Mayoral candidate faces sexual harassment investigation - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Mayoral candidate faces sexual harassment investigation

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Mayoral candidate DeMaine Kitchen Mayoral candidate DeMaine Kitchen
City worker Lyndsey Hughes City worker Lyndsey Hughes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A Youngstown city employee claims that she was the subject of unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors from DeMaine Kitchen, an independent candidate for mayor and chief of staff to current-Mayor Chuck Sammarone.

The allegations are outlined in a letter to members of Youngstown City Council from attorneys Andrew Margolius and Barbara Belovich who represent Lyndsey Hughes.

The letter says that Hughes has experienced verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature during her tenure as director of downtown events.

The letter names DeMaine Kitchen as the perpetrator.

The attorneys claim that the city first became aware of the allegations in January 2011 when Hughes complained to Chuck Sammarone who was president of council at the time.

According to the letter, Hughes told Sammarone about constant sexual harassment from Kitchen, which included inappropriate comments, inappropriate text messages, and rubbing part of his body against Hughes.

Hughes tells her attorneys that Sammarone responded by saying, "What do you expect, you are a pretty, young girl."

According to the letter, Sammarone called a meeting between himself, Hughes and council member Tito Brown to discuss the allegations. Hughes said that when Kitchen appeared at the meeting, Sammarone told Kitchen to not talk or message Hughes again and that the behavior needed to stop.

The letter alleges that when Sammarone became mayor, and Kitchen became his Chief of Staff, Kitchen would comment on Hughes' physical appearance and tell her that she was "missing out" on him.

Hughes claims that during a June meeting at city hall, Kitchen allegedly smoothed his pants to emphasize his private part then followed her outside the building whispering into her ear that no one needed to know.

Hughes says the incident was followed by a series of text messages attempting to promote his attraction to Hughes.

Hughes says that in July, during a closed door meeting with city council with Kitchen present, council called for the suspension of Hughes over her handling of a recent Jazz Fest in the city.

The letter says that a police investigation found no impropriety on Hughes' part.

Youngstown First Ward Councilwoman Annie Gillam and Sammarone will not comment on the allegations but say the letter from Hughes' attorney is not correct because Kitchen was not present at the disciplinary meeting for Hughes.

Hughes' attorneys are asking that the city make efforts to preserve all evidence in the case.

Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris says the city will appoint an investigator by the end of the week who will most likely be someone from outside the city to thoroughly examine the allegations.

Kitchen tells 21 News that the allegations are untrue and are politically motivated.

He says Hughes is an avid supporter of his opponent, endorsed Democrat John McNally.

Kitchen says the allegations surfacing just five weeks before the election shows poor judgement by McNally and how desperate he is to win this election.

McNally tells 21 News that while he will not comment on the allegations facing Kitchen, "It seems like the city should have done a better job of investigating when Lyndsey Hughes first made them aware of her concerns. Hughes has been a supporter in the past, but these allegations are completely separate from our campaign."

Kitchen's run for mayor has been marked by controversy.

His candidacy as an independent is being challenged by another independent candidate, Cecil Monroe, who is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to remove Kitchen's name from the November ballot, claiming that Kitchen is actually a democrat.

The political race got even more attention last month when some leaders of the local African American community made allegations that Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Betras employed "bullying" tactics against members of the party's Executive Committee.

During a mayoral debate, party District Leader Artis Gillam and Executive Committee members Annie Gillam and T.J. Rogers wore T-shirts supporting Kitchen's candidacy.

Betras allegedly told the three that they should give up their positions with the committee if they weren't supporting the party's endorsed candidate, John McNally.

Reverend Kenneth Simon claims Betras was harassing party leaders and is alienating blacks from the Democratic Party.

Betras is unapologetic saying that when members of the Executive Committee or District Leaders supported non-endorsed candidates in the past, he took the same action.

Kitchen says he's staying in the race, and says he is confident that when the investigation is complete, the truth will come out and he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Hughes referred 21 News to her attorneys office for comments. Our calls to the Cleveland law firm of Kronenberg and Belovich Law were not returned.

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