Michigan sheriff sued for discriminatory, racist behavior
JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan sheriff made insulting remarks against blacks, women and Hispanics and mocked a lieutenant for his work-related hearing loss, a federal lawsuit alleged.
Jackson County Lt. Tommy Schuette filed the lawsuit against the county and Sheriff Steven Rand on Monday. The lawsuit alleged Rand created a hostile work environment and harassed Schuette because of his disability.
Schuette said exposure to stun grenades while serving on a county special response team affected his hearing. When he told Rand of his concerns in 2015-16, Rand threatened to demote him if he mentioned the condition and called him derogatory names, according to the filing.
Schuette met with the human resources director and county administrator/controller Michael Overton on Jan. 17 and played him recordings of the sheriff’s comments, according to James Fett, Schuette’s lawyer. The lawsuit also said the county didn’t take action and aren’t giving him proper disability coverage.
Jackson County officials have denied any wrongdoing and claim they referred the issue to the Michigan State Police and Attorney General for an independent criminal investigation.
The county doesn’t have a legal source of authority to discipline the sheriff or his staff, according to Overton’s office.
In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Rand noted that “it would not be prudent to talk about pending litigation” and said he planned to speak with a lawyer before possibly commenting.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has yet to review the allegations or received legal counsel on the matter so officials have declined to respond to specific questions about the lawsuit at this time, according to an email sent Wednesday by Undersheriff Chris Kuhl.
“Jackson County Office of the Sheriff asks for the public’s patience and will continue to serve the community to the highest possible standard without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual preference or identity,” Kuhl said.