Lawsuit: Former cop says he was victim of discrimination

PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A former police officer with the city of Portland is suing his former employer, saying he was treated unfairly after he filed a civil rights complaint, alleging the department, led by a woman more than 10 years younger than him, discriminated against him based on his age and gender.

At 53 years old, Tim Fandel was a cop with two decades of experience, including nearly 15 years with the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department, before coming to work at the considerably smaller Portland department.

Fandel was a candidate for the chief’s job in 2017 but lost out to the current chief, Star Thomas, who was 41 at the time she took the job.

Fandel filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights that was dismissed in April due to lack of evidence.

It was then that the officer claims the trouble began.

“We thought that was going to be the end of it. He wasn’t going to bring a lawsuit, suing his employer about not getting that promotion, initially,” said Fandel’s attorney David Nacht, an Ann Arbor attorney who famously upended the University of Michigan’s sexual harassment policy, saying it failed to give those accused the right of due process.

“He said ‘OK, I’m no longer going to be chief of police. I’ve applied for the sergeants’ job and I’m just going to be a good cop and of my job.”

The lawsuit claims that after the civil rights complaint, the former officer was being forced out, his responsibilities were being reduced and he was under unreasonable and inequitable scrutiny by his superiors.

He also claims he got the worst of the patrol cars to use.

“It’s the idea that complaining in the appropriate legal fashion, that they started coming up with stuff that was so unusual, so minor,” said Nacht adding that things got so bad that the officer felt he had no choice but to quit. “He believed himself to be on the verge of being fired, so he resigned.”

He was also denied a promotion to sergeant, which also went to a younger, less experienced candidate.

“They went after this guy just because he followed the law in bringing a legitimate good faith complaint,” Nacht said. “In this case, a much less experienced woman became chief of police and a guy with 15 years of experience with a serious department, engaging in serious felonies, didn’t get it,” Nacht said.

City manager Tutt Gorman said the city only just received the suit but pointed out that the civil rights department found no basis for the discrimination complaint.

In a statement, he said, in part: “We continue to deny that Mr. Fandel was subjected to any discrimination or retaliation and we deny any wrongdoing whatsoever. We will vigorously defend the allegations as they have no merit.”

Nacht said this case is not about some “men’s rights” agenda.

“I think there’s lots of sex discrimination against women out there and those cases need to be brought, too, but that doesn’t mean a man can’t be discriminated against based on his gender,” he said.

The city has several weeks to file a formal response.