West Jordan Councilwoman Accuses Mayor of Sexual Discrimination
Nov 06, 2015 12:47PM
● By Taylor Stevens
By Taylor Stevens
An April email detailing a city councilwoman’s accusations of sexual discrimination against Mayor Kim Rolfe resurfaced Oct. 8 when another councilmember forwarded the email to all of the city’s nearly 500 employees.
City councilmember Sophie Rice sent the email to police chief Doug Diamond and the human resources department on April 30, shortly after she was elected by the council. On Oct. 8, Rice’s fellow councilmember Jeff Haaga forwarded the email to all city employees, which he followed minutes later with another email that said, “Disregard.”
Along with sexual discrimination, the four-page document attached to Rice’s email alleged a hostile work environment and fear of retribution.
“I fear sending this,” Rice wrote. “I fear retaliation. I fear that legal action will be taken against me because I am not a lawyer, don’t have a lawyer, and don’t write like a lawyer. I fear for my safety and for my family.”
For these reasons, Rice never meant her letter to go public, and it is has not been confirmed how Haaga obtained access to the letter.
Haaga declined the opportunity to comment.
In her letter, Rice said that each member of the council interviewed her when she was elected. However, she said her interview with Rolfe was slightly different from the others.
“He asked me only one interview question,” she wrote in her letter. “He asked me whether getting this appointment would damage my family. I was aghast. That is an illegal interview question under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and under the law, should he vote against my appointment, it could be considered gender discrimination. On the evening of March 25 at city council meeting, Mayor Rolfe voted against me.”
Rice, who could not be reached for comment, also reported a closed session meeting in which she felt “personally attacked” by Rolfe.
“The manner in which the closed meeting of April 17 was conducted led me to fear for myself, my family, the other councilmembers, and certain members of staff,” she said. “I cannot under the law disclose what was discussed in that meeting, but I now understand the interview question that Mayor Rolfe asked me: whether being on city council would damage my family, to have been a threat upon myself and my family.”
In the city’s Oct. 14 council meeting, some residents spoke up about the issue with public comments.
Zach Wilkes, who lives in West Jordan, said Rolfe had asked him the same question when he’d helped with the mayor’s campaign back in 2013.
“All throughout the campaign he continued to make sure that the demands of the campaign weren’t interfering with our family life,” Wilkes said. “And through the whole thing, I never thought of this question to be anything but concern for my time or the time of my family.”
Rolfe denied all accusations of sexual discrimination.
“I think there’s nothing inappropriate about asking if they had the time to put into the job that it takes without affecting themselves or their family,” he said.
He also said that accusations of a hostile work environment at city hall are “absolutely false.”
“I hope we’re beyond all this bickering and poison-ness, and we will move forward professionally as professionals and get the business of the city done without these personal attacks,” Rolfe said.
According to reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune, both West Jordan City and the Salt Lake County District Attorney are currently both conducting investigations into Rice’s accusations.