A human resources department review into the exodus of five permanent female workers from the Cache County Clerk/Auditor’s Office since the beginning of 2021 found no legal or personnel policy violations by new County Clerk Jess Bradfield.
Although three of the women have said they felt forced out of their jobs by Bradfield — who launched a major reorganization of the clerk’s office shortly after assuming the post last October and cut several part-time employees’ hours — the review ordered by County Executive David Zook determined Bradfield crossed no lines.
“Cache County takes all allegations seriously and makes every effort to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure compliance with all county policies and personnel laws,” the Human Resources Department wrote in a three-paragraph summation of its investigation released late Friday afternoon. “As such, this investigation has been ongoing for five weeks. The research conducted by the Director of Human Resources involved interviewing 12 current and past employees of the Clerk/Auditor’s office and reviewing personnel law and county personnel policy and procedures. This investigation did not identify any personnel law or county policy violations by Mr. Bradfield. No further action is recommended.”
The summation provided no specifics from the interviews.
Seven minutes after Zook emailed the HR findings to The Herald Journal, Bradfield emailed his response to the investigation, stating, “From the beginning, our office has welcomed and encouraged this inquiry because of the transparency it would bring. We were confident that we had acted appropriately, which has now been affirmed.”
He went on: “In just seven months, we have accomplished a great deal. The positive changes we have undertaken in the Clerk/Auditor’s office have enriched election integrity, improved our services and made them more accessible and efficient for all of Cache County. We will continue to accomplish the needs of county residents by focusing on continuous improvement, adopting a culture that embraces change and building pride in local government.”
Although the review focused specifically on the departure of the five permanent female employees since January, the office under Bradfield also lost former Chief Deputy Clerk Kim Gardner, who resigned from the county with a $96,000 out-of-court settlement a month after Bradfield took office.
The two had been opponents in a special Cache County Republican election to replace longtime office holder Jill Zollinger. Zollinger left the post at mid-term, handing her party the chance to choose a successor outside of a general election.
Bradfield and Gardner reportedly clashed from Day 1. Gardner told The Herald Journal that within just a few hours of Bradfield’s arrival she was “falsely accused of being uncooperative and threatened with a demotion.”
Citing personnel reasons, Bradfield has declined comment on his relations with Gardner, but an employee in the office at that time told the newspaper Gardner appeared to court conflict with her new boss by, among other things, marching out of the room when Bradfield was first being shown around.
This employee characterized both Bradfield and Gardner as overbearing supervisors.
Bradfield, a former member of the Logan Municipal Council and HR representative for both Thermo-Fisher and the JBS meatpacking plant in Hyrum, campaigned for clerk/auditor on a promise to modernize the county office. Many of the changes didn’t sit well with the staff, most notably the cutting and rescheduling of several permanent part-time workers’ hours while at the same time bringing in temporary workers with no knowledge of clerk’s office procedures.
From November 2020 to May 2021, all but one of the seven women working there when Bradfield took over had resigned, including three full-timers. Written complaints about circumstances surrounding the departures prompted the county executive to order the investigation, and at that time Bradfield issued a statement saying he welcomed the review.
“When I ran for County Clerk/Auditor, I made a commitment to bring about needed changes. I believe that is a key reason I was elected to serve in this position. Change is often uncomfortable, but my first priority is serving the people of Cache County,” he wrote.