West Chester police chief faces accusations from 2 captains, one resigns

West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog has been accused of creating a hostile work environment by two of his command staff, Capt. Jamie Hensley and Capt. Joe Gutman. From left, West Chester Police Capt. Jamie Hensley, Police Chief Joel Herzog, and Capt. Joe Gutman. CONTRIBUTED

A West Chester Twp. police captain resigned this week after accusing Police Chief Joel Herzog of racism, sexism and other inappropriate actions, claims that a third party is investigating for the township.

Capt. Jamie Hensley resigned Tuesday, a few months after filing a complaint about Herzog, saying he has been treated poorly by the chief.

“I believe this is the only option left that protects my family, my health and my career without compromising my values,” Hensley wrote in his resignation letter. “It is unfortunate to have been treated this way for taking a principled stance and others may fear coming forward in the future as a result.”

Hensley and Capt. Joseph Gutman hired a lawyer, Elizabeth Tuck, earlier this year, and she filed a formal complaint with the township in February saying her clients have “impeccable records” over more than 20 years and are “under fire” for bringing forward allegations against Herzog.

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“This alleged wrongdoing includes failure to remedy sexual harassment, fraternization in employment practice, retaliation, racism, sexism and manipulation of public record,” the letter reads.

Herzog said he was “disappointed” by the allegations, some of which he said were found to be false in the investigation expected to be released next week.

“These complaints live on, even if they are unfounded, and they become a part of my legacy as police chief here,” Herzog said. “I love this community, and have worked really hard to be a positive representative of the community and the police department.

“I am disappointed that this now casts a shadow over the efforts we’ve made. I can’t speak to specifics, but I would want the community to know that an outside investigator reviewed this case, with no influence from the township.”

Tuck told the Journal-News that Gutman is still employed by the township but won’t discuss the issue because he “fears for his job.”

“Coming forward was an agonizing and, in my opinion, courageous decision by the captains,” she said. “They knew they were putting their careers and livelihoods on the line, but it was the right thing to do for West Chester and their department. We hope that the township decides to do the right thing by them in return.”

She declined to say whether a civil lawsuit is being considered.

The trustees have held several executive sessions recently about the allegations, and Trustee Mark Welch said they hired a third-party investigator. Welch said that although the situation involves the police, the township didn’t ask for a probe by the Attorney General’s Office because no criminal accusations were made.

The full report on the investigation is scheduled to be released next week. Welch said he saw no wrongdoing by Herzog and that the department has continued to operate at an appropriate level since the allegations were made.

“The most serious of the allegations were proven to be unfounded and the other things were cultural or maybe operational things, differences of opinion,” Welch said. “I personally stand behind the chief, he’s a good man.”

Documents obtained by the Journal-News show that some of the accusations involve a female employee who was hired by the department in March 2018. Hensley wrote a 22-page letter to township Administrator Larry Burks saying that Herzog “made inappropriate sexual comments” about the employee but also gave her and some other employees preferential treatment.

He also accused Herzog of making “racially insensitive” comments by referring to his doctor as “the terrorist” because he is of Middle Eastern or Indian descent.

When he raised these and other issues, his performance evaluation suffered, and he feared Herzog was trying to fire him to stop him from revealing things he knows, he wrote.

“He wants to be able to laugh and joke, flirt and say inappropriate things with females in the workplace and because Captain Gutman and I will not condone nor join in such behavior, we are being mistreated and retaliated against,” Hensley wrote.

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