For at least the past two years, Salt Lake City officers have been forgoing parking tickets for employees at a downtown pizza restaurant in exchange for free pizza.
A Salt Lake City police officer and three of his colleagues were fired for engaging in bribery. When officer Jeff Clegg originally called a local news station to report his firing from his job due to a bullying culture, an ongoing investigation took place that showed quite the contrary, KUTV reported.
The documents obtained revealed that the cops had arranged a saucy scheme involving free pizzas with Sicilia Pizza to save them some dough - by not writing hundreds of tickets. Officer Clegg admitted that he and fellow officers were not citing parking tickets to Sicilia Pizza's owners or employees for parking violations because they were getting free food in exchange and honestly, who says no to free food these days?
The other three officers fired in the scheme were Malaki Laulu, Edgar Figueroa, and Tyler Christensen.
'If I see a menu of the restaurant,' said Clegg, 'in the lower left-hand corner of the vehicle, it is either an employee or the owner's (of the restaurant) vehicle and we are not to cite those vehicles.'
This scam went on for two years during which time the officers could have written an approximate of three tickets a day of $25 a ticket outside Sicilia Pizza, totaling up to $19,000 in fines that were not collected. Let's face it — that's a lot of free pizzas.
According to Clegg, his supervisor and the restaurant's owner, Amol Hararah struck the deal in place. Clegg told investigators that Officer Malaki Laulu spoke of the deal when Clegg was still undergoing his training period, and he suspects that the scheme began long before his training ended.
Clegg said he felt he would be bullied by his fellow cop mates for not being a 'team player' in case he objected against active participation in the free pizza scheme. The documents don't, however, mention the catalyst for the investigation.
The city learned of the alleged pizza-for-parking deal on August 24 and has since found “an unusual pattern of both voided tickets and non-ticketing” for Sicilia Pizza Kitchen’s owner and employees, who parked near the restaurant, 35 W. 300 South.
Officer Clegg mentioned that his fellow parking officers took advantage of the deal so much so that they were all on a first name basis with employees at the pizza joint. After which it got to the point where they would just walk up to the back of the store and get whatever they want from behind the counter.
He also mentioned that the officers would give warnings to Hararah and his employees, and when a ticket did accidentally land up on the windshields of their cars, it would often be voided.
In October, Amol Hararah met with the City Hall staff to complain about the two parking tickets he had received when Clegg and his fellow mates were on paid administrative leave. He mentioned about the relationship he shared with the officers and said he wasn't supposed to be receiving such citations, says public services Director Lisa Shaffer.
According to Lisa Shaffer, when the pizza arrangement came to light, the officers were fired immediately. Hararah told investigators that the officers received a 10 percent discount on food. A witness told investigators that he had shared a meal with the team and watched five compliance officers get free food.
According to the documents, former compliance division director Ben Roberts had "initiated and approved" the agreement. However, Roberts who worked as compliance director from October 2011 to October 2015 denied approving any such arrangement.
“I can state this because of my ever-present desire to increase officer productivity, my understanding of the illegality of such an endeavor, and my absolute crusade against any appearance of enforcement favoritism/unfairness/corruption,” he said in a letter to Shaffer.
After the free pizza scheme came to everyone's attention, the deal was called off and owner of Sicilia Pizza, Amol Hararah was not pleased to hear his deal had been struck off.
Another officer in the scheme said he never took free food not to write tickets - he claims that the police department simply used the situation as an excuse to fire 'troublesome employees'.
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