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Report: Kitchen sexually harassed a Youngstown female employee



Published: Sat, December 7, 2013 @ 12:06 a.m.

Ex-official admitted making inappropriate, flirtatious remarks

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

DeMaine Kitchen, former chief of staff/secretary to the mayor, admitted to an investigator that he made inappropriate and flirtatious remarks to Lyndsey Hughes, a city council employee, according to an investigation.

Kitchen, who lost last month’s mayoral election, said the comments weren’t “threatening or serious,” according to a 67-page report conducted by Steve Sample, a retired Summit County sheriff’s deputy hired by the city to investigate the allegations.

Sample made few conclusions in the report, released Friday by the city, but wrote that “the investigation did reveal that DeMaine Kitchen did sexually harass Lyndsey Hughes” both verbally and through text messages.

The report doesn’t address claims by Hughes’ lawyers that Kitchen physically harassed their client.

The report included text messages from Kitchen to Hughes, the city’s downtown director of events, special projects and marketing. The messages were retrieved from Hughes’ cellphone with a technology laboratory confirming they came from Kitchen.

Kitchen told Sample that he sent the text messages.

They include: “I get that and it’s cool. I just don’t want u to treat me like a stalker or something :-). It’s urs if u ever want it tho,” and “Ur my girl and I’ve been attracted” to you.

Kitchen, who resigned Monday from his city administration job, has not returned several telephone messages this week from The Vindicator to comment on the report and investigation.

“The investigation clearly comes out in favor of Lyndsey,” said Andrew Margolius, one of Hughes’ attorneys. “Lyndsey was harassed, and no one should have to go through that. All Lyndsey wanted to do was her job. The bottom line for Kitchen is he should have been a little more honest. People saw through his” claims that the complaint was politically motivated.

Kitchen had contended Hughes’ complaint was because she supported Democrat John McNally IV, who was elected mayor last month. Hughes’ attorneys have disputed that.

Hughes’ lawyers already have filed a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking a “right-to-sue” letter that would permit them to take the city to federal court on the harassment complaint.

“At this point, the city can’t deny that she was harassed” for a few years, Margolius said. “We fully expect the EEOC to have the same reaction.”

Hughes could file a lawsuit in state court at any time, or after receiving the letter from the EEOC, pursue the matter in federal court, Margolius said.

When asked if Hughes would accept a settlement from the city rather than go to court, Margolius said, “It’s possible, but we’ll keep our foot on the gas peddle” for now and move ahead with the EEOC charge.

Kitchen told Sample that he never created “a hostile work environment,” and his conversations with Hughes were “two-sided” with both saying “things that were inappropriate or at least playfully inappropriate.”

He also contends Hughes never told him to stop making comments. She says she repeatedly told him to stop.

Hughes’ attorneys say Kitchen’s harassment of their client started around January 2011, but in her statement to Sample, Hughes said it began in late 2009.

Hughes told Sample that in 2010 Kitchen “became more aggressive toward her” and rubbed his genitals up her arm and smoothed his pants so she could see the outline of his penis.

Hughes said in January 2011 she asked Mayor Charles Sammarone, city council president at the time, to help stop the harassment.

Hughes said Sammarone told her she was a pretty, young girl and Kitchen was a young guy, so what did she expect.

Sammarone said he doesn’t remember saying that, but he probably did, according to the report.

Sammarone met with Hughes, Kitchen and Jamael Tito Brown, then the 3rd Ward councilman and now council president, telling Kitchen that he needed to leave Hughes alone. Hughes said that worked for a while, but the harassment resumed in mid-2011.

Hughes told Sample that she thought about filing a sexual harassment complaint against Kitchen around the time of the January 2011 meeting.

She also asked for and received a copy of the city’s sexual harassment policy around that time from Anthony Farris, then the deputy law director and now the city’s law director. But she didn’t file a formal complaint at the time.

Kitchen told Sample that Hughes misinterpreted a comment he made, but believed the matter was resolved after the January 2011 meeting.

Hughes “complained to the mayor and that investigation didn’t go any further,” said Barbara Belovich, another attorney for Hughes.

“They can’t simply whitewash a harassment complaint,” Margolius added. “It festered and created this situation.” Sammarone should have “nipped sexual harassment in the bud and not swept it under the rug.”

Sammarone disagreed, pointing to the report that states: “There was no documentation pertaining to the meeting, due to ... Hughes not wanting to make a formal complaint and everyone left that meeting thinking that it was going to stop.”

Sample also wrote that when the complaint was given to Farris a few months ago, the city followed its sexual harassment policy.

“Read the report. The key is she said she didn’t want to make an issue of it,” Sammarone said. “A formal complaint wouldn’t have been to me or Tito. It would be to a department head or the law department. We were not her boss. She needed to go to the law department and make a formal complaint.”

City council can hire or fire Hughes, who is an at-will employee for the legislative body. But the council president doesn’t have a vote in that decision.

When asked if he was surprised by Kitchen’s behavior, Sammarone said, “After the [January 2011] meeting, that it happened again, yeah, that surprises me. I thought everything was clear after that meeting [nearly] three years ago.”

Hughes said Kitchen started sexually harassing her again in June 2011, but he didn’t do so in 2012. She said the harassment resumed this past spring through July. It was then that she had an attorney contact Farris about the inappropriate behavior.

Sample started the investigation Oct. 7. It was slowed as he waited for the lab results on Hughes’ phone, Farris said.


Comments

1johnyoung(241 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Whatever the city paid for this piece of garbage is way more than it is worth. It sounds like it was written by a third grader and would therefore hold very little credibility when examined and scrutinized as evidence in subsequent legal proceedings. The narrative switches tense continuously, and it is impossible to determine if the writer is paraphrasing a conversation or attempting to quote the interviewees.

From a technical perspective, it is an empty document that does not draw sound conclusions which can be directly supported by specific provisions of the city's sexual harassment policy, or by the evidence gathered through the investigation.

Law Director Farris should be ashamed of himself for allowing such a poorly prepared work product to be publicly issued. Did he not have the opportunity to review a preliminary draft prior to finalization?

One must bear in mind that the city's purpose in bringing forth this investigation and the written document was hopefully to forestall subsequent legal action by the aggrieved parties. In such an attempt, it fails miserably and actually puts the city in a more tenuous position with respect to future civil liability.

Once again, our tax dollars at work courtesy on Youngstown's best and brightest. See you in Federal Court, as Ms. Hughes and her attorneys pick up a nice payday at the expense of the "gang that couldn't shoot straight".

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2endthismess(315 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

johnyoung.....u hit it right square on the mark. Agree totally. These people are a profound joke. Yep. The gang who couldn't shoot straight is right. Waste of skin.

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

@Johnyoung. Excellent observations. The citizens of Youngstown should all go to their collective house of worships on Sunday and lite candles hoping that Mayor-Elect McNally cleans house and brings in men and women who will move the city out of the dark ages.

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4Silence_Dogood(1356 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

"The citizens of Youngstown should all go to their collective house of worships on Sunday and lite candles hoping that Mayor-Elect McNally cleans house "

How do you expect Mayor McNally to clean anything when the voters keep electing people like "what do you expect" Sammarone . You want to talk about dark ages, this man lived thru them, and he has been sharting and whissing all over the people for decades.

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5UticaShale(854 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

This is the beginning for the needed end to the present form of City government. Hughes will sue and bankrupt the City resulting in no insurance entity underwriting an inept local government. Reorganization will be forced and a new City giovernment will rise.

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62muchtax(345 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Listen if this was a private business Kitchen would of most likely been fired! Samarone with his stupid comments, should of followed up with this young lady multiple times to verify this moron was leaving her alone! God lets hope McNally cleans up this mess and stays far away from the Cafaro family! If he has a clue he will keep Foley in charge of the police dept! God help us if we ever have another police like Hughes. Thank god he he took his Half million in taxpayer maney from the drop program and retired, these programs and the program that allows workers to retire 3 yrs early but stay on and double dip for three years is a rip off to the people paying for all of this, the taxpayers.

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7republicanRick(1168 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Kitchen didn't pay his bills, he harassed women, and he mismanaged the demolition department. And the Vindy in it's election endorsement thought he was qualified to be mayor. The idiocy runs deep.

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8tiggerfjs(1 comment)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Well said from 2muchtax! I think that when Samaroni said that the city employees should be accountable, he didn't mean himself or the chief of staff!

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9kensgirl(620 comments)posted 10 months, 2 weeks ago

One can use all the correct grammer they want and also try to be politically correct but the bottom line is that Kitchen is a piece of crap and Youngstown has lived up to it's seamy reputation for decades. Nothing is going to change. Went to church yesterday and prayed for Jesus' help. He wants to stay out of this one for good.

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