MARION

Marion police chief warns staff not to retaliate over harassment complaints

Personnel probe not tied to departure of two top administrators, officials say

A Marion Police squad car (Credit: City of Marion)
A Marion Police squad car (Credit: City of Marion)

As the Marion Police Department faces an internal personnel investigation, Chief Joseph McHale warned his employees Wednesday to not retaliate against any co-workers who complain of harassment.

“Illegal retaliation includes any type of adverse treatment or action that under the circumstances might well dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity, like making a discrimination or harassment complaint,” states his memo, which was publicly released Thursday following open records requests from the media.

City officials won’t say what is being investigated in the police department, which has 44 sworn officers and six civilian employees. Of those officers, four are women and the city does not have information about how many officers are people of color.

The probe happens as the department’s two top leaders are departing, although officials say the resignations of McHale and Deputy Chief Doug Slagle are not linked to the investigation.

The city announced April 12 that McHale was leaving to take a consulting job in Florida. McHale, whose last day is June 3, has led the Marion department since December 2016.

Slagle also has submitted his resignation, city officials confirmed.

The city announced April 23 it had hired Fran Haas, an attorney with Nyemaster Goode, to oversee the personnel investigation.

Haas specializes in cases of “discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on race, sex, age, national origin, disability and veteran status,” according to the firm’s website. She also handles cases about the Family Medical Leave Act, Equal Pay Act, wrongful termination, occupational safety and unemployment.

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When The Gazette asked Haas about the investigation, she referred questions to Holly Corkery, an employment lawyer with the Lynch Dallas law firm. Lynch Dallas has done personnel work for the city of Marion since at least 2009, Corkery said.

Corkery provided, at The Gazette’s request, an April 22 email McHale sent to the police department announcing his decision to leave the force.

“In coming days, I will meet with department members to discuss the transition and timeline,” the email states. “It has been an honor to work with you all over the past two and a half years.”

But Corkery declined to provide further communications about McHale’s or Slagle’s resignations, saying they were not public records. She also would not provide The Gazette the city’s contract with Haas, saying it is exempt from the public records law because it contains “confidential attorney-client privileged material.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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