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February 22, 2013

Mayor of Ohio River town resigns after denouncing gay officer

Pomeroy, Ohio--When a police chief in a small town, just across the Ohio River from West Virginia, is pressured by the village’s mayor to fire an openly gay officer, it might be expected that the story would end with the officer filing a wrongful dismissal suit.

In Pomeroy, however, the story ended with the resignation of 78-year-old mayor Mary McAngus. She gave her one-page letter of resignation to the village council on February 9. Two days later, council voted to accept it.

McAngus had called police officer Kyle Calendine, 21, “queer” in front of other officers and dispatchers. She also said that Calendine’s partner was not allowed to visit him at the police station, unlike the partners of heterosexual officers.

McAngus started as mayor in January 2012; Calendine was hired in September.

She told police chief Mark Proffitt that she didn’t want any “queers” working for the city. Proffitt, who has led the department since 2000, collected statements from others about the harassment of Calendine, warning the council that allowing her actions to continue could open the city to lawsuits for fostering a hostile work environment.

“The sad thing is that, while we support Kyle, there will be someone else, someplace else, tomorrow,” Proffitt told the Columbus Dispatch. The police chief has a niece and nephew who are gay, and his wife is Filipino; the family has faced discrimination before.

In addition to hiring the department’s first openly gay officer, Proffitt hired its first female and black officers. Proffitt’s oldest brother Johnny was developmentally disabled, and other children tormented him when they were growing up. Proffitt cared for him until his death last year.

Calendine had considered filing suit against the village because of McAngus’ behavior. Before joining the Pomeroy force, he worked for the Athens County Sheriff’s office and police departments in Jackson and Glouster.

Proffitt’s actions, as well as McAngus’ resignation, were hailed by local residents.

John Musser, former mayor and village council president, said, “He did the right thing; [the mayor] did the stupid thing.”

“The townspeople have stood behind the officer,” said River City Jewelry and Pawn manager Brian Wallace. “People respect what he’s done. No matter his sexual preferences, he is there to protect the people.”

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