By David Skolnick
An attorney for a city council employee who contends DeMaine Kitchen, a mayoral candidate, sexually harassed her objects to who the city hired to investigate the claim.
But Law Director Anthony Farris said the complaint from Andrew L. Margolius, an attorney for Lyndsey Hughes, who filed the sexual-harassment complaint, won’t stop the city investigation into those allegations.
“They may be hedging their bets” if they don’t like the outcome of the investigation, Farris said of Hughes’ attorneys.
The city hired Steve Sample, a retired Summit County deputy sheriff who now runs an investigation company specializing in employee harassment issues, to investigate Hughes’ sexual-harassment allegations against Kitchen.
Sample’s investigation started Monday. He is being paid $60 an hour by the city with the amount not to exceed $10,000.
In a letter to Farris, Margolius wrote: “I am concerned that he does not know what sexual harassment is and has no training in performing a sexual-harassment investigation. Does he, and has he ever, investigated harassment?”
Margolius wrote that past experiences he’s had with law-enforcement officials shows they focus on if there “was some form of assault,” and not “about hostile environment or preponderance of the evidence or other fundamentals.”
He ended the letter by writing: “I am afraid that we cannot give you our consent to use of this individual.”
But Farris said Saturday that Sample has not informed him of any problems with the investigation.
“I assume everything is still ongoing,” he said. “I haven’t been told by the investigator that there are any problems.”
This is the first time the city is hiring a non-city employee to investigate sexual-harassment complaints since council adopted a policy on the matter in 1999.
Typically, an attorney in the city law department or an officer in the police department’s internal- affairs division would investigate employee sexual-harassment complaints, Farris said.
Because Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/ secretary, is running for mayor in the Nov. 5 election, the city hired Sample, Farris said.
“This is our internal investigation; not part of a lawsuit or court procedure,” Farris said. “We’re following our policy on investigating sexual-harassment complaints. We’re trying to resolve the problem. This is us checking ourselves with the desire to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
Attorneys for Hughes, the city’s downtown director of events, special projects and marketing, claim Kitchen has sexually harassed their client on and off since January 2011.
That includes, according to her attorneys, inappropriate comments, rubbing his genitals on her, inappropriate text messages and smoothing his pants to show his genitals to her.
Kitchen has strongly denied he ever harassed Hughes, and questions the timing — just before the general election — because she is supporting Democrat John A. McNally IV for mayor.
Kitchen is on a voluntary leave of absence from his city job to focus on his mayoral campaign.
Meanwhile, another female who works for the city has a note in her personnel file from Dec. 4, 2012, claiming Kitchen sexually harassed her — calling her “baby” and “hot,” ignoring her requests to stop, and that “he touches her arm.”
The note was written by Marti Kane, the city’s human-resources supervisor, whom the city employee approached about the alleged incidents.
The employee didn’t make a formal complaint, even though Kane’s note says the woman’s husband and union president told her to report it to human resources.
Kitchen also denied these claims, questioning “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.”