Price City Mayor Joe Piccolo was issued a citation for disorderly conduct following an incident that occurred Dec. 3, 2014 on the USU Eastern campus.
According to a brief statement released by USU Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing Tim Vitale, a campus police officer responded to a disturbance in the cosmetology department on the USU Eastern campus. After further investigation and review by the Carbon County Attorney, Piccolo was issued the citation by campus police Sgt. Lynn Archuletta on Dec. 31.
Court records show that Piccolo paid the Carbon County Justice Court a $100 fine for the citation on Jan. 9. Since that time, allegations, speculations and rumors have surfaced regarding the case.
Piccolo admitted that the situation in question began when he and his daughter paid a visit to the cosmetology department the afternoon of Dec. 3. According to the mayor, he went to discuss issues surrounding his daughter’s treatment by teachers within the department. Soon after arriving, Piccolo admits that the closed-door discussion became heated. “I lost my emotions over a situation that had been building over a long time frame,” he stated. “I am guilty of trying my own patience. I deny the fact that I threatened anyone or pounded on a desk.”
Brad Asay, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a teacher’s union which supports the USU Eastern faculty, disagrees. According to Asay, documentation from those present during the Dec. 3 incident stated that Piccolo was upset over a grade which his daughter received on a project. They also claimed that the mayor slammed a portfolio on to a desk, gritted his teeth, yelled profanities and threatened to “gut the place.”
“I have documentation from witnesses that state he threatened to sue the college due to treatment his daughter received at the cosmetology department,” Asay explained. “He demanded to know how and why his daughter was failing and got into the face of an instructor. Students, instructors and clients were all present when the situation occurred.”
Asay went on to explain that during the 20-30 minute long tirade, those outside of the room became concerned for the safety of those inside the closed room as well as their own. “The instructors were verbally attacked and he was in their face,” he continued. “I understand his concern, but there are better ways to handle the situation.”
Although the mayor denies slamming anything on a desk, he does admit to losing his temper and cursing during the ordeal. “It was a closed door discussion and no public was there at the time besides approximately 20 students,” Piccolo said. “I admit, I lost my temper and for that I am sorry.”
The mayor also wants to make clear that the incident was not about a grade, rather it was over problems that his daughter was facing due to a documented disability. “She is an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) student who has been drove out of the system.”
Because of the outburst, campus police was called when the situation did not de-escalate. Reports from the AFT claim that once Sgt. Archuletta arrived on scene, the mayor was heard saying “do you know who I am” in what many feel was in a threatening manner. Piccolo said the opposite is the case. “When Sgt. Archuletta entered the room, I did ask him who he was. I never professed who I was as indicated by others.”
After police arrived, Piccolo was escorted to an administrative office where he met with the vice chancellor. He explained that during that meeting, he apologized for his actions. “I am embarrassed and disappointed by my actions,” he stated. “This community counts on me as a leader. I apologized for my actions to the vice chancellor and to those remaining in the cosmetology department immediately following my meeting in the administrative office.”
Asay confirmed that the mayor was escorted back to the cosmetology department after meeting with administration to apologize for his actions. Despite the apology, Asay explained that several of the instructors involved still fear for their safety. “They show signs of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and are worried he will come to their homes,” he indicated. “They even want restraining orders filed. This is coming from very strong women who don’t get rattled easily.”
Although it is unclear whether further charges or actions will be taken regarding this matter, the mayor remains certain that the legal process will prevail. “I believe in the process, and the truth will come to light,” he stated. “As mayor, I have an obligation to speak to the media and to the public about the event. I’m not going to hide and pretend it didn’t happen. I have accepted responsibility for my actions and want to move forward. I will continue to offer help and support USU Eastern and feel that it is a valuable resource to our community.”
Asay also agrees that the situation needs to be looked into further. “We, (AFT) don’t condone this behavior,” he stated. “When you chose to be a public official, you are held to a higher level of responsibility as a citizen. We won’t minimize the situation.”
Further investigation into the matter is expected. Asay explained that letters from several instructors involved were sent to the state attorney general encouraging the agency to look into the matter. It is unknown at this time whether any further charges or actions will follow.
Regardless of the reason behind the incident, both parties admit that the situation could have been handled differently.
“I’m sorry for my actions. I can’t say that enough,” Piccolo concluded. “I love Price. I love the citizens of Price. I have worked hard for over 20 years to make this a better place. This won’t happen again. I can’t erase what happened but I do take full responsibility for my actions.”