Former Bluffdale fire chief charged with altering records to give firefighters extra money

Aug 29, 2022, 5:28 PM | Updated: 5:32 pm
(KSL TV)...

BLUFFDALE, Utah — Bluffdale’s former fire chief, previously accused, is now charged with altering employee time logs to pay extra money to employees, according to court documents.

The city council investigated John Calvin Roberts in 2021, as he was running for mayor, just weeks before the election. Monday, formal charges were filed against him by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office in connection with an estimated overpayment of $86,000 to firefighters.

He faces five counts of falsifying government records, misdemeanors, and a count of misusing public money, a felony.

The documents filed in Salt Lake’s Third District Court state that between Dec. 22, 2018 and Aug. 17, 2019, Roberts knowingly approved and signed daily reports as chief of the Bluffdale Fire Department that were manually edited and were different from corresponding EMS logs, fire logs and shift requests for the effected employees.

“The statement of the defendant John Calvin Roberts that he dad in fact altered the time logs in order to generate additional pay for the effected employees, that he had done so intentionally, and that he knew the conduct was wrong,” documents state as part of the probable cause summary.

Roberts is a long-time Bluffdale resident. Last year KSL-TV confirmed through public records requests that the city received complaints from firefighters that alleged Roberts had paid employees for hours they didn’t work and didn’t provide his firefighters the proper training or gear.

In March 2020, city manager Mark Reid emailed Roberts, notifying him that he was being placed on paid administrative leave.

In an email to the mayor and city council days later Reid told them, “There is no question in my mind that (Roberts) would retaliate against (the firefighters who filed the complaints) if he knew who they were. He was very forceful in denying all of the payroll issues.”

Reid noted he’d been prepared to bring on an outside attorney to investigate the claims. He placed Roberts on paid leave March 27 (2020) as he looked into the complaints.

Reid recorded pay for firefighters “who did not work in order to show four on duty,” citing Christmas 2019 as an example, according to a copy of his notes from the investigation. The document was provided to KSL through a public records request.

Roberts hadn’t requested additional holiday pay in budget talks, according to Reid’s notes. He documented allegations that employees who made suggestions would lose shifts, along with firefighters’ “fear to complain.”

At the time, Roberts defended himself in a Facebook post writing:

“Despite what the misinformed social media posts would indicate, there was no basis for criminal charges, nor were criminal charges ever investigated…It was simply a parting of ways, and I continued to remain eligible for rehire by the City of Bluffdale.”

Roberts signed an agreement setting the terms of his departure 19 days after the first complaint was filed, according to Reid. Roberts resigned in April 2020 and received severance, collecting another nine months of pay for $71,000 and ending the city’s investigation.

He was not booked into jail.

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Former Bluffdale fire chief charged with altering records to give firefighters extra money