Calls for county legislator Flagler-Mitchell to resign after report details sexual messages

Local Politics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Renewed calls for Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-29) to resign Wednesday after more documents were released, with more details of an investigation that concluded the legislator did violate the code of ethics.

The investigation uncovered accounts from multiple women of numerous conversations, which were sexual in nature with Flagler-Mitchell. Some women reported unwanted sexual advances, and others reporting consensual relations where the legislator provided money or paid bills. 

The more than 50 pages of redacted information all stem from claims from Lakaya Sinclair of unwanted sexual harassment, and subsequent investigations by the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the independent ethics board.

Earlier this year, Flagler-Mitchell admitted he sent an inappropriate photo to then 19-year-old Sinclair last November. The county legislator said it was meant for his wife, and was sent to the woman on accident.

The young woman said the photo was “just the lower half of himself — nude.” She then went on to call for his resignation.

New details from a conversation between investigators and Flagler-Mitchell at his home on January 5 revealed that the legislator claims the photo is not of him. 

“We talked about this further and then he disclosed to us that his son ‘had his thing on the internet.’ He added that his wife wanted to see what he (his son) put out there. He explained that a sibling of the son who did this sent Flagler-Mitchell a screenshot of the inappropriate picture. Flagler-Mitchell explained that this was the photo that he mistakenly send to Lakaya.”

After interviewing Sinclair, investigators learned that other women have received unwanted messages from the county legislator.

“Before showing Sinclair the recovered photo, Lakaya mentioned that she recently spoke with two different females who reportedly received unwanted messaged from Ernest Flagler-Mitchell.

Investigators say while examining the Facebook messenger records of Flagler-Mitchell, they found another woman they wanted to speak to. She wanted to remain anonymous about her experience:

“(Woman 1) acknowledged that she would contact Flagler-Mitchell for a legitimate matter, and then he would respond with ‘a different undertone and overtones’. She told us that she had responded by letting him know he was crossing the line. She told us that there had not been intimate contact between the two of them.

Iv. Dennis specifically asked (Woman 1) if she had been the recipient of any inappropriate images. She commented that it was apparent that ‘little Ernest wanted to come out and play’. (Woman 1) told us she received these images a couple of times and she didn’t know what promoted him to do such a thing. She said for her it was frightening or intimidating. (Woman 1) also commented that she is not intimidated by his position in government, that in no way does it have any impact on her.”

The documents also revealed investigators interviewed a women who had consensual relationships with the county legislator.

“(Woman 2) readily acknowledged that she did have contact with him in such a fashion and that they did in fact meet in person both [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] for sexual relations. She quickly told us that she did not have any complaints about him, that she may even have initiated the early conversation with him on Facebook messenger.

“With respect to the sending of an image of an exposed penis, (Woman 2) confirmed that she was the recipient of the same from Ernest Flagler-Mitchell.”

According to investigators, this anonymous woman also said she didn’t know anyone who was a victim of unwanted contact by Flagler-Mitchell.

Another woman said she began seeing the county legislator when he was a firefighter for the City of Rochester:

“She stated Flagler-Mitchell came to her house a few times while he was on duty with the Rochester Fire Department. [REDACTED] described Flagler-Mitchell as becoming very bold and pushy with her during their relationship. [REDACTED] stated on a few occasions, she had to fell Flagler-Mitchell to back up because of the way he was acting. She indicated Flagler-Mitchell was the person who initiated sending images of himself exposed to her when they were flirting back and forth. She stated Flagler-Mitchell also sent video chats where his penis was exposed and of him masturbating during some of their chats. [REDACTED] stated her conversations and interactions with Flagler-Mitchell were consensual, but she didn’t appreciate how he would occasionally contact her al all times of the night.”

Another woman said she received a text message from the county legislator at 11:30 p.m. which said “Oh I’m just getting out of the shower. I’m rubbing myself.”

Another woman said Flagler-Mitchell would send her unsolicited photos of his exposed penis, and try to get her to “give him a quickie.”

“Flagler-Mitchell sent her an unsolicited picture of his exposed penis. She stated this surprised her as they really weren’t having sexual related conversations at that time.

“Flagler-Mitchell sent several messages asking her to come to his house to have sex because his wife was out of town. Sher further related Flagler-Mitchell asked her to come to his house after his wife had returned home ‘to give him a quickie. She stated when she Flagler-Mitchell where his wife was, he responded saying ‘she is sleeping upstairs.’ [REDACTED] stated they continue to communicate via Messenger and consensually send sexually related messages and pictures back and forth to one another.”

Another woman said the county legislator helped her financially over the course of their sexual relationship:

“She started flirting with him via Facebook Messenger after he commented on her picture and helping her [REDACTED]. From these initial communications, they continued to communicate via Facebook Messenger, and eventually arranged to meet and have sexual relations. [REDACTED] stated she did not have sexual intercourse with Flagler-Mitchell, but related ‘he liked to do other things.’

“She stated as they build their friendship/relationship/ Flagler-Mitchell began to buy her [REDACTED], bring her food and give her money. When asked, she stated at first she wasn’t providing sex for money, but later admitted it ended up that way. She stated this happened because she knew he was married and she need money, so she figured why not.

“At first, she wouldn’t confirm whether or not they sent sexual explicated photos back and forth to each other. However, later in our conversation, she stated when Flagler-Mitchell sent explicate pictures to her, he always asked permission prior to sending them, even after they had been together sexually.

The report indicated that those sexual relations were consensual, but when she realized he was willing to pay “she charged him because she needed the money.”

The independent report is calling on Monroe County Legislature to pass a proposed ethics law and re-evaluate existing policies around sexual misconduct.

The Monroe County Democratic Caucus has called on Flager-Mitchell to resign.

Last month, the Monroe County District Attorney’s office announced they would not file criminal charges regarding the inappropriate photo.

Flagler-Mitchell is currently the leader of the Black and Asian Caucus in the Monroe County Legislature, a Democratic coalition that has splintered from its own party to align with Republicans, causing a schism in the legislature.

Flagler-Mitchell is facing primary challenger William Burgess on June 22.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said he was disgusted at the report, and called for the legislator’s immediate resignation. In a Wednesday statement Bello said:

“The District Attorney’s report tells the story of women in our community who turned to an elected official for help, but were instead subjected to revolting and terrorizing behavior.  I’m disgusted.

Ernest Flagler-Mitchell violated the public’s trust, and must resign from public office immediately.

The women who came forward have shown incredible courage in the face of public scrutiny – scrutiny that far too many women in their position face.  When public officials dismiss their truth, run for cover, and refuse to act, their trauma is only deepened.

The County Legislature has a responsibility to act, and they must do so today.  I am calling on Joe Carbone and the Republican Majority to stop covering for Ernest Flagler-Mitchell. It is past time for them to drop their opposition to the ethics reform and censure resolutions, and immediately hold a special meeting of the County Legislature to adopt measures that will hold Flagler-Mitchell accountable for his behavior. Failing to do so only serves to empower Flagler-Mitchell and provide him with a platform to continue to prey upon unwitting constituents.”

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart echoed Bello’s calls for Flagler-Mitchell’s resignation:

A statement Wednesday from Monroe County Clerk Jamie Romeo:

“Ernest Flagler-Mitchell has used his power as an elected official, a pastor, and trusted community leader – to create a culture of abuse that victimized women and took advantage of them in a time of need. 

When Ms. Sinclair came forward with her truth, we as a community, whether elected or not, should have come forward to support her, myself included. What happened to Layaka was not an accident, it was wrong. We cannot say we stand up against sexual harassment when we allow fear and partisanship to dominate the conversation. Every woman has their own stories in the workplace, in a social setting, where we have encounter unwarranted sexual behavior. When we stay silent, it continues the normalizing of this conduct.

Ernest Flagler-Mitchell cannot continue to serve in a public office when he has refused to take responsibility for his own conduct.

Monroe County is better than this, we must stand up to support Lakaya and every victim of sexual harassment that steps forward.” 

Congressman Joe Morelle released a statement Wednesday evening:

“The results of the District Attorney’s investigation into County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell show a clear, repeated pattern of alarming and indefensible behavior that has no place in public service. There can be no tolerance for abusing a position of power and betraying the public’s trust. In order to preserve the integrity of public office, he must resign immediately.

I commend Lakaya Sinclair and the many women who have bravely come forward to share their stories. We stand with you.”

Full report

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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