Struthers council harassment claim prompts response from mayor, law director
By Graig Graziosi
A letter has been filed alleging verbal harassment between a Struthers City councilman and the clerk of council.
In the letter – which was addressed to Henry Franceshelli, the city council president – Megan Shorthouse, the city’s clerk of council, alleged that Councilman-at-large Michael Patrick verbally harassed and humiliated her in public, that she felt threatened by him and that this was not the first instance of this kind of behavior.
“This is not the first time that I have been belittled, put down, humiliated, disrespected or yelled at in a very unprofessional way by Mr. Patrick in public,” the letter states.
The incident outlined in the letter took place after the Struthers City Council meeting March 28. Shorthouse said in her letter that Councilman-at-large Dallas Bigley and Patrick were discussing issues covered during the meeting a half-hour after the regular meeting ended.
According to the letter, the conversation escalated, during which Shorthouse offered her own opinion on the matter, to which she says Patrick told her to “shut my mouth, stop talking and to just get out of the room.”
She also said Patrick attempted to intimidate her, saying “go ahead, roll your eyes at me” according to the letter.
“In the past, I have looked the other way and took the high road to not report past incidences, but I feel I can no longer practice this and need to protect myself,” she said in the letter.
Patrick declined to comment on the matter, and said he was conferring with the city’s law director, John Zomoida.
Zomoida said he has also seen the letter and will provide the council with his opinion on the matter ahead of tonight’s council meeting.
According to the letter, Bigley was in the room at the time of the incident but did not intervene. Shorthouse said in her letter that the following day, Bigley came to her office to apologize for not involving himself.
“We cannot condone this kind of behavior,” Bigley said Tuesday. “It makes the council look bad as a whole.”
Shorthouse called for action by the council. She said that Franceshelli suggested a meeting between them and Patrick to sort the issue out, but that she declined the meeting as she was still upset at the time.
Mayor Terry Stocker also received the letter, and said that the council needs to take action on the matter.
“She’s 100 percent correct that council needs to censor [sic] its own members with regard to conduct,” Stocker said. “She’s a good worker and she works well here. This is a fly in the ointment and it needs to be dealt with. The president of council should have called a meeting already.”