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A federal commission dismissed Lyndsey Hughes’ sexual harassment charge

Published: Tue, December 10, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

EEOC dismisses sex harassment charge

By David Skolnick



The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Lyndsey Hughes’ sexual harassment charge against DeMaine Kitchen, the city’s former chief of staff/secretary to the mayor.

But even with the dismissal, Hughes, downtown director of events, special events and marketing, got what she wanted from the commission: a right-to-sue notice.

That allows her to take the city to federal court on the harassment complaint.

Hughes has 90 days from receiving the EEOC letter — a copy of which was received Monday — to file in federal court.

The EEOC declined the complaint because it doesn’t have jurisdiction to investigate Hughes’ claims because she’s an “appointed employee,” according to a letter from the commission.

City council hires the downtown director and can fire that person at any time without giving a reason.

She also could file a lawsuit in state court or go to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, said Andrew Margolius, one of Hughes’ attorneys. In addition to suing the city, she can sue Kitchen or other city officials, he said.

“This will be fleshed out in a court of law,” Margolius said.

A 67-page report by Steve Sample, a retired Summit County sheriff’s deputy hired by the city to investigate Hughes’ allegation, determined Kitchen, who lost last month’s mayoral election, sexually harassed Hughes both verbally and through text messages.

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

Hughes had messages on her cellphone from Kitchen, who confirmed to Sample that he sent them.

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 resigned Dec. 2, four days before the report was provided to the media. He has not returned numerous telephone calls from The Vindicator seeking comment.

The report states the city followed its sexual harassment policy despite assertions from Hughes’ attorneys that they didn’t, said Law Director Anthony Farris.

“They’re trying to say the city of Youngstown is complicit or failed to follow policy,” Farris said of Hughes’ attorneys. “Our policy worked beautifully.”

Margolius disagreed, and said he wondered what Farris is thinking.

In her statement to Sample:

Hughes said Kitchen’s harassment began in late 2009, and he “became more aggressive toward her” a year later, rubbing his genitals up against her arm and smoothing his pants to show the outline of his penis.

On Jan. 6, 2011, Hughes told Charles Sammarone, then council president and now mayor, that Kitchen was sexually harassing her and showed her the text messages.

After that meeting, Hughes went to Farris, deputy law director at the time, and asked to get a copy of the city’s sexual harassment policy. Farris repeatedly asked if she was OK and if she wanted to talk about what was happening not just that day but whenever she would see him.

Hughes said she told Farris that she thought the situation was getting handled by Sammarone.

The day after speaking to Farris, Hughes met Sammarone; Jamael Tito Brown, then 3rd Ward councilman and now council president; and Kitchen.

At that meeting, Hughes said Sammarone told Kitchen to stop, which he did until about June 2011, according to her statements to Sample.

“She chose not to participate in our sexual harassment process or ask for an investigation,” Farris said. “The attorneys say even if you had an inkling, you should investigate. But that would disregard the request of the alleged victim.”

Hughes’ attorneys said their client complained to Sammarone and the city whitewashed the issue.

“A complaint was brought to council and it was swept under the rug” in 2011, Margolius said. “If Kitchen had been disciplined then, it would have been resolved.”

Hughes told Sample that Kitchen’s on-and-off sexual harassment resumed this past June.

A month later, city council suspended her for five days without pay for not telling its members that there wasn’t enough city money for a July jazz festival. Instead of going to council, Hughes received money from her boyfriend, Dominic Gatta, who runs a production company, for the event.

Hughes’ attorneys have said the suspension was in “retaliation” to her complaints about Kitchen. But council members have said that wasn’t the case.

Shortly after council suspended Hughes, David Engler, acting as her attorney, wrote a letter to city council about the suspension and mentioned the sexual harassment, without using Kitchen’s name. He added that sexual harassment victims “always wonder if the person in power is or will [affect] their job.”

Farris said he responded to Engler in a letter urging Hughes to file a complaint and a copy of the city’s sexual harassment policy.

It wasn’t until Sept. 19 that Farris received a letter, from other attorneys representing Hughes, with a complaint.

Several people who’ve read Sample’s report say it was written poorly with grammatical and spelling mistakes as well as the narrative going from the first person to the third person.

“It was put together poorly,” said Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th. “It’s confusing how it’s written.”

Drennen also said it shouldn’t have taken two months to finish, and that Sample canceled their meeting the first time and the investigator interviewed him for less than 10 minutes the second time.

Farris said the report wasn’t “an academic exercise. It’s what investigators submit to prosecutors: a summary of statements not intended to be pretty. He conducted a thorough investigation.”

In the report, Hughes said she was having issues with Councilwomen Annie Gillam, D-1st, and Janet Tarpley, D-6th, who didn’t support her and wanted to hire someone else.

Gillam said she tried to work with Hughes, but “she was a difficult person to work with” and “totally unprofessional.”

Hughes was docked three hours of pay and received a written reprimand for claiming she worked that time when she didn’t on Jan. 26, 2012.

Council could have fired Hughes then or after the issues with the jazz festival were discovered, Gillam said.

“We decided to do a step process, and if it was done a third time, she’d be fired,” she said.

In hindsight, Gillam said, “I regret not firing her. We were trying to give her a chance. She should have been doing better. She wasn’t professional at all.”

Gillam, a Kitchen supporter in the mayoral election, said she was surprised the report concluded Kitchen sexually harassed Hughes.

“I never saw it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” she said.


1questionreality(728 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

This matter goes to show mistreatment of women is hardly a thing of the past and hardly confined to the radical Islamic world.

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2bmanresident(607 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

This is what happens when you have women in the workplace.

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3kensgirl(1057 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Again, why is Youngstown one of the bleakest cities to live in??? Sexual harassment has always been an issue in Youngstown but we were so intent on seeking out racial discrimination we threw women's issues out the window. You can't write this stuff. Youngstown continues to be a cesspool with most of the rats on top.

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4andersonathan(683 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Think i will take the girls side of things here. Seems like it was mismanaged from the beginning 2009.

A long time to work in that environment and Kitchen's phone went missing? I say pay the Lady.

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5uptowngirl(139 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Disgusting behavior but, definitely not in the top 10 cesspool issues in Y-town. If the FBI is not involved it is hardly worth wasting the ink to print the story.

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6republicanRick(1716 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Just shows how out-of-date and behind the times City management is.

Best thing Youngstown could do would be to open the elections to people that live outside city boundaries. The only people left in Youngstown city limits are uneducated, low income earners with no management experience.

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7TERRAPINST(320 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Love how the objective journalists at the Vindy referred to Ms. Hughes as "Kitchen's Accuser" in today's hard copy. At this point, it has been proven and should she should be rferred to as "Kitchen's Victim".

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8kurtw(1759 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Love comment No: 5: "This is what happens when you have women in the workplace".

That has to be a joke- "tongue in cheek", you know. I can't believe the writer actually meant that.

They don't have these kinds of problems in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the middle East where women are kept safely in their places and, if they do get out of line, are dealt with rather harshly. Of course, the problem in those kinds of societies is that half their productive capacity- the female half- is unused which may be one of the reasons the Middle East is still stuck in the Middle Ages.

Come to think of it, there's a lot of people in this country still stuck in the Middle Ages too in their attitude toward women- for instance, guys who think when a woman says "no", she really means "yes" and so they try to forge ahead until they get their way (Demaine Kitchen and Chuck Sammarone).

Unfortunately for them, in this country that kind of behavior doesn't get rewarded- it get's slapped with a lawsuit.

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9kurtw(1759 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Correction: There's one country in the Middle East- the only one I believe- not "stuck" in the Middle Ages- it is Israel. What the Israelis have done is nothing short of miraculous- went into the Desert as Jewish refugees from Nazi Persecution and in one or two generations created a modern Democratic Society- in the middle of a Sea of Ignorance.

No wonder the Islamics hate them (and us). They see, in the Israelis, what they might be if they overcame their ignorance and superstition. It seems to me that one of the defining characteristics of a civilized society lies in the equal treatment of all its citizens- how men treat their wives and daughters- and by that definition most, if not all, Islamic Societies are miserable failures (at least we, in the U.S. have taken strong, decisive, steps to end racism). Islam will, in my view, eventually be judged as just a left-over remnant of the Dark Ages and the more quickly it gets buried- the better for the rest of us (especially the worlds women).

So much for "Multi-culturalism, right.

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