Deadline Detroit | The Lansing CEO harassment saga brings resignations, shunts and arguments

News spread of a boss who misbehaved at a communications and PR agency in Lansing.

A respected blogger and capital reporter for the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday cited descriptions of ongoing sexual harassment by TJ Bucholz, the 50-year-old executive director of Vanguard Public Affairs. The reports are from five women who worked there as we have an extract from linked extracts. (They quote offensive remarks and behaviors, not inappropriate touch or relationships.)

The effects can be felt quickly when two high-ranking employees leave the company.

TJ Bucholz becomes a pariah and loses two executives and two board memberships. (Photo: Vanguard Public Affairs)

Less than five hours after Dexter progressive activist Chris Savage posted the story on his Eclectablog, Vanguard partner Jen Eyer announced on social media that she had resigned “based on today’s revelations.” There she was Vice President from 2016-17 before serving as Director of Communications for Campaigns at Gretchen Whitmer, and then returned to the partner level. Eyer is also on Ann Arbor City Council.

Vice President Dave Lossing also resigned abruptly on Thursday and the agency’s website went offline except for a contact page.

Bucholz also got the first signs that he was a pariah among at least some of his former allies:

  • Downtown Lansing Inc., a promoter of economic development, kicked him off the board. “All victims should be believed and heard,” the citizen group posted on social media.

  • Until Wednesday, he served on the board of directors of the Lansing-based Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and recently became its president-elect – a position now listed as “vacant”.

The news created other waves among Vanguard’s alumnae, who started in 2014 and refer to themselves as “Lansing’s leading public affairs team.”

Former colleagues argue with Eyer online about whether she knew, or should have known, that her CEO made some women uncomfortable with sexual statements, intimidation, travel invitations, and office drinks.

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“There’s a reason so many women who worked at Vanguard Public Affairs are standing together and not standing with you,” Lansing political advisor Abby Clark said in a Twitter exchange with the newly resigned partner.

“When [I] You asked if TJ was inappropriate, which I did early on. You explained it away. You always made it clear that you were in his corner and we were alone. I think all of my colleagues will agree, “added Clark, who founded Athena Strategies last September after 17 months as chief strategist at Vanguard.

Eyer tweeted back: “So you knew, but didn’t say anything? Got it.”

The same thread has this pushback from Governor Whitmer’s assistant digital and creative director since 2019:

– Tori Saylor (@tori_saylor) March 25, 2021

Following the criticism, Eyer published on Facebook on Thursday that she “broke the heart for the women he did this to”. Later, in a statement to The Detroit News shared on Facebook “to clarify or be attributed to statements made about me,” she says in part: I was stunned by the recent revelations regarding TJ Bucholz’s behavior. Although I have never been the subject of such behavior and have never witnessed it, I have a great deal of empathy for the women who have been subjected to this behavior.

In particular, I was not aware of such problems except for an incident a few years ago with an employee who had received a text message from Bucholz. When I was shown the text message, I found it inappropriate. I advised the employee to contact management – except for Bucholz. I have never heard of otherwise and believed the incident was fixed and properly resolved.

About a year later, the same employee told me that Bucholz had sent her another inappropriate text. I was very upset and immediately notified management and confronted Bucholz. Bucholz apologized to the employee and I understood again that the problem was resolved. However, I was clear in my condemnation of inappropriate behavior in the workplace and advised that if I were ever made aware of any other incident, I would terminate my employment immediately.

Policies have been put in place to ensure employees are protected. And no more incidents have been reported in the four years since then. Sexual harassment is wrong, and I have never, and never will, condone it. … I will always be with someone who is sexually harassed.

The News Lansing reporter Beth LeBlanc makes this connection to a 2018 sexual harassment case in Detroit:

When former Wayne State University journalism program director Jack Lessenberry was accused of “a long history of questionable behavior toward women” in 2018, Deadline quoted Detroit Eyer as saying, “Everyone knew it. Nobody did anything. What’s the answer now be?” ? “

In the current situation, a directly affected woman sees the discussions about Thomas James (TJ) Bucholz as a teachable moment for other men.

“Make sure that you are not a” proxy “, said Emily Dievendorf in a statement to Savage, the Eclectablog publisher. She describes harassment when she was the executive director of Equality Michigan and worked with Bucholz on a campaign.

Dievendorf tells the men not to stand still: “Because until you take direct action to put a stop to it, it will never stop. And the next young woman to go through this could be someone you know or whom you love … speak openly about bad actors. “

State Senator Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, repeats this call to action. “You have to report to other men if you see someone doing this,” she tweeted about the subject that upsets Lansing. “Shout it out. Without a doubt, tell your co-workers that this is disgusting and unacceptable.

“Otherwise it will always be a ‘women’s problem’ and not taken seriously. It’s a problem in the workplace. It’s everyone’s problem.”

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