quiz him about co-workers and (was) overly concerned about what others are doing than safely completing the job at hand."
The men told Mayor Sharidean Flint about the gun incident in late January after Grunig allegedly pulled an unholstered handgun out of his pocket and placed it on another co-worker's desk. They said they were scared for their safety and feared retaliation.
The men, all familiar with guns, had never experienced something like the incident in November, they said.
"The delay in reporting this incident only legitimizes the fear of these men. Grunig has a history of holding grudges, continually taking jabs at employees he does not care for, and making the situation hostile until the employee gets fired or quits," attorneys wrote.
According to Bodrero, the men waited because "we did not think anything would be done to correct this problem because of all the friends he has on the council and the friendship he has with the mayor, he has gotten away with some big lies and things in the past."
After Bodrero, Christiansen and a third employee gave their reports of the event to North Park Police Chief Steve Milne, Flint demoted Grunig and cut his pay, finding the incident negligent on Grunig's part.
But Grunig appealed the decision, and the City Council decided in a closed hearing to reinstate him with back pay for the time he worked with a pay cut, deciding that his actions were offensive but did not institute a threat. He was instead suspended without pay for six days.
The problem with that decision?
According to the grievance, Bodrero, Christiansen and the other employee were not asked to tell their sides of the story during the hearing with the City Council. Instead, Grunig defended himself with former Mayor Bob Christensen "to bolster him at his appeal, though Christensen was not a witness, held no official capacity, and was improperly allowed to attend in the closed sessions."
Bodrero and Christiansen had never been given a full Hyde Park City Personnel Policy Manual and did not know their due process rights, the grievance states.
Additionally, council members who are friends with Grunig — including his son-in-law, Hurd — did not recuse themselves from the decision, attorneys said. That is in conflict with Utah anti-nepotism code that restricts what role public officers can play in making employment decisions regarding family members, according to the grievance.
The police chief also never made an official police report, attorneys stated, and evidence wasn't turned over to the county attorney's office.
But now, Byington says, the Cache County Sheriff's Office is investigating the case and will interview the men on Monday. The office is then expected to submit a police report to the Cache County Attorney's Office to screen for possible criminal charges.
Though attorneys are considering a lawsuit, "We don't want to put the cart before the horse," Byington said.
"We'd rather work through things with the city, make sure that local government is functioning the way it should be. That's more what this is about, is the city government acting within its authority and functioning as it should be under Utah law."
She said Bodrero loved his job and has indicated he would like to return. But Christiansen is "more hesitant" as the incident has impacted him "the most, emotionally."
According to Byington, "We believe that most of the people in the city government are good people trying to do the right thing and that this was just a critical error. So that's what this is really about."
In a letter from the mayor to Grunig, Flint referred to Grunig's version of the incident.2 comments on this story
"You acknowledged … you wanted to show off your new gun with its laser, you drew the gun with an opened slide and no magazine, and pointed the gun/laser around the room before pointing it briefly at Justin's crotch. You denied making a comment about a green dot or pointing the gun at Justin's chest or at any of the other employees present. You stated that this was a mistake that you deeply regret and have been humbled over," Flint wrote.
Correction: A previous version identified Hyde Park Councilman Mark Hurd as Mike Grunig's brother-in-law. He is his son-in-law.