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Posted on Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 6:02 a.m.

Washtenaw County sheriff's deputy faced sexual harassment and retaliation, lawsuit alleges

By Lee Higgins

A former Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputy has filed a federal lawsuit, alleging she was sexually harassed at work and fired after she requested more time off to receive counseling.

Former Deputy Donna Vermette, who was assigned to the corrections division, is suing the county, seeking an unspecified amount of money.

The 12-year veteran, who transported inmates, claims in her lawsuit that she was sexually harassed by Deputy Douglas Flint.

He attempted to kiss her, asked her to hold his private part and questioned whether she “would sleep with him if he were not married,” the suit says.

Vermette says in the lawsuit that when she refused Flint’s sexual advances, he became angry and said vulgar things to her and made false statements about her.

Co-workers, who were aware of the harassment, told Vermette “just sleep with him and he will leave you alone,” according to the suit.

Vermette also alleges in the lawsuit that her immediate supervisor, Sgt. Kurt Schiapacasse, retaliated against her. The suit further claims deputies Hazelton and Mulholland sexually harassed Vermette, but doesn’t provide specifics.

Vermette experienced “anxiety, physical illness, inability to sleep, crying and depression” as a result of the harassment, which occurred over several years, the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, Vermette was ordered by her psychiatrist in January 2008 to stop working and requested a continuation of her leave Dec. 1, 2008.

Former Sheriff Dan Minzey and former Undersheriff Herb Mahony denied the request and advised her to return to work by Dec. 16 or be terminated, the suit claims.

Even though Vermette’s doctor provided a note clearing her to return in January, she was fired, the suit says.

Vermette could not be reached for comment today. Her attorney, Jim Fett, said she remains unemployed.

“Overall, she’s just disappointed that a law enforcement agency would not respect the law,” he said.

The county is disputing many of the allegations, including claims it took the sheriff’s department seven months to interview Vermette about her initial verbal complaint in November 2007, an August court filing shows.

The county’s attorney, Thomas Wurst, declined to comment today. 

At least one deputy has been disciplined. Deputy Hazelton was disciplined for making improper communication toward Vermette in December 2005 and January 2006, documents say.

In addition, sexual harassment training was planned for the entire transport division, including Vermette, according to a letter to her from sheriff’s Lt. Brian Filipiak.

The sheriff’s department did not make the deputies named in the suit available for comment Tuesday.

Vermette was given the right to sue after more than 180 days elapsed after she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a suit was not filed on her behalf.

She wrote in that complaint that the harassment made it difficult for her to do her job.

“I was very nervous, humiliated, embarrassed and began to ‘look over my shoulder,'” she wrote. “It became hard to concentrate on my job. I’m not a sissy but it affected my self-esteem. It affected me mentally and I often became physically sick at work. I couldn’t sleep and would lie awake crying.”

Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for Reach him at or 734-623-2527.



Sun, Jun 5, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Was wondering whatever happened to this case and if it ever came to some sort of an ending?


Mon, Feb 22, 2010 : 11:52 p.m.

As a woman whom worked in a different field of public service, the laws of sexual harassment have been put in place for many reasons. I, myself have been put into situations many times working in a field where mostly men were my co-workers. There is only so much you can take, especially when it first starts and then goes up to the top level. Then, her getting fired when returning to work?!? Not acceptable! They want to sweep it under the rug and put blame everywhere except for the ones doing the harassing. The ones that should have been fired were the men when there should have been an immediate investigation instead of any chance of it snowballing up to the top! This needs to be resolved in her favor immediately. Now... I personally know Donna Vermette and would be a character witness in her defense as I am sure many would who know Donna. I grew up with her and know how she handles herself and have seen how she can handle herself during stressful times. She is not a "wimpy" woman whatsoever! She was always a very emotionally strong woman who can take just about anything and give it right back if need be. It had to have taken a lot for her to give 12 years of her life being a deputy in a corrections facility (which isn't an easy job for anyone,) putting up with all the remarks and actions from inmates that she did and knew how to handle herself. You aren't a correction's officer for that many years not knowing that was part of the job, but sexual harassment is NOT. The last several years of over the top harassment from male officers and her superiors just is not EVER acceptable. She is a beautiful woman and should NOT have to take any harassment. I know for a fact she has never been the type to get anxious or cry, be depressed or let "words" bother her if it's just that. She has overcome so many tragic obstacles in the time I have known her since we were children and she was always the one we could talk to and was always a rock solid, wonderful woman. I can't believe how society thinks it's just fine in any corrections facility for an officer, co-worker or even the sheriff (at the time) to believe they CAN COVER UP ANYTHING THEY PLEASE. Remember boys... there were witnesses and others that the same thing happened to. You have wife's and families too and when this comes out I hope you have hurt them as much as you have hurt her. If not... there is a special place in hell where Judas betrayed Jesus, just waiting for you.


Mon, Oct 19, 2009 : 9:41 a.m.

So XJAILER are you telling me that you couldn't go to your UNION and file a GREVIANCE or your SUPERIORS stating that you felt this person was UNSTABLE to do the job. I do know a lot of people in law enforcement and 12 years on the job is a long time to go without having to undergo some sort of psych testing. I am sure everyone has to at some point in time say as part of a yearly physical exam!? So are you trying to tell the good taxpaying citizens of this county that they kept this unstable woman as you claim on the payroll for 12 years as a favor to us!!!!! Or is your judgement of your good friends cloudy as you can't see past the male form of jokes and primal bonding. Please re read my post I too was sexully harrased on my job in the 1980's, I was denied raises because my husband had a good paying job, or I couldn't get a pay raise because I had taken the time off to have a baby. Mind you I worked up to the day before I delivered my baby. Or the guys have families to support and their wives don't work so my boss gave the money to them. I also had the GUYS that would ruin my jobs so that I had to stay over till it was fixed as no one would help me with them. Didn't matter to me I proved myself I stayed over worked till whenever went home to my 2 babies, slept when I could went back in did the job and repeated it. So harrasement comes in all types and forms maybe Mr Xjailer you should sit down and really think about what might have taken place or really been said to this lady, and then said and repeated in the locker room or the corner watering hole to the guys. Do you think that the courts would let the EEOC go ahead with this lawsuit if they hadn't of gone through all of the paperwork with a superfine tooth comb and then a microscope???? Now don't go getting all puffed up on me here but why were sexual harrassement traiing classes all of a sudden being offered? Why was Deputy Hazelton disciplined if NOTHING happened and she is a liar? Also why did it have to take so long (7 months) for the county to do the interviews? If this is all alegations why not do the interviews clear all the guys and go back to the daily job of bustin criminals? Xjailer do you really think that maybe their could be a little bit of truth to Ms Vermettes statements and you just can't look past the friendships of these men and their and your families? That it would really be hard to look at a buddy that you would put your neck on the line for that would stoop so low as to do that to a woman let alone a coworker. Maybe deep down you know something that was done somewhere else that you too are afraid might come out of this that one of these guys might have done and it would ruin everyone if it did come out. All in all I feel so sorry for everyone that is involved, her for what she has to go through on a daily baisis, no job, no money probably, the stigma of being the unstable lady that did this to those good guys. The what is tomorrow going to bring, has anyone really thought about that? What about these guys? Have they thought of what this going to do to their families if they did do this,the how do I face my Parents who raised me better than this, my wife who had trust in me, my kids who look up to me, the people on the streets that trust me to save them, my coworkers who put the neck on the line to be treated EQUAL? Heavy thoughts for a cloudy morning!!!!!


Sun, Oct 18, 2009 : 6 p.m.

Mom4All-I had no authority then or now to 'get rid of' anyone-her nature took care of that for her without anyone else's help-she was and is now only a menace to herself, the jail environment is not for everyone, and each person comes to it from their own personal place, be it a stable one or not-I feel very sorry for the place she has found herself in now, it doesn't have to be this way-the whole situation is very sad for all involved, and especially for those who absolutley do not deserve this kind of treatment-I hope she gets the kind of help she needs, because I think she's found herself sliding down a slippery slope, and attempting to drag everyone else with her, people who would have put themselves on the line if she were ever really in trouble on the job, because That is who they are, that is their job and they do it with pride and professionalism every day-I've seen it on a first hand basis which is why I said that I would always be very proud to have known them, and why I will take this moment to say so outloud.


Sun, Oct 18, 2009 : 5:37 p.m.

I have to ask this of you xjailer if this lady was so unstable and pathetic as YOU claim why didn't you step forward and try to get rid of her before your friends were put into this situation. Also how could one work i this situation and be so unstable shoud we now be looking into the stability of our jail workers?


Sun, Oct 18, 2009 : 11:59 a.m.

MOM4ALL-you are so uninformed it is pathetic-until you really know the the individuals involved on a personal level as I have for several years now, stop making an idiot of yourself with your comments. You really do not have any clue what is going on here-for the record, my XJailer status has absolutley nothing to do with treatment at the jail-I left to pursue another career and education and remain very close to my DEAR friends at the jail, it sickens me to see what is happening to good people by someone I know for a FACT has been unstable for years-Get YOUR facts straight before you put youself out there again-you do not know the real story at all, and until you do, stay out of it, you are only adding to the problem.


Sun, Oct 18, 2009 : 11:30 a.m.

Sorry I directed the comment to tony dearing but he probably deserved it too. But xjailer I guess their is a reason you are an xjailer could it be the same reason that Ms Vermette is stating of the other jailers?


Sun, Oct 18, 2009 : 8:50 a.m.

Wow I am really fired up by the good old boy comments of Mr Dearing if Ms Vermett is so spinless why did she last in a male dominated society for 12 years. No one not even you as I did take a real good look at your picture should be subjected to any kind of harrasement sexual or otherwise. I worked for a major steel company where the women were not allowed off the green tile onto the white tiles until I came into my position and I could have hung them out to dry for what I went through. I say to Ms Vermette did these men treat you like they would have treated one of the guys, or their sister. If not big boy has lots of explaining to do!!!! Lets see how the families of these neanderthals feel when this case comes to a head and it all comes out to the public, the tv, radio, and their wives in farmville go to town and get stared at for being married to that guy who groped the former deputy, or they go to the school play to watch Johnny and everyone starts to whisper just like you all are doing about Ms vermette. Lets see how spinless you all turn out to be, if I knew this woman I would be glad to call her my GOOD FRIEND. I know what she is going through. Oh and did any of you well educated farm boys read the part of the EEOC giving her the right to sue???????? GOTCHA on that one boys someone found something in that cell block that went wrong.

Anthony Starks

Sat, Oct 17, 2009 : 1:15 p.m.

I find it funny that the Ann staff removed this article from the main page rather quickly. There have been articles written about the Sheriffs Department good and bad. The articles about the west willow neighborhood incident and videos were on the main page for very long time.


Sat, Oct 17, 2009 : 10:50 a.m.

Alright everyone, this is starting to go way too far. There are always more than one side to any story, especially this one, and I cannot stand by without putting my two cents in. I am a former employee of the jail and personally know all of these individuals, I even called the accusER a friend of mine at one point, now I am very sorry I ever considered her at such high status. At no time during my recent tenure with this facility have I EVER encountered such harrassment to the point that I could not do my job, EVER. These men are being persecuted by an unstable, spineless woman would ought to be very ashamed of herself at the lengths she is now going to. I have never seen or been the victim of any of this sort of treatment and knew of no one else who had either. There is an air of light-hearted banter that takes place, true, but ONLY that-NOTHING on the scale of mistreatment to the level that this accuser could not perform her duties. Personally I feel that the accuser has had long-standing personal issues that have nothing to do with what she Claims happened to her at the hands of these men, whom I do consider friends and will always consider friends. The novice cannot know how stressful the jail environment can be, and considering what they deal with everyday I feel very SAFE knowing they are there keeping the pond scum of society away from my children. To all those suddenly put on the cross in Transport-you have deep support out here, we know who you really are, and we know Vermette-Hang Tough, and keep on doing the FINE job you do everyday, this ex-jailer is very proud to know you, and you have my greatest respect-The real Truth WILL Prevail.


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 10:23 p.m.

Thank you OldEMT. I understand your situation and completely respect your decision. If you know anyone who could be of any help, please forward them my email.


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 6:12 p.m.

To Vito I can tell you that this was not the first time I have seen/heard of sex harassment going on in the Washtenaw County jail. Both inmates and workers. As much as I would like to give out information I still have family that live in county and would be afraid of repercussions following anything I might say. I can tell you that while I worked there, that a case was brought forward against a Correctional Officer but it went away, the same inmate filed against a officer at Scotts Correctional and won. I would think that freedom of information act would be able to give you information. sorry.


Fri, Oct 16, 2009 : 2:15 p.m.

To OldEMT and Others: My name is Vito and I am a law student at the University of Michigan. I am doing some research on harassment at the Washtenaw County Jail. If you worked at the jail, were incacerated at the jail or otherwise have information regarding this harassment, please contact me at


Thu, Oct 15, 2009 : 1:13 p.m.

BornNRaised.... You sound like you are not really reading or responding to the actual story. Or is it that you are someone involved or friends of one of the people involved. I myself have had to deal with stress in the work place as most people do. I have been stressed to the point of having to be hospitalized, so I do feel that her story is logical and truthful. However if someone did to me the same things as what it sounds were done the the victim I would need time off also. It almost seems as if you have no heart or brain for that matter. If you can say that being harassed while transporting someone or writing a traffic ticket to a stranger is the same thing as being sexual and metaly assaulted at work, by someone that you know and have to see everyday. I hope for your sake that no one in your life especially yourself has to go through half what she had to deal with. As for Mom4all I think you are very intelligent. I also agree with you I hope these men are punished to the fullest extent both by the courts and their families. They would not want their wives, daughters, or sisters to have to go through the same thing that they put this women through.


Thu, Oct 15, 2009 : 9:08 a.m.

BornNRaised:Thicker skin how about I come up and grab you and put my gun where the sun dont shine and tell you what I plan to do to you and you better do it or you wont have a job, tell me what skin you got? I know this lady and beleive me she has very thick skin to take what she took and to put up with the male fun club. I hope all the guys involed along with the sheriff at the time get what they have coming to them for sweeping this uner the blankets and in this day and age of zero tolerence. also boys explain this to your wives as to why you were hitting on a co-worker?


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 6:46 p.m.

Ok.Having worked in the jail. I can say that a LOT of sexual harassment goes on there from officers all the away up to the top of the food chain. Knowing both officers involved I can say I wish I did not believe that it happened but I have heard some of the things said directly from the accused (directed at me at the time). The sad part is that instead of doing something about the harassement when it is happening the person being harassed is made to look like the bad guy and not the person harassing them. I left to go back to school not due the nature of the job.


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 3:11 p.m.

BornNRaised---Are you serious? Can you say "apples and oranges"??? Why would it be OK for inmates to harrass, yell, spit, curse, or assault an employee, not suffer any consequences, and assume that any deputy, male OR female, should just "suck it up" and chalk it up to the hazards of the job in a Jail? Shouldn't your PEERS and co-workers be held to a little higher standard? This is odd to you? Apparently your skin is as tough as rock, since you seem to believe that sexual harrassment and intimidation don't exist, or worse yet, that this was some form of long standing "sick call". I'll bet you thought it was OK for the Congressman to yell at the President, Kanye to grab the microphone from Taylor, and Serena to get rude and crude with her line judge too... If you think NO ONE should be allowed to intimidate another, then leave it at that...NO ONE