Councilman sues woman over accusations
Two community activists say the councilman violated the city charter.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Councilman Artis Gillam Sr. filed a civil lawsuit against a former city clerk saying a letter she wrote accusing him of sexual harassment caused him "public hatred, contempt, ridicule, shame and/or disgrace."
The recently filed lawsuit includes a Feb. 15 letter written by Arlene D.T. Bahar, fired as city clerk that day, stating her problem with Gillam, D-1st, is because she "failed to return a sexual advance" from him. The letter was sent by Bahar to members of city council, including Gillam.
Gillam, who is married, adamantly denies the accusation. The civil suit filed by Gillam contends Bahar defamed him and caused intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"It's not true," Gillam said. "I don't do that."
The lawsuit states Bahar's letter has affected Gillam "in his trade, business and political position," and her "allegations were extreme and indecent."
Attempts to reach Bahar on Friday were unsuccessful.
Council voted 4-3 on Feb. 15 to fire Bahar, who held the job with an annual salary of $62,886 since October 1998.
Gillam along with Councilmen Mark Memmer, D-7th, and Paul Pancoe, D-6th, met privately Feb. 14 with Bahar to give her the opportunity to resign or else be fired the next day. The three councilmen make up the legislative body's finance committee and conducted a closed-door meeting without first giving public notice, a requirement of the state's open meetings and public records law.
In Bahar's Feb. 15 letter, she wrote she privately met Feb. 8 with Gillam, Memmer, Pancoe as well as Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, Councilman Michael Rapovy, D-5th, and council President Charles Sammarone. Bahar wrote that during the meeting, Gillam discussed several issues pertaining to her and at the end of the meeting she told him she "felt powerless and feared the possibility of termination."
Like the Feb. 14 meeting, council failed to notify the public about the Feb. 8 meeting, a requirement of the state's open meetings law.
In the letter, Bahar wrote that her problems with Gillam "affected my health" and the councilman was "offensive and abusive" to her. She also wrote that she would have no choice but to "file a formal complaint with the appropriate authorities."
Also, the city prosecutor's office is investigating a complaint against Gillam accusing him of malfeasance in office. Maggy Lorenzi and Josephine Hulett, two community activists, filed the complaint.
The complaint states Gillam's Nov. 2, 2005, vote for council to support plans to enter into a financial guarantee with a company owned by two businesswomen violates the city charter because his construction company has done work for them.
The city's downtown development agency agreed Sept. 6, 2005, to sell three vacant properties on West Federal Street to P & amp;P Development, a company owned by Denise Powell and Gail Pullam. Gillam was the agency's vice chairman when the vote was taken, and actively pushed for passage of the sale to the two women.
Gillam acknowledges his construction company, A Gillam and Associates Inc., did work two to three years ago for a McDonald's restaurant in Cleveland owned by Pullam and her husband. His company is also doing work for James & amp; Weaver Office Environments, a Youngstown company owned by Powell.
"I had nothing to do with P & amp;P," Gillam said. "In the future, I'm going to be very careful that if something comes up for them that I'll abstain from the vote even though attorneys told me I didn't do anything wrong."
Lorenzi said Gillam's statement that he will be very careful in the future shows he knows he did something wrong, and should resign.
The complaint states Gillam violated Section 113 of the city charter that forbids city officers to "have a personal interest, direct or indirect, in the profits of any contract or job with the city." A violation constitutes malfeasance in office, and anyone found guilty has to forfeit his office, the charter provision states.