Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has removed Police Chief Chris Burbank over his handling of a sexual harassment complaint involving a deputy police chief.
Becker announced Burbank's resignation from the force on Thursday afternoon. He held the position of chief for nine years.
At issue was a case involving then-deputy chief Rick Findlay, who was accused of sexually harassing three female officers. Those charges were later substantiated by an investigation. Instead of firing Findlay, Burbank put him on paid administrative leave for months until he had amassed enough time in office to retire with benefits. The three female officers have filed suit against the city.
The resignation comes just days after Becker told UtahPolicy.com in an interview he disagreed with the way Burbank had dealt with the issue. "I personally would not have handled the situation the way it was handled," said Becker. "I can tell you the Mayor's office worked very closely with the police chief and made our views known but, ultimately, that employee worked for the police chief."
The sexual harassment had become a major campaign issue in Becker's re-election bid. His opponents have repeatedly criticized him for mishandling the situation. In a statement Becker said "As we have seen over the past two weeks, there is no doubt that in an election year, my opponents will seek to use any and all actions of my Administration to their political advantage. This is unfortunate. I have strengths and weaknesses, like anyone. And, as a Mayor up for reelection, I expect criticism and open airing of disagreements. However, for anyone who knows me – and some of my most vocal critics know me quite well – they know that I stand firmly and unequivocally for the just, fair, decent and equal treatment of all people."
Becker reportedly issued an "ultimatum" to Burbank, asking him to apologize for his handling of the situation or resign. Burbank chose the latter route.
Becker said Deputy Chief Mike Brown will serve as acting chief until a replacement for Burbank was found.