By Denise Dick
Another female city employee alleged inappropriate comments last year by a candidate for mayor but declined to file a complaint.
According to a note in her city personnel file, the woman, who couldn’t be reached, told Marti Kane, human resources supervisor, on Dec. 4 that DeMaine Kitchen, who is Mayor Charles P. Sammarone’s chief of staff/secretary, had been “making inappropriate comments to her like calling her ‘baby’ and ‘hot.’” The note also said “he touches her arm. She said she has told him not to make comments like that but he hasn’t stopped.”
Kane typed up the allegation, which occurred while she was on break outside in the smoking area, and a copy was placed in the woman’s personnel file.
Kitchen, when asked Friday night whether he had done anything inappropriate regarding the woman, said, “This is the first I’ve ever heard of it. You’d have to ask her.” He does know the woman, he said.
“If there is any validity to this, file a complaint, launch an investigation and let the truth speak for itself,” he said.
He added that his campaign for mayor “is forging ahead, and our supporters are more excited than ever to ensure victory.”
Kitchen took an unpaid leave of absence from his city job Sept. 30 to focus on his mayoral campaign.
City Law Director Anthony Farris said Kane gave him a copy of the note detailing her Dec. 4 conversation with the female employee. He went to see the woman.
“She did not wish to make a complaint, so the process was never initiated,” he said.
If there’s no formal complaint, there’s no basis to initiate an investigation, Farris said. The city has to walk a fine line in such matters, he said.
“If we’re too aggressive in compelling a person to speak, it’s almost as if we’re coercing the victim,” Farris said.
He said he did his best to look into the matter upon learning secondhand of the allegation, but the alleged victim wasn’t interested in pursuing a complaint.
Kitchen said he would like to know “who conveniently perused this employee’s file randomly to find this note at this time. So it looks just as suspicious as the other allegations.”
Lyndsey Hughes, the city’s downtown director of events, special projects and marketing, has claimed that Kitchen repeatedly sexually harassed her both while he was a city councilman and as chief of staff.
Last month, Hughes’ attorneys sent letters to city council members contending their client “experienced sexual harassment, including unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical harassment of a sexual nature during her tenure” from Kitchen.
Kitchen has denied the allegations and said he’s confident a fair and impartial investigation will clear him of wrongdoing.
The city has hired an outside investigator to examine the claims.