JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – The lieutenant who’s suing the Jackson County Sheriff is speaking out about the lawsuit controversy for the first time.
Lt. Tommy Schuette says coming forward to sue Sheriff Steve Rand and Jackson County was not an easy decision.
But he feels what’s been going on at the sheriff’s office had to be exposed.
A couple years ago, Schuette was serving on the local SWAT team when he lost some of his hearing.
“A specialist told me I had extreme hearing loss. Most likely caused by work-related sound exposure,” Schuette said.
The long-time employee of the sheriff’s office says he believes the hearing loss occurred from being around explosives on the SWAT team.
He reported his disability to Sheriff Rand.
But Schuette says the sheriff taunted him about the hearing loss and threatened to fire him because of it.
“Always called me retard, you know, you name it,” Schuette said.
Schuette says he often got reports of inappropriate behavior about Rand from co-workers and heard him use derogatory language about minorities, women, gays, and people with disabilities.
The lieutenant recalls one incident where he received a report of Rand using the “n word” to describe a black deputy.
“He thinks he’s funny. But he’s just an extremely vindictive person who loves to capitalize on other people’s misfortunes,” Schuette said.
Schuette claims he brought these concerns to county administration last month.
However, he says officials were dismissive, then held up his disability coverage and shut him out of the sheriff’s office.
Schuette believes those actions were retribution for coming forward.
“My worst fears of coming forward appeared to be happening,” Schuette said.
Schuette launched a discrimination lawsuit last week against the sheriff and Jackson County government, along with releasing audio of Rand making inappropriate remarks to 6 News.
“I knew that without the audio people wouldn’t believe it, nor would they comprehend this type of behavior,” Schuette said.
County officials say they never mistreated Schuette.
However, after hearing the audio recordings, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday night that condemns the sheriff’s remarks and calls on him to resign.
“He can no longer be an effective leader,” Schuette said.
Sheriff Rand has apologized and says the remarks don’t reflect his character.
Some have accused Schuette of starting a personal smear campaign.
But he says it’s a matter of doing what’s right.
“I had to take that risk, and I had to report it. And I would hope anybody in my position, given what I was told, would do the same thing,” Schuette said.
6 News reached out to Sheriff Rand on Wednesday to see if the county board’s resolution had any impact on him.
Rand said he still has no plans to resign.
A letter from county officials is now heading up to Governor Rick Snyder, asking him to intervene.