By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – A police sergeant named in a sexual harassment and assault lawsuit brought by a female officer was relieved of his duties Wednesday after the Pension Board approved a non-duty disability pension.
When asked if this would mitigate the city’s responsibility in the lawsuit, city officials said the two items are not related.
Pension Board member Bob Cady, who is also the city’s financial director, said Sgt. Dan Cerroni has been off work for some time. The board held a special meeting Wednesday to give him a pension and disability.
“We calculated the pension as a normal pension,” Cady said. “He is a retiree as of Wednesday’s meeting.”
Cady did not want to reveal how much Cerroni would be paid monthly under the agreement. Four sources aware of the situation said Cerroni would receive about $8,000 a month. In addition, he could collect an additional $1,500 per month in disability.
In April 2016, officer Tracie Brown, a 15-year department veteran, asked the Michigan State Police to launch an investigation into her allegations against Cerroni for sexual harassment and assault over a January 2016 incident. Per Allen Park Police Department policy, the incident was first investigated internally by a lieutenant.
Brown was not satisfied with that and reached to a higher command, thus going to the MSP.
Brown’s attorney, Salvatore Prescott, sent a letter April 6 to the City Council, police union representative and police chief “to request assistance in correcting the failure of the Allen Park Police Department to take appropriate action.”
Brown said the assaulting sergeant, with whom she briefly had a flirtation, unzipped his pants and forced her head down to his groin area.
On Nov. 13, Brown said the sergeant tried to choke her. She said that when she went to her lieutenant to ask if her neck was discolored, Cerroni was standing nearby and reportedly asked if she thought the lieutenant would take her word over his.
Brown also alleged the lieutenant who investigated her case told her years prior that she was “paranoid” about her gender-expressed concerns. The same lieutenant allegedly made sexually inappropriate comments, such as asking her if she “liked to masturbate while writing up charges involving constituents.”
Brown alleged that on another occasion, the commander commented that a child victim of criminal sexual assault looked “horny” to him.
On Jan. 26, 2016, city officials drew scrutiny from people who knew about the incident and wanted to know why it was being investigated internally. City Attorney Joseph Couvreur said it was department policy. He said if the incident were criminal, it would have been forwarded to MSP for investigation.
Despite it being internal, Couvreur said it was a thorough investigation. He said the report is scrutinized for bias and factualness.
Couvreur declined to comment on the allegations or MSP investigation, because he doesn’t want to influence the investigation.
In addition, City Administrator Mark Kibby reportedly said Brown signed off on the report, but Brown said she did not. Brown said she didn’t know the outcome of the internal investigation.
Litigation is reportedly pending in the case. The last action on the case was Feb. 2, when Cerroni’s attorney filed an answer to an amended complaint before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John A. Murphy. No further hearing has been set.
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected])