Youngstown reaches settlement with Hughes in harassment case
By David Skolnick
The city and an employee found to have been sexually harassed on the job have reached a settlement agreement.
City council will vote today on an ordinance to pay its $50,000 deductible to HCC Public Risk Claim Service, the city’s insurance company, to resolve a complaint filed by Lyndsey Hughes, downtown director of events, special projects and marketing.
City officials declined to provide details of the settlement Tuesday to The Vindicator, saying the information would be made available after council’s vote.
Attempts by The Vindicator on Tuesday to reach Hughes and her two attorneys were unsuccessful.
The two sides have spent several months resolving the matter.
With the city having to pay a $50,000 deductible to its insurance company, the settlement amount with Hughes is obviously higher.
The settlement also includes what will happen with Hughes’ future as a city employee.
Hughes is unlikely to return to the director’s job under the jurisdiction of city council. Other options would be to report to Mayor John A. McNally or for her to resign.
Also, if Hughes does resign, the issue of who would control that position — council or the mayor — would need to be resolved.
Hughes has been off work since March 28, invoking the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows her to use sick and vacation time she has accrued and still get paid. It isn’t known if all that time has been used.
“The matter is resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction,” said city Law Director Martin Hume.
All that’s left is city council approval, he said.
The Hughes settlement ordinance, sponsored by McNally, states she filed a claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
The claim never made it to a court. Instead, the two sides negotiated with a mediator.
The settlement was brought to council two weeks ago as a late item, but was removed from the agenda. No explanation for that was given.
A Dec. 6 report conducted on behalf of the city concluded that DeMaine Kitchen — a former chief of staff/secretary to the former mayor, Charles Sammarone, and also a former city councilman — sexually harassed Hughes.
That report included an admission from Kitchen, a failed 2013 mayoral candidate, that he made inappropriate and flirtatious remarks to Hughes both verbally and through text messages. But Kitchen is quoted in the report as saying the comments weren’t “threatening or serious.”
The report didn’t investigate allegations by Hughes that Kitchen physically harassed her.
Even though the results came after the November 2013 mayoral election, the investigation was a major issue in the race that saw McNally, a Democrat, defeat Kitchen, who ran as an independent.
Kitchen resigned as chief of staff/secretary to the mayor Dec. 2, 2013, four days before the report was released. He has not responded to numerous attempts by this newspaper to comment on the investigation since his resignation.
Hughes told an investigator hired by the city that the harassment by Kitchen started in late 2009 when he was the 2nd Ward councilman, and was off and on until July 2013 when she had an attorney contact the law director about the behavior.