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Investigator would have recommended firing Charlevoix police chief, had he not retired

An aerial view of Charlevoix, Mich., with Lake Charlevoix in the foreground, and Round Lake connecting it to Lake Michigan beyond. (Photo: Charles Dawley via Flickr/Creative Commons)
Charles Dawley
Flickr/Creative Commons
An aerial view of Charlevoix, Mich., with Lake Charlevoix in the foreground, and Round Lake connecting it to Lake Michigan beyond. (Photo: Charles Dawley via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Former Charlevoix Police Chief Gerard Doan's retirement came during an ongoing sexual harassment investigation, and prevented investigators from recommending he be fired.

That's according to a memo from the city.

A police department employee accused Doan of “repeated and regularly inappropriate conduct on the basis of sex.”

The unnamed employee filed the complaint to City Manager Mark Heydlauff on Oct. 13. Doan was placed on paid administrative leave the next day. He informed Heydlauff of his retirement on Oct. 31.

The investigation, conducted by Lindsay Raymond of the Traverse City law firm Danbrook, Adams, and Raymond, found the accusations against Doan to be credible and that his behavior created a “hostile work environment.”

The investigating attorney said they would have recommended termination had Doan not submitted his retirement.

“I think the most important thing was acting quickly but it’s difficult to assess because it’s the victim who was most in this matter,” Heydlauff said. “I hope we did the best we can by their standards and expectations.”

Doan's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the memo, the complainant said Doan’s inappropriate conduct began shortly after she was hired but escalated over the years. Doan allegedly made “repeated unsolicited and inappropriate comments about women’s bodies, dress, appearance and physical fitness.” He would also share details of his private and intimate relationship with his wife.

The employee who filed the complaint said she felt so uncomfortable as a result, that she would need to look for other employment. Given Doan’s role as her supervisor, the complainant told investigators she felt she had to deal with the conduct in order to keep her job.

One incident detailed in the memo resulted in an undesired ride in his personal car during work hours and a subsequent unwanted trip to Doan’s house.

A different incident involved Doan making an inappropriate comment to the complainant while another employee was in the room.

“The Complainant was discussing assisting another female officer with her vest fitting and Chief Doan’s comment referred to taking photos of the vest fitting for him,” the memo read.

The investigation concluded that Doan’s conduct was prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and violates Charlevoix’s Equal Employment Opportunity and workplace harassment policies.

Investigators recommended strengthening workplace harassment policies and adding a specific section that clarifies expectations for managers and supervisors.

They also recommended Charlevoix promptly provide specific training on harassment in the workplace to ensure employees understand how to identify unacceptable behavior.

Rob Scholey will serve as interim chief while a search is underway to fill the position.

Heydlauff said Walsh Municipal Services, an independent consulting firm, was recruited to lead the search which will include extensive background checks.

He said that no other complaints were ever formally filed against Doan during his time at the department. But Heydlauff said several years ago, a different employee who was disciplined by Doan reported they were not being treated well by him.

Doan had been with the Charlevoix police force since 1999 and was promoted to chief in 2005.

Heydlauff told the Petoskey News-Review that Doan is not being charged with any crimes or facing any civil suits as a result of his actions.

In addition to reaching out to Doan's attorney, IPR sent emails to current Charlevoix police officers and staff for an opportunity to comment. None replied.

Read the full memo detailing the investigation below:

Corrected: January 27, 2023 at 10:01 PM EST
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Gerard Doan's first name.
Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.