Following an incident on April 11, 2017, Matthew Winters of West Jordan, who was a property victim and witness to a crime, has continued to investigate various inconsistencies with police reports on the incident. However, since his GRAMA request on April 12, 2017 and the interview he gave to KUTV News on April 14, 2017, the City of West Jordan, Utah has taken increasing actions to coerce and deter him from further discovery of the truth surrounding the gun the police failed to find on a suspect in custody.
After various follow-ups on his April 12th GRAMA request, the City of West Jordan finally provided a letter of denial of 4 particular video records and neglected to provide or deny other records. Whether or not the City's actions since mid-April have been out of retribution because he gave a TV interview is not yet known with absolute certainty, but the actions the City has taken against Matthew Winters since that time is increasingly suspicious of a City that claims it is not hiding the truth.
In part due to the fact that in denying public records and failing to reference other requested records, the City blatantly lied in its letter of denial, Matthew Winters tried again to express concerns by delivering a letter in person to the City on April 25, 2017. Except, even that action to try to avoid further unnecessary escalation was met with harassment when a clerk for the City Attorney's office, Shaylene Mayer, repeatedly argued and harassed Matthew Winters with his letter addressed specifically to city attorneys, who, not having even read the letter kept trying to force him to take it to a different, unrelated office.
Primarily due to such baseless and inappropriate action and not knowing if the letter would even be delivered properly, Matthew Winters then determined it necessary to file a formal Notice of Complaint on April 27, 2017. Separately, in accordance with the laws of Utah, Matthew Winters filed a appeal of the GRAMA records denial with the City Manager of West Jordan. And when the city failed to respond to the appeal within the time defined by law, he emailed on May 8th asking that he be notified immediately if there was a response he should consider.
So, on May 8th, the City of West Jordan later provided a response. But instead of merely denying his GRAMA appeal for public records which the City is obligated by Utah law to provide, the Deputy City Attorney for West Jordan, Duncan Murray, emailed a letter allegedly from City Manager Mark Palesh (or it may have actually been written by Duncan Murray), which inappropriate include defamatory statements against Matthew Winters. Even if true, such statements claiming he had spoken to and acted in a threatening manner to police employees, are grossly inappropriate inside of GRAMA Appeal Denial Latter. And worse, they were baseless and completely fabricated lies, an act of defamation and further coercion again trying to intimidate and deter Matthew Winters from discovering the truth about how the West Jordan Police Department actually missed a gun on juvenile that had in custody.
From Matthew Winters' perspective, mistakes can happen, even by good police officers. But the situation, which put numerous residents, Fire Department personnel, and even other West Jordan police officers at great risk, is an entirely different matter if the wrong police officers are being blamed for missing the gun. And if police administration are protecting one or more officers at fault and allowing others to take the blame, they can't possibly expect their statements of taking the matter seriously to be believe by anyone. And they can't expect residents to feel safe. Further, the perspective Matthew Winters has maintained is that if such is not the case and the police reports blessed and certified by police administration are actually true, it is highly suspicious that the City of West Jordan has gone through considerable effort to repeatedly try to intimidate and deter him obtaining the public records. For a City and police administration that didn't start out by being accused of wrongdoing, their actions are very hard to understand. In fact, if the videos would exonerate their version of events, it seems like the City of West Jordan would be eager for Matthew Winters to see the videos for himself.
Instead, Matthew Winters was called in by West Jordan Police Department's Internal Affairs for a record conversation, falsely accused of threatening police employees, and made to feel unwelcome in his own city. In fact, when Matthew Winters responded to the false accusations by email to Duncan Murray and Mark Palesh, even inviting them to have a conversation and full review if they truly believed he had acted inappropriately towards police employees, Duncan Murray responded by ordering Matthew Winters to not call, email, or use a computer in any way to contact any employee of the city, making a veiled or implied threat he would file false criminal charges if he did not comply. Responding once by email to indicate he would take it under advisement, Matthew Winters provided the City of West Jordan with an opportunity to remove the defamatory material inappropriately inserted into a GRAMA denial. Instead of taking advantage of the courteous opportunity, Duncan Murray replied with the same ridiculous order about communication.
Sadly, the City of West Jordan has now made the defamatory material part of the GRAMA appeals process and part of the record that must be provided to the State Records Committee for the next level of appeal. And that appeal and record is published and publicly posted. For Matthew Winters, that aspect may not be the worst part. For a person who has taken great pains to act respectfully despite the City of West Jordan's egregiously inappropriate behavior, false accusations of character is distressing, along with various efforts to intimidate and harass. That makes living in the City of West Jordan quite uncomfortable at best, and perhaps, not even safe.
Any citizen should have the right to partake of a city's services. Any citizen should have a right to voice concerns. Any citizen should be allowed to follow procedures established by Utah state law without being fearful that a City government is going to retaliate. While the City administration may have been embarrassed by the KUTV interview, never did Matthew Winters deliberately "paint them" in an unfair light. Even in the interview, Matthew Winters was incredibly respectful despite the situation, which is rather ironic for a city that has since tried to claim he is the opposite in a public document.
Perhaps, in the end, agreeing to do the i