Former employee says Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido used 'sham' allegations to fire him

An assistant prosecutor has accused Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido of retaliating against him by firing the employee after he spoke to investigators during an internal review of the office.

Joshua VanLaan said both Lucido and Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Donald Fresard "knowingly and intentionally concocted a series of false allegations of wrongdoing" in an effort to oust him from his position with the county office, according to a filing in federal court.

VanLaan was fired on Dec. 22, months after he said Lucido had become "enraged" he had accused both he and Fresard of violating the civil rights act over the past two years.

"Defendants Lucido and Fresard pre-determined that, because of this protected activity, Plaintiff would be terminated from his employment," the lawsuit said. On Aug. 25, Fresard told VanLaan that he was under investigation for "seven false allegations" that included misconduct and refusing to file an appeal in a case that stems back to the 2020 George Floyd protests in Shelby Township. 

"The allegations were unfounded and were a sham," the lawsuit declared and that VanLaan had denied each claim against him.

FOX 2 reached out for comment from the prosecutor's office, which declined to respond, saying "We cannot comment on HR issues nor any pending lawsuits."

The lawsuit, filed late last week, was the latest spell of drama the prosecutor has recently faced after he posted about Confederate Civil War General Robert E. Lee on his Facebook. In that instance, Lucido shared a birthday tribute for Lee on the same day as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

The post has since been deleted, though calls for the prosecutor's resignation have continued. 

RELATED: Activist calls for resignation of Macomb prosecutor after Robert E Lee tribute on Facebook

The latest lawsuit, however, goes back years. 

Accusations of retaliation

Details from the case involve both claims of sexual harassment and discrimination that were reported in an internal review of the office, which were leaked last year, as well as accusations of retaliation against the former employee.

The retaliation tracks back to VanLaan discussing the claims during the internal investigation, as well as his decision to not appeal a motion to reconsider a charge against Rev. Willie Rideout following the well-known activist's arrest during a protest directed against the Shelby Township Police Department.

The protest circulated around comments the police chief had made against Black protesters

After Rideout's charges were dismissed, he sued the county for arresting and charging him. 

VanLaan said Luicido then changed his mind and wanted to file an appeal of the Rideout case's dismissal. He also asked the assistant prosecutor to "wait a couple of days" before filing so "it does not look like retaliation," the federal filing said. 

VanLaan did not file the appeal and instead reported his concern to his supervisor. 

Internal investigation

The federal complaint also includes reactions from Lucido and Fresard after an internal review assessing accusations the prosecutor had discriminated against employees. It also determined Lucido had "made inappropriate statements containing sexual comments and/or sexual innuendo."

The report also concluded that Lucido had used race as a factor for which assistant prosecutor he would assign in its warrant division.

VanLaan participated in the investigation, which became widely known within the office after the report was leaked to the public. 

In VanLaan's complaint, he says Lucido made an appearance during a podcast hosted by a Detroit Free Press figure, where he said "somebody derailed and came up with a great idea to make a smear Report."

The lawsuit said Lucido "intended to retaliate against" the plaintiff for participating in the report.