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Local News

Discrimination charges filed against Braidwood mayor, police chief

BRAIDWOOD – Braidwood’s deputy police chief, who has been on leave for months pending an internal investigation, has filed charges of discrimination against city officials with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Deputy Chief Michelle Soucie had previously filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which closed the case in April without findings.

Soucie filed three charges of discrimination on June 23 against the city of Braidwood, Mayor James Vehrs and Police Chief Nick Ficarello, human rights department spokesman Michael Theodore confirmed in an email. The state agency administers and enforces the Illinois Human Rights Act.

“As the charges are within the preliminary stage of the department’s investigation process and are currently pending, we are unable to release further information at this time,” Theodore wrote.

He said Soucie’s charges were being processed and declined to release them Friday.

Vehr said Friday was the first he had heard about the charges, and declined to comment until he knew what they were. Ficarello said he didn’t know the specifics of Soucie’s allegations are but said they were in retaliation for the investigation by Braidwood police and currently ISP into allegations of theft.

“I believe this is just another distraction from the investigation that is being conducted initially by the Braidwood police and now by the state police for the theft involving taxpayer money,” Ficarello said.

A message to Soucie was not immediately returned Friday.

Soucie has been on paid leave since January. She’s been with Braidwood police since 1998 and she was named deputy chief after Ficarello was hired in April 2015.

She previously filed charges against Ficarello and the city in March with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination.

Soucie accused Ficarello of sexual harassment, retaliation and violation of the American Disabilities Act.

As with the charges filed with IDHR, Ficarello said he also believed Soucie’s charges filed with EEOC were retaliation for the investigation into alleged theft.

EEOC officials closed their investigation on April 20, saying the agency was “unable to conclude that the information obtained established violations of the states.”

“This does not certify that [the city] is in compliance of the statutes,” wrote Julianne Bowman, EEOC Chicago district director.

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