Georgia police chief ousted after repeatedly being accused of sexual misconduct

Credit: Via Jesup website

Credit: Via Jesup website

Police Chief Mike Lane accused of sexually assaulting and harassing employees

Jesup city authorities announced the firing of Police Chief Mike Lane, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault, on Thursday after beginning the process earlier this month.

According to the Press-Sentinel, the board of commissioners met in a regularly scheduled meeting, and a motion was presented to relieve Lane of his duties. The city of Jesup made the announcement Thursday after officials said earlier this month they were beginning the process to fire Lane, who had been chief since 2018.

The city released the following statement on Feb. 3:

“The city is now following the procedures provided for in the Employee Handbook for the City of Jesup to permanently relieve the chief of his duties. Chief Lane has been suspended while those procedures are carried out...The city of Jesup is committed to be the premier place to live and work through the provision of quality services to our citizens and employees, creating a safe and harmonious environment for all.”

The statement went on to say that City Manager Mike Deal had requested an internal affairs investigation from an outside law-enforcement agency related to complaints by former employees about the chief.

A lawsuit was filed on Feb. 1 by three former Jesup Police Department employees claiming the city and its city manager ignored complaints about alleged incessant harassment, sexual assaults and sexual discrimination by Lane.

The lawsuit, filed by three female plaintiffs, seeks damages from the city of Jesup, Lane and Deal, according to a news release from the plaintiff’s lawyers. The lawsuit claims the police chief preyed on “young female employees” and subjected them to lewd, sexual comments and unwanted physical touching. The lawsuit was recently filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia.

“Chief Lane repeatedly asks to perform oral sex on all three Plaintiffs, including making vulgar and persistent comments about the way in which he performs oral sex,” the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit further claims that “Chief Lane required hugs and kisses from all three women as a part of their job, and alleges that he sexually assaulted all three women on several different occasions, including allegations that he touched their breasts, buttocks, and/or genital area.”

In some cases, according to the complaint, Lane asked his employees to have sex with him at Deal’s personal cabin and other locations. One of the plaintiffs says she reported Lane’s sexual harassment to various supervisors throughout her employment, but she said no one took action. The complaints were investigated by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, which allegedly found that Lane violated Jesup’s sexual harassment policy.

“The suit alleges the City of Jesup and its City Manager Mike Deal have ignored a clear pattern of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Chief Lane toward multiple female employees. It further alleges they have knowingly permitted Chief Lane to sexually assault our clients, and abuse his power,” read a statement from the plaintiff’s lawyers at Buckley Beal.

A GBI investigation of the allegations was already underway following a request from the District Attorney’s Office in December, but no charges had been filed in the case.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also investigated sexual criminal misconduct claims against the police chief. The GBI began reviewing the complaint, filed with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, in December, according to WTOC-TV. In the report, the former employee claims the chief several times tried to talk her into having sex with him, made numerous sexual remarks and inappropriately touched her on one occasion.

The suit alleges the city of Jesup and Deal have ignored a clear pattern of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Lane toward multiple female employees. It further alleges they have knowingly permitted Lane to sexually assault the female employees and abuse his power.

“The mayor and Board of Commissioners of the city of Jesup appreciate the trust placed in us by our citizens,” a statement from the commissioners read. “We practice continuous improvement for the betterment of the city and will never stop asking ourselves how we can improve.”

The city said Lane retains employee grievance rights. The City of Jesup named Capt. Perry Morgan and Capt. Alex Reddish to jointly fill the role of acting chief of police.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.