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June 20, 2008

Columbus--A Franklin County township has agreed to pay two former police officers $85,000 to settle an anti-gay harassment suit.

Trustees in Clinton Township, in the northeast part of Columbus, voted 21 May 20 to pay former officers Patrick Sheehan and Erik Vicars a total of $85,000 and admit no wrongdoing. The third trustee objected to settling something if there was no wrongdoing.

The officers say they were sexually harassed on the job, victims of sex stereotyping, and put in danger by the former police chief and other officers because they were perceived to be gay.

Sheehan, 35, and Vicars, 24, received $35,000 and $50,000 respectively, in exchange for dropping their suits.

Sheehan had suits pending in U.S. District Court and Franklin County Common Pleas Court, filed in January after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said he had the right to sue.

Vicars’ case was pending with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

According to Sheehan’s complaints, then-police chief Michael Jones perpetuated a hostile work environment and retaliated against the officers for filing complaints.

Jones is a defendant in all the matters.

Sheehan said that fellow officers spread false rumors that he was involved in a gay relationship with an unnamed township trustee, and that Sheehan and Vicars were sexually involved.

Fellow officers allegedly harassed Patrick and Vicars, calling them “faggots,” and sending harassing e-mails. At times, officers refused to answer their “officer in trouble” calls, putting their lives in danger. Officers ordered a township snow plow driver to block Sheehan’s car supposedly to stop its removal by his “lover” on the board of trustees.

Jones allegedly refused to stop the harassment, and retaliated by having Sheehan and Vicars investigated and asked about their sex lives.

In the case of Sheehan, Jones is alleged to have made untrue and derogatory statements about him to Columbus police investigators, which prevented Sheehan from changing employers.

Jones resigned as chief in January and now serves as a lieutenant. The new chief, Don Mapley, fired Vicars a week after being sworn in, giving no reason.

Because one condition of the settlement was that the township admitted no guilt, they are also not conducting any further investigation or changing their policies.

“The sad part is that those responsible for much of this harassment and those in a supervisory position who had the authority to stop it at the time have not even been put on administrative leave during the investigation, let alone disciplined,” Trustee Larry Wilkes told the Columbus Dispatch. Wilkes was the dissenting vote on the settlement.




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