Taylor officials investigate sexual harassment allegations
Taylor — Prompted by a request from two state lawmakers, city officials are investigating an allegation by an anonymous tipster that the mayor's former chief of staff sexually harassed female city employees, although the accused man insists there's no merit to the claims.
Central to the issue is a typewritten letter dated Feb. 18, and signed by "a concerned resident," which alleges a pattern of sexual harassment by Robert Dickerson, the former Romulus police chief who served as mayor Rick Sollars' chief of staff for three years until he resigned Jan. 25.
"(Dickerson) has been making young girls working for the city uncomfortable with his attention for a while now," the letter said. "In case you weren't aware, most of the employees now refer to him as 'Dirty Grandpa.' It's an ongoing joke but not funny."
The letter went on to discuss an alleged incident "a couple months ago" during a city outing at Taylor Meadows golf course, in which the tipster claimed Dickerson "got excessively drunk" and "flirted nonstop" and sexually harassed a 19-year-old waitress.
The letter further claims city officials were made aware of Dickerson's alleged behavior, but did nothing about it.
Dickerson told The Detroit News the allegations are "ridiculous."
"There's absolutely no truth to any of this," he said Friday. "I believe it's someone ... just bringing up ridiculous stuff."
State Rep. Alex Garza, D-Taylor, and State Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, sent a letter Wednesday to Taylor's Corporation Counsel Gustaf Andreasen and attached the anonymous note laying out the allegations against Dickerson.
"As we are experiencing a shift in cultural norms, it is important to make sure victims are not silenced, and that we take claims of harassment and intimidation seriously," Garza and Geiss wrote. "We are requesting the assistance of your office to conduct a comprehensive investigation into these allegations."
Taylor's human resources director Sheila Gorski-Schulte wrote back: "Please be advised that we intend to fully investigate the attached in accordance with established City policy."
According to written correspondence obtained by The News, city councilman Butch Ramik emailed Sollars Feb. 12, before the anonymous letter was sent, saying he had learned Dickerson was being accused of sexual harassment.
"The information is that there may have been inappropriate behavior and sexual advances toward a city employee," Ramik wrote.
Sollars emailed back: "I'm sorry, but your information is once again inaccurate. There is no such complaint filed by anyone."
City spokesman Karl Ziomek told The News Friday no sexual harassment complaint has been filed against Dickerson.
"There is this anonymous letter, which we're taking very seriously, but nobody has made a complaint," Ziomek said. "If there's no sexual harassment complaint filed with the HR department, we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. We’re not investigating a sexual harassment complaint, because there is no complaint. But on the other hand there is this letter, which we're looking into."
Gorski-Schulte told The News Friday: "We do not have a formal complaint. We are looking into information that was just received yesterday afternoon.”
Garza said Friday he received the anonymous letter at home.
"Looking at the details of the allegations, I wanted to be sure the city had also received the letter," Garza said. "Since it's an anonymous letter, the city has some work to do to determine what did or didn't happen. (Gorski-Schulte) told me she'd look into it, and I'm sure she'll do a thorough investigation."
However, Ramik said he'd like an outside agency to investigate the allegations. He sent an email Thursday to city attorney Andreasen, requesting that the Michigan State Police handle the investigation.
"Because I kept running into a wall when I brought these allegations to the mayor, I think it would be best if the state police handle this," Ramik told The News.
Federal agents on Feb. 19 raided Sollars' office and removed several boxes after searching for several hours.
After Dickerson's resignation became public, Ziomek told The News last week Dickerson is not a target of the FBI probe. The FBI did not comment.