The dismissal of a female Ohio police officer who was caught on tape kissing her much older boss has been ruled discriminatory by federal officials.
Part-time Perry Township Police Officer Janine D. England was fired in 2009 after video from a police cruiser dash cam showed her kissing and caressing her boss, Police Chief Timothy Escola. The then-married chief resigned following the incident.
England, then 30, and Escola, then 57, were transporting a burglary suspect in the back of the cruiser. While she kisses and caresses Escola, the video shows that she turns around several times to check that the suspect was asleep. The chief, who is driving all the while, is seen returning her affection.
News of the incident outraged the small community, and people called for them both to be fired, but Escola was allowed to retire with full benefits. England said she tried to resign, but that her resignation was rejected and she was fired.
England, a native of Sri Lanka, filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The agency sided with her last month, saying she was not allowed to resign in part because she is a woman.
Her lawyer, Avery Friedman, told The Independent newspaper in Massillon, Ohio, that there was no doubt about the impropriety of kissing on duty.
"If the township would have handled this properly trustees would have said, 'this is unbecoming and you're on notice,' or, as they have done with every other employee in the history of the township, let her resign," he told the newspaper in an article published last week.
Friedman says the case will be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice, adding that the township could face a six-figure fine.
England declined to comment on this report.
But the township is disputing the finding, maintaining that there was no discrimination. England and Escola would both have been subject to disciplinary action, but when Escola chose to resign, the township couldn't do anything about it, local officials said.
"He was told directly that if he tendered a letter of resignation the board would have rejected him and simply terminated him. And so he opted instead of being fired to actually retire," Gregory Beck, the township's attorney, told ABC News.
Escola tells a different story. He says he was never threatened with termination, and in a sworn deposition, alleges that there were other officers who were caught doing far worse – including stealing a Taser, pocketing donations, or driving under the influence.
He claims those employees -- all male -- were allowed to resign, walking away without a mark on their records.