By Scott Bolthouse
Hub Editor In Chief
Last May, the Huron Township Board of Trustees appointed then new Police Chief Everette Robbins following the vacancy left my former Police Chief Scott Carey, who died in January 2014 after a battle with cancer.
During that special meeting held on Wednesday morning, May 6, 2014, before Robbins was appointed as Chief, a vote was held to appoint Lieutenant Gary Dockter, a 20 year veteran of the Huron Township Police Department.
The Board voted against the appointment of Dockter and nearly a year later, an age discrimination lawsuit is being filed in the United States District Court Eastern District.
“Our position is that Lieutenant Dockter was denied the position of chief because of his age,” said Attorney Joseph Niskar in a telephone interview.
According to Niskar, who is representing Dockter, the lawsuit has been filed and is now pending in the court. Niskar said that typically, after filing a complaint and going to trial, the process can take about 12-14 months.
Niskar said that immediately following the vote, a reporter from the downriver based paper The News-Herald interviewed Supervisor David Glaab, who gave an inclination as to why the vote went the way it did.
“His response was that is was because Deputy Robbins was younger than Lt. Dockter,” he said.
“At the conclusion of the meeting, several board members came up to (Dockter) and indicated to him that the reason why they voted against Lt. Dockter was due to his age,” Niskar said.
At the time of the meeting, Dockter was 55 years old and Robbins was 39.
After the death of former Chief Carey, Dockter had been working in the department as an interim police chief for approximately one year.
“Dockter had been doing a fabulous job, receiving nothing but compliments, no disciplines issued and no complaints about his performance,” said Niskar.
Dockter is still working with the department as an active Lieutenant.
In terms of damages, there are multiple options that a judge could rule if they decide that the lawsuit is valid, including both monetary and non-monetary remedies.
“Available under combined federal and state statutes are the pursuit of lost wages, other economic damages plus interest, which can be doubled, the cost of attorney fees and litigation costs,” said Niskar.
“One remedy is future wage losses and the devalue of the losses to Lt. Dockter’s pension,” he said.
Non-economic damages include emotional distress that the client may have experienced, and if the case is proven, the judge has the discretion to order the township to place Dockter into the chief’s position.
However, Niskar noted that judges are usually reluctant to do that.
“Instead of reinstating, they could allow us to recover alternative future wage losses,” Niskar said.
Follow The Huron Hub for future updates regarding this lawsuit.