A Decherd police officer has filed a formal complaint with the city against Police Chief Ross Peterson and wife Michelle Peterson, a Water Department clerk, on grounds there was “blatant and repeated sexual harassment” while on the job.
The complaint was filed Friday by Patrol Sgt. Bruce Elliott, according to City Administrator Rex Clark.
Peterson said early Friday afternoon that he couldn’t immediately comment about the complaint because he hadn’t seen a draft of it.
Elliott is alleging he experienced a harassing work environment during the past five years.
The complaint says Chief Peterson had made comments about his personal sex life, “his liaisons with his wife, Michelle Peterson, and others.”
Elliott said the stories were in-depth, and the conditions made him feel uncomfortable.
“It made me the most uncomfortable since his wife came to work at the City of Decherd and myself and others were forced to hear these stories and to then see her and interact with her in a professional manner,” Elliott said. “I told Chief Peterson on several occasions to shut up, that I didn’t want to hear that or to leave my office with that.
“This seemed to make his comments more detailed and more extreme as if he were trying to shock me or make me turn red,” he said.
Elliott said that after he had made the statements to Peterson, about four months later, he was removed from his position as an investigator and has since been placed on the night shift.
Elliott also said Mrs. Peterson has been involved in behavior that was harassing and left employees feeling uncomfortable.
“It is my position that every employee of the City of Decherd has known and experienced first-hand the inappropriate comments by Chief Peterson and has, for whatever reason, allowed him to remain in a supervisory position,” Elliott said. “I will pursue all legal remedies until this is stopped and/or he is removed from his position.”
Clark said the city will follow the steps outlined in its policies and procedures manual in handling the case.
Mayor Michael Gillespie said he is requesting that City Attorney Jerre Hood review the complaint.
The complaint lists former Mayor Robin Smith, former City Recorder Tammy Terpay, Alderman Pam Arnold, Clark, Water Department Supervisor Eric Bradford, Street Department Supervisor Mike St. John, Building Inspector Dennis Doney, former Patrolman Jacob Durm, former Patrolman Michael Ward, Investigator Greg King and Assistant Chief Kenneth Griffin as witnesses.
“This is the first time I have reported this,” Elliott said in the complaint. “I have been told by numerous employees that they were going to file a complaint only to see them be intimidated into not coming forward.”