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Investigator finds Youngstown worker was the victim of sexual harassment

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The final report is in on that sexual harassment investigation involving the Youngstown Mayor's former Chief-of-Staff.

Steve Sample, with Sample Security and Investigation, Inc. out of Akron, has concluded that Lyndsey Hughes was verbally harassed by DeMaine Kitchen over a period of approximately 2 1/2 years.

21 News was there as Hughes arrived with her attorneys to meet with Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris and his staff, and hear the findings of the sexual harassment complaint.

Hughes on the advice of her legal counsel did not comment, but Attorney Andrew Margolius of Cleveland said, "They found 2 1/2 years of harassment. That's really what Lyndsey Hughes had to endure. They found that DeMaine Kitchen was not particularly credible and Lyndsey Hughes was. This was not political, and everybody should understand that."

The allegations against Kitchen surfaced around October 4th, during his campaign for Mayor. Kitchen maintained that Hughes supported Democratic Candidate John McNally. McNally ultimately won the Mayoral election.

Kitchen who was a member of Youngstown City Council, and most recently served as the current Mayor's Chief-of-Staff, resigned on Monday. He says he wants to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

According to the report from the independent investigator hired by the city to look into the case, Kitchen did sexually harass Hughes in the form of VERBAL actions. Allegations of physical contact, and retaliation were not substantiated by the outside investigator.

Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris tells 21 News, "The investigator did come to a determination that Ms. Hughes had been verbally sexually harassed by Mr. Kitchen. But he also did find that the city did follow it's sexual harassment policy, and that there was not retaliation."

The Akron investigator conducted 22 interviews, including an interview with another female city employee who alleged that Kitchen made unwanted advances towards her in November of 2012. That city employee did not want to file an official complaint.

The investigation included a review of several text messages sent from Kitchen to Hughes, including one that read, "I just don't want you to treat me like a stalker or something. It's urs if u ever want it tho."

Another text message read: "I wanted to clear that up for you so you know we're cool that's all. Ur my girl and I've been attracted."

It's important to note that the texts contained in the report only show one or two lines of the message, and not the full context.

"They (the text messages) are not obscene by any nature, but certainly inappropriate. The issue for us is Kitchen had been told number one to stay away from Hughes. Under that circumstances you can't really expect for the texts to be considered innocent," Law Director Farris said.

Kitchen who asked that the final investigative report be sent to him by email, maintains he did nothing inappropriate.

Attorneys for Hughes say Kitchen sexually harassed her on and off since January of 2011, and they accuse the city of not following their own sexual harassment protocol.

"One of the problems here is this should have been resolved 2 1/2 years ago. But the city didn't really react right, and it festered. And so this has either got to be a lawsuit, or got to be resolved, but one way or another we need to get some sort of finality," Attorney Margolius said.

Attorney Barbara Belovich who also represents Hughes says she believes there needs to be improvements in the city's sexual harassment policy, "It's important to make sure that this never happens again."

But the law director says Mayor Charles Sammarone did warn Kitchen to stay away from Hughes, and he says the investigator found Sammarone's conduct was appropriate, because Hughes initially never filed a complaint as required.

"She never made a formal complaint. The whole reason she went to him (Sammarone) was so that this wouldn't go any further. The Mayor's conduct was appropriate in the context that Ms. Hughes asked him that their communications be confidential, she asked him can you handle this informally, can you handle this confidentially. So that was the way to handle it within the context of her request," Farris said.

Now that the findings of the sexual harassment complaint have been made public, attorneys for Lyndsey Hughes say after a complaint was filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the EEOC, the next step is to file a lawsuit against the city, or come to some type of agreement or settlement.

Attorney Margolius said, "Well the next step is to flush everything out here. Make sure they don't sweep anything under the rug, and then get Lyndsey some sort of satisfaction. Because 2 1/2 years out of her life, dealing with somebody else's sexual agenda, while she was trying to do her job, that's got to be rectified."

The Law Director says, "Internally there is not much for us to do. Mr. Kitchen has of course left us. So any sort of internal discipline, there's not an issue there. The investigator generally approved of our sexual harassment policy, which is extremely effective when invoked. I think a lot of the issue here would be a refusal to participate in it."

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