The Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature is asking for an independent review of an allegation against Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell related to an inappropriate text message that he acknowledged he sent.
Flagler-Mitchell is the leader of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, which broke with the full Democratic Caucus last year. He wrote that people have threatened to make the incident public unless he abandons that caucus.
The letter from nine members of the Democratic caucus was to Legislature President Dr. Joe Carbone on Jan. 19, three days after Flagler-Mitchell sent an email to the media with a recounting of the incident and the recipient of the text also contacted the legislature and called for his resignation.
LaKaya Sinclair wrote to the legislature on Jan. 16, saying she had been sexually harassed by Flagler-Mitchell and sent an unsolicited photo of his genitals. Sinclair also asked that the legislature investigate Flagler-Mitchell.
Sinclair released her letter in an email to the media in response to Flagler-Mitchell’s statement. “Please note that I am being forced to come out with this (Jan. 16) because Mr. Flagler-Mitchell has released a statement…” she wrote.
In her letter to county legislators, Sinclair wrote that she first met Flagler-Mitchell after the Pennsylvania Avenue shooting in September.
“A few days later there was a community gathering and he introduced himself to me as the official county legislature for my district,” she wrote. “He gave his county legislature business card and told me if I ever needed anything to give him a call. There was also a number of other elected officials and pastors, who also provided their official business cards and said the same thing, if I needed anything to reach out. …
“No one should be in a position where they turned to their elected official for help and are met with unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate messages,” she continued. “I am only 19 years old. I believe there are other women who are victims of him and I will be pleading with the community to not only support me, but to come forth if this has been their experience with this particular (legislator). I reached out for help not to be sexually harassed.
In his letter to the media, Flagler-Mitchell wrote that he had intended the picture for his wife.
“I took immediate responsibility for my mistake,” he wrote. “I deleted the file, acknowledged the mistake, apologized and hoped I had not offended them. They responded at the time by accepting my apology and assured me that they were not offended. Additionally, I immediately took responsibility for what occurred with my wife, by telling her what had happened and I regret that she is now embarrassed by my error.”
He wrote that he believed the matter was resolved at the time. “Subsequently I have been contacted both directly and indirectly by politically connected individuals who have tried to use this mistake as a form of blackmail to force me into abandoning the Black and Asian Caucus in the Legislature,” he wrote.
Flagler wrote that is “ ‘extortion’ to threaten me and my colleagues with making this incident public unless we abandon the Black and Asian Caucus. Threatening us to abandon our people is a disgusting politically motivated power play, but more than that, it is illegal.”
He wrote that he is asking law enforcement to investigate. He wrote that since the matter may involve a crime, he would have no further comment.
The letter from the Democratic Caucus to Carbone is signed by Minority Leader Yversha Roman and legislators Joshua Bauroth, Michael Yudelson, Joe Morelle Jr., Rachel Barnhart, Howard S. Maffucci, Justin Wilcox, John B. Baynes and Linda Hasman.
The letter cited a Democrat and Chronicle story that reported Carbone and other legislators had already spoken to Flagler-Mitchell, accepted his explanation, did not pursue the matter further and said he had the “highest integrity.“ The letter stated: “These actions have compromised your ability to appropriately look into this serious matter.”
The legislators said Sinclair showed courage in coming forward and she “deserves for us to handle this matter with care and compassion.”
The letter concluded by saying, “As legislators, we hold a position of public trust and must hold ourselves accountable. At a time when trust in our government is at historic lows, it is important that we operate with transparency and integrity. Therefore, we request an independent review of the facts.”