Ft. Wright chief faces dismissal
Ex-officer said she was harassed

Friday, June 12, 1998

BY JANE PRENDERGAST
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FORT WRIGHT -- Turmoil in the police department could end with the police chief being fired.

City Administrator Marc Bergman filed administrative charges Thursday against Chief Mark Brown and said he is calling for the chief's dismissal.

The chief's status -- he had been on leave with pay -- changed Thursday to suspension without pay, Mr. Bergman said.

The city administrator said he could not elaborate on the allegations against the chief.

He cited a state law governing what information can be released about allegations against Kentucky officers.

The city set a hearing for June 20, at which the chief can hear the allegations against him and respond.

The final decision lies with Mayor Cindy Pinto, but she wants input from city council, Mr. Bergman said.

Former Officer Julie Walker alleged in a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that she was sexually harassed, discriminated against and retaliated against by members of the department.

She rebuffed advances by Sgt. Robert Ford, said her attorney, Steve Wolnitzek. He retaliated against her after she rebuffed him, the lawyer said.

Ms. Walker also alleged her "terrible evaluation" from the department was baseless, given that Training Officer Dean Russell produced no documentation to back up her alleged poor performance, her attorney said.

The city concluded its investigation into Sgt. Ford and Officer Russell, announcing Wednesday that Ms. Walker's allegations against them could not be substantiated.

Chief Brown became embroiled in the allegations because of his alleged threatening behavior during a meeting at which Ms. Walker's harassment complaints were to be addressed, Mr. Wolnitzek said.

Mr. Bergman, who said his decision to call for the chief's firing was difficult because he considers him a friend, cautioned against jumping to conclusions until the facts can be made public. Many rumors, he said, have been incorrect.

"The city is not stonewalling," Mr. Bergman said Thursday. "It is incumbent upon us to make sure that no one is hurt by false information. The facts will come out when they can."

Chief Brown had been on administrative leave, with pay, since May 11.

That was the same day Ms. Walker resigned, saying she felt forced to do so because of the discriminatory environment and because the chief had verbally attacked her, making her fear for her job and her physical well-being.

Sgt. Dan Kreinest has been running the department in the chief's absence.

Chief Brown, who has led the department 2 1/2 years, was hired after he retired from the Cincinnati Police Division.



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