Lehi Police Cover-ups 

City prosecutor alleges police chief helps his friends.

click to enlarge Lehi city prosecutor Dave Clark - JOHN TAYLOR
Lehi City Prosecutor Dave Clark says that his boss recently told him that the occasional cover-up of a crime by the Lehi City Police Department is not that big of a deal.

These crimes were not simple parking tickets, however. Clark was complaining about cover-ups of a hit-and-run, theft and driving under the influence. He also says that twice, the police pressured him to bring charges against innocent people.

“On Oct. 15, 2009, I went to the city administrator and said, ‘Goddamn it, Jamie [Davidson], I’ve got another cover-up here. Not only is it wrong, it’s probably illegal.” Clark says this was not the first time he approached his superiors about the problems, yet there never have been any serious consequences for Lehi Police Chief Chad Smith. In fact, Clark says that the city reappointed Smith “and gave him a raise [to] $155,000 per year, after they knew all about this.” (Representatives at Lehi City Police Department declined to comment for this story.)

Clark’s recall of cover-ups dates back to October 2005, when Clark was briefed about a DUI incident in which the person was reported to have marijuana in his system and a blood alcohol level of .09. When Clark spoke to a police lieutenant about filing charges, he was told, “The chief says no.”

Clark says he was told the driver had suffered mental injuries and therefore shouldn’t be charged, yet when Clark investigated these injuries, he discovered, from the driver’s spouse, that his injuries did not explain the behavior. In a letter Clark drafted and submitted to the Utah State Auditor in 2009, he writes that after asking the wife of the driver about the incident, she asked Clark: “Why are you bringing a charge in this case? [Police Chief] Chad Smith said that nothing was going to happen.” Clark was eventually able to file charges, and when he did so, he discovered that the person had been charged with a prior DUI in 2004. Given that history, Clark notes in his letter to the auditor that “had this case gone uncharged, any subsequent DUI could only have been charged as a Class B misdemeanor, rather than as a third degree felony, thereby giving the justice system authority to incarcerate the defendant for only six months, rather than a maximum of 5 years.”

After the 2005 case, Clark let the issue drop when superiors told him that the city was re-evaluating policies on communicating cases between the prosecutor’s office and the police department. But soon after, Clark heard of a drunk-and-disorderly report in 2006 that was not filed with his office since the perpetrator was alleged to be an acquaintance of the chief.

In 2007, Clark says, the police pressured him to bring charges against two innocent men. Ultimately, it was two more cases of unfiled reports that eventually pushed Clark to take the matter to the offices of the state auditor and the Utah attorney general, as well as approach local media. In 2008, Clark found out about a case of an unchallenged hit-and-run—a hay baler struck a power pole, which damaged a home, but the driver fled. The homeowner complained to Clark that the case had yet to be resolved.

When Clark investigated, he discovered that the police had given a report to the homeowner but omitted a statement from a witness, who described seeing the driver crash into the power pole and the resulting eruption of sparks and flames that looked like “a bunch of fireworks going off.” More importantly, the witness saw the driver stop momentarily after causing the accident before quickly leaving the scene.

Clark also discovered that the incident was never reported to his office, because, Clark says the person who caused the accident knew the right people in the police department.

In August 2009, Clark found out about a theft case only after the frustrated victim approached him to find out why nothing had happened about the theft of $400 worth of gravel taken from his property. In the police report—which Clark did not receive until after he had heard about the case directly from the victim—the alleged thief even admitted to police that he took the gravel without the owner’s permission.

It was after this point that Clark complained to Lehi City Administrator Davidson, when he says Davidson told him that Lehi, while a growing city, still had a “small-town” philosophy when it came to handling certain cases. In his letter of complaint to the state auditor’s office, Clark writes that Davidson told him “one cover-up a year just isn’t worth worrying about, so don’t worry about it.”

Davidson says he is aware of the charges made by Clark but says that he can’t comment on the allegations since it’s now part of an ongoing state investigation except to vouch for the local police department. “They are men and women of competence who operate with integrity, and we will await what the attorney general’s report has to say,” Davidson says. While Davidson is specifically named in Clark’s complaint, he says he doesn’t recall any specifics with clarity.

“He’s identified what appears to be four or five particular incidents over 50,000 case filings over a number of years,” Davidson says. “It’s difficult to remember every single conversation about filings within the court system.”

Clark does remember, especially since he took notes about each incident that he’s now handed over to the authorities. As he writes in the conclusion of his letter to the state auditor’s office: “I have serious concerns about the well-being and safety of the citizens of Lehi City. I don’t know if this is the whole iceberg or just the tip of it, but the results of an ongoing problem like this are, needless to say, as potentially serious and disastrous as a mid-air collision.”

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