Wednesday, April 23 2014, 09:23 AM MDT
Swallow Complaint Delayed At Commerce Boss' Suggestion
By Matt Gephardt
(KUTV) In June of 2012, Traci Gundersen was the Director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection. She approached her boss, Utah Department of Commerce Director Francine Giani and asked her to begin reading. Gundersen had drafted a complaint accusing then candidate for attorney general John Swallow of breaking Utah State Bar Association rules after he met with a man being investigated by Consumer Protection. Gundersen planned to file the complaint with The Bar.
By phone Tuesday, Giani told Get Gephardt that she advised Gundersen, “Don’t do it.” It’s a story Gundersen confirmed.
“It was represented to me that I could file it if I really felt it was necessary but that if I were to do so it would probably ruin my career," Gundersen said.
Gundersen also told Get Gephardt that she chose not to file at that time, in part, because she feared disobeying Giani. Gundersen says she thought she might lose her job which she needed for health insurance coverage for her two young children.
“I mean, there would absolutely be consequences if I disobeyed my boss’ order,” Gundersen said.
Initially Giani had denied Get Gephardt’s requests for an on camera interview but she relented Tuesday evening.
"I told [Gundersen] that she needed to think about what it was that she was doing,” Giani said. “I did read [the complaint] and I told her that I wanted to bring it to the General Counsel’s Office and the Governor's Office to have a look at it."
Giani said there were three reasons she ultimately decided to advise Gundersen not to file the complaint. She said she doubted that the Utah State Bar Association would take any action against Swallow, that it would further strain the relationship between the Division of Consumer Protection and the Attorney General’s Office and that it could hurt Gundersen’s future job prospects. She flatly denied that Gundersen would have any reason to fear for her job with Consumer Protection.
In hind-sight, Gundersen says she regrets not filing the complaint sooner but it seemed clear to her that her boss did not want her to go after John Swallow.
"I think [Swallow] was viewed at this powerful figure,” Gundersen said. “If you put your neck out on the line for something like this then you risk being stepped on in retaliation for it."
Gundersen said she was disappointed that she did not have Giani’s support to file the complaint. She says she ultimately made the decision to file it after resigning from Consumer Protection because she felt it was the right thing to do on behalf of Utah consumers. It was a courageous move because she has nothing to gain personally from doing so and she had been warned it could cost her future employment.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)