Reas takes over dispatch center; sheriff demotes chief
While the Harrison County Commissioners weren’t able to force Harrison County Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick to step down after recent sexual harassment allegations, they were able to remove the county’s emergency 911 dispatch center from his control at a special meeting May 21.
For the time being, Greg Reas, director of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency, is in charge of the center and will supervise all dispatchers.
‘The commissioners have evaluated the situation of the past few days and feel this is in the best interest of the county,’ said Commissioner James Goldman, who chairs the three-member board.
‘It will release the sheriff of those duties,’ said Commissioner Terry Miller. ‘We’re doing what’s right for the employees.’
Reas said he’s adjusting to the position.
‘There’s a lot to learn and a lot being thrown at me, and I’m trying to absorb it the best I can,’ Reas said. ‘It’s an involved operation and not a simple, do this and do that (position). It’s multi-faceted.’
Reas, who delivered a letter from the commissioners indicating the change in supervision to the sheriff, said his meeting with Deatrick went ‘very well.’
‘He was very cooperative, and I’ve always had a good relationship with Mike and I’m sure that helped quite a bit,’ Reas said. ‘I’m sure he has some appreciation for the position I’m in, or he acts like that anyway.
‘Obviously, he’s probably under some strain,’ he said, ‘and, despite that, he’s being very patient with me.’
Also last week, the sheriff demoted his longtime chief, Gary Gilley, to road officer. Capt. Eric Fischer, Deatrick’s son-in-law, was named acting chief of the sheriff’s department after the demotion of Gilley.
Gilley had been chief of the department since Deatrick took office for his first term on Jan. 1, 2003.
A phone call to Deatrick requesting comment was not returned.
The two moves come on the heels of two separate allegations of violations of the Civil Rights Act earlier this month accusing the sheriff of sexual harassment.
Deana Decker, dispatch supervisor for the department, alleged that over the course of the last several years she had been continually sexually harassed by Deatrick, who allegedly grabbed her breasts ‘on numerous occasions’ in addition to making sexually derogatory comments to her.
A second complaint filed the same date, May 6, by former receptionist Melissa Graham, alleged Deatrick left Graham sexually derogatory messages on her cell phone on numerous occasions in addition to making comments about her breasts.
Graham alleges that, in late December 2007, she told Deatrick enough was enough and that ‘he was not going to talk to me that way and he was not going to touch me anymore.’
Shortly after this, Graham, who has been employed with the sheriff’s department since August 2004, said she was transferred from her receptionist job to the dispatch center.
The county paid $55,000 last fall to settle four other civil-right lawsuits filed by former department employees.
The EEOC has 180 days to complete an investigation. It can issue a variety of findings, from refuting the claims to contending investigators found evidence that civil-rights violations had occurred.