By Jack Toomey
Five women, including a college student and four current and former employees of the Provo, Utah, Police Department and the Provo Department of Public Safety, filed a lawsuit March 20, 2018 against former Provo police chief John King and the City of Provo, alleging sexual misconduct by King, a failure by the City of Provo to properly vet the chief prior to hiring him, and a failure to act after officials had been informed of allegations about King’s conduct. The lawsuit also questions the circumstances surrounding King’s resignation as chief of police in Gaithersburg in 2010. Filed in the Fourth District Court in Provo, the lawsuit has been moved to the United States District Court for the District of Utah in Salt Lake City.
John King was chief of police in the City of Gaithersburg from May 2007 until he resigned without explanation on Jan. 15, 2010, less than three years later. In a later statement, then-Gaithersburg City Manager Angel Jones said King resigned to “pursue opportunities in the private sector.” The resignation came five days after the city’s elected officials held a closed session to discuss a “personnel matter.” Maryland state law closely guards personnel records and recent requests by The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper to obtain King’s employment records were denied.
King was Provo’s police chief for three years, resigning in March 2017 after being accused of sexually assaulting an adult college student volunteer who was conducting research with the Provo Police Department. King admitted to a sexual relationship with the woman, which he said was consensual.
According to the lawsuit filed by the five women, in fall 2014 John Curtis, then mayor of Provo, called a meeting of senior officials to discuss allegations of sexual harassment by King; in the meeting, the lawsuit alleges that Curtis said he did not want to hear any more complaints. After the lawsuit was filed, Curtis—now Utah Third District congressman (R)—said that his “heart aches to think that there may have possibly been something I could have done to help avoid the pain and trauma that they (the women) have courageously faced.” He added that “as mayor and now a member of Congress I am fully committed to doing my best and being transparent and accessible.”
City officials initially said King had stepped down to move out of state to care for his ailing mother. But, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, then-Provo Mayor John Curtis later revealed that the resignation was due to the sexual-assault complaint. Though no charges were filed by prosecutors in Utah, the mayor said he did not feel he could let King remain as chief because of issues with public trust.
In June 2012, two-and-a-half years after he left the Gaithersburg job and a year before he was hired in Utah, King was investigated and forced to resign after only six months as the Baltimore Police Department’s director of education and training after a female staff member accused him of groping her in a patrol car, according to public records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune. The story, published in August 2017 by The Salt Lake Tribune, states that prosecutors in Maryland investigated the staff member’s allegation, but no charges were filed against King.
The Salt Lake Tribune also reported that 15 months after he resigned, a settlement was reached between the woman, King, the City of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department. The city agreed to pay the female staff person $24,000 and restore vacation days she took related to the alleged assault. No payments were made to King in connection to claims he asserted of mistreatment by Baltimore, but under the settlement, he was released from any liability related to the incident. He also was included in a non-disparagement agreement preventing any of the parties from discussing the alleged assault or the settlement, according to a copy of the agreement obtained from Baltimore City officials.
When King was placed on administrative leave and then resigned from his Gaithersburg post on Jan. 15, 2010, then-Mayor Sidney Katz and members of the Gaithersburg City Council declined to comment, telling Town Courier reporters that they could not speak on a personnel matter. At the time, a resident commented that the “lack of information was suspicious.”