Gunnison Police Department denies findings of proposed order
SALT LAKE CITY—The Utah Anti-Discrimination and Labor Division (UALD) has issued a “Proposed Determination and Order” finding that Carl Wimmer, one of the applicants for Gunnison Valley police chief last year, was discriminated against in the hiring process based on his age and religion.
But an attorney for Gunnison Valley Police Department (GVPD) governing board has issued a press release objecting to the finding and vowing to appeal. The press release says the board “categorically denies that it discriminated against Mr. Wimmer in any way, and is confident in its defenses.”
Wimmer, once a member of the Utah House of Representatives, was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But about eight months after moving to the Gunnion Valley in 2012, he converted to evangelical Christianity and eventually became part-time pastor of a Gunnison-based evangelical church.
He lived in the Gunnison Valley and served as a school resource officer and police officer with the Gunnison City and later Gunnison Valley police departments until earlier this year, when, he said, fallout from his involvement in a student sex abuse scandal at Gunnison Valley High School made him decide to leave the area.
Wimmer maintains he experienced discrimination after Brett McCall retired as Gunnison Valley police chief and he applied for the job.
Three people applied for the position. On paper, Wimmer was the most qualified. The published requirements for the job included a bachelor’s degree Among the three applications, he was the only one with a college degree. In fact, he had almost completed a master’s degree. And he had more years of police experience than either of the other candidates. But he didn’t get the job.
Wimmer appealed to UALD, which opened a investigation into the situation. In the course of the investigation, the commission asked the members of the GVPD board, including Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay and Centerfield Mayor Thomas Sorensen, if they had discussed Wimmer’s age or religion during their deliberations.
According to UALD documents, the GVPD board members denied discussing such things in deliberations, but the UALD was able to access the audio recordings of the deliberations, and after listening to them, confirmed that the GVPD board had given investigators false information. According to UALD, the recordings clearly included discussion of Wimmer’s religion, practice as a pastor and age.
That finding led the UALD to issued the Proposed Determination and Order, which, according to the UALD is an initial informal finding that there is “reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory practice occurred.”
In a letter to parties involved, the UALD wrote, “Note that this is a Proposed Determination and is being sent to the parties in the interests of resolving this matter prior to the issuance of a “Determination and Order” finding reasonable cause.” UALD said if the parties are not able to negotiate a resolution, it would issue a final, signed Determination and Order. That action could be appealed to a state administrative law judge or the courts.
That triggered the statement from Nathan Skeen, attorney for the police board. “The Gunnison Valley Police Department denies all claims of discrimination asserted by Carl Wimmer,” the statement said.
“The adjudicative process is in its early stages. The UALD has not yet released its final determination regarding Mr. Wimmer’s claims. When it does, that determination may be appealed to the Division of Adjudication where an administrative law judge will determine the merits of Mr. Wimmer’s claims. Mr. Wimmer also has the option of pursuing his claims in federal court rather than proceeding with the UALD.
“The Gunnison Valley Police Department is aware of the UALD’s Proposed Determination and Order. The police department disagrees with the legal analysis and conclusion in the Proposed Determination and Order, categorically denies that it discriminated against Mr. Wimmer in any way, and is confident in its defenses. For these reasons it will vigorously defend itself against the claims before the UALD, an appellate body, or in federal court.”
Wimmer says while the UALD process moves forward, he will pursue a lawsuit against the GVPD board. Although the UALD findings dealt with religious and age discrimination, he believes there were other unethical factors involved in passing him over for police chief—not the least of which is how he handled a high-profile case, in which a handful of youths, were charged with sexually abusing other students at Gunnison Valley High School. Wimmer was the school resource officer at the time.
One student, the son of the one-time athletic director at the high school, ultimately pleaded guilty to serious charges. At the sentencing hearing, some of the victims described repeated and painful attacks that had gone on for years.
“During that case, I received death threats tucked under my car’s windshield wipers,” Wimmer told the Messenger. But he says his family chose to pray rather than pursue legal action.
UALD investigation documents confirm multiple people associated with the South Sanpete School District contacted members of the GVPD board requesting he not be chosen as the next police chief.
Although Wimmer says there is no way to prove his being passed over for police chief was about more than religion and age, he feels good that the investigation found discrimination had occurred.
“The UALD finds in favor of the complainant less than 1 percent of the time,” Wimmer said. “In my case, the discrimination was so obvious and so blatant, there is no question Mayor Lori Nay, Mayor Tom Sorenson and the leadership of the Gunnison Valley discriminated against me because of my religion and my age.”