WEST CHESTER TWP., Ohio (FOX19) - West Chester officials and the police chief are accused in formal job complaints of discriminating and retaliating against two police captains who expressed sexual harassment concerns about the chief’s administrative assistant and said the chief made sexist and racist statements.
Both captains filed written complaints with the township early this year, and now the men have gone to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
One of them, Jamie Hensley, says he was forced to quit the police department, and the other, Joe Gutman, says he was put on a discipline plan.
Filing a formal complaint with the EEOC is a prerequisite for filing a federal job discrimination lawsuit against an employer.
“We believe that the township and its officials broke the law, and now the federal government will investigate," an attorney for both men, Elizabeth Tuck, tells FOX19 NOW.
Both Hensley and Gutman allege in their complaints they told township officials Police Chief Joel Herzog often made sexist and racist statements as well as anti-Muslim statements in the workplace and retaliated against them for participating in the harassment investigation.
"The Township did not investigate and told us to confront Chief Herzog ourselves,” Gutman’s complaint states. "Chief Herzog then downgraded our performance reviews and raises. He also took away more key responsibilities and froze us out of meetings and decisions that we were previously included in.
“In early 2020, the township finally investigated the chief because we made formal written complaints about the pattern of retaliation against us and about his discriminatory behavior. We participated in that investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the township did not discipline the chief. I was then placed on a disciplinary plan that requires me to bring any retaliation concerns to the chief or be suspended or fired, even if it is the chief who is retaliating against me. This is not township policy. The chief, township and trustees also retaliated against me by making false public statements that damaged my personal and professional reputation.”
Here are copies of both EEOC complaints:
After Hensley abruptly quit on June 23, West Chester released a police internal investigation report that said he had violated policies and procedures by “displaying disrespect and disdain towards the Police Chief and his position” and “making false or misleading” statements in late January.
FOX19 NOW contacted West Chester Township and the police chief for comment about the EEOC complaints.
“These claims reflect matters already investigated by a third-party independent investigation and determined to be unfounded,” Township spokeswoman Barb Wilson wrote us in an email.
“Employee improvement plans are in place for Capt. Gutman and Chief Herzog. Jamie Hensley resigned before the investigation was complete.”
The police chief said: “Despite the pressures of the past few months, the Command Staff and I have continued to lead the Police Department with excellence. The service the West Chester Police Department provides to the community has never wavered. Since the conclusion of the third party investigation, the Command Staff and I have been working to heal the department and our own working relationships. We are committed to being better leaders for the department and the community. We stand strong for the men and women of the department, so they can continue serving with the integrity and professionalism West Chester expects."
Herzog has denied the captains' allegations, said he believes his comments were taken out of context and he has faith the community knows him better than this.
He also said he was working to be a better leader.
In addition to the captains' complaints, four other members of the police department filed complaints with township officials about the chief over the summer.
The six total complaints accused Herzog of alleged misconduct ranging from racism, sexism and retaliation to telling officers to not arrest other law enforcement officials suspected of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, township records show.
In June, the local chapter of the NAACP and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Ohio called for federal authorities to investigate.
The four additional complaints were filed just before the township released a report on July 7 with the outcome of an investigation conducted by an outside attorney, Doug Duckett, into the captains' complaints about the chief.
Duckett concluded in his lengthy written report “there is no basis” for Herzog or the assistant chief to face any disciplinary action over the allegations, but he did find Herzog has made “careless” and inappropriate comments about race, religion and sexual orientation.
FOX19 NOW is still attempting to obtain all audio recordings Duckett took during interviews he conducted as part of the investigation, which cost the township about $50,000. The township has yet to release them, despite repeated requests.
West Chester Trustee President Ann Becker announced during a township meeting in late July investigations are over into all complaints from officers about the chief and there is no corruption, retaliation, or “underlying issue of racism or sexism affecting our organization.”
She acknowledged Herzog’s shortcomings and reiterated support for him: “We move forward supporting Chief Joel Herzog in his resolve to heal the department,” she said.
The statement admonished the captains for their treatment of Herzog’s administrative assistant, saying if she were a man the issues wouldn’t have risen.
Becker also said in the statement “none of the officers making the complaints has been impacted in terms of pay/rank/position - including Captain Gutman. They continue to enjoy employment and full benefit of union representation and the support of the organization.”
Tuck has said the trustees' statement about the captains is “categorically false and do a disservice to all of the men and women of the West Chester Police Department.”
“Rather than address the grave and very real problems plaguing the department from the top, the trustees have instead chosen to scapegoat the very people who were courageous enough to expose these problems,” she has said.