ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-29) announced Friday that he would be “temporarily stepping down” from his leadership position with the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus on the legislature.
“I have decided to temporarily step down as Leader of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature in order to better deal with personal matters,” Flagler-Mitchell said in a statement Friday morning. “During my time away as Leader, Calvin Lee, Jr. will serve as Acting Leader. Please respect my family’s privacy at this time.”
The legislator is facing mounting calls for his resignation after 13 women have come forward with accounts of Flagler-Mitchell engaging with them in conversations that were sexual in nature.
Some women reported unwanted sexual advances, and others reporting consensual relations where the legislator provided money or paid bills.
Last week the a Monroe County ethics board investigation found that Flagler-Mitchell did violate the county’s code of ethics.
Last month, the Monroe County District Attorney’s office announced they would not file criminal charges regarding the inappropriate photo investigation.
Flagler-Mitchell is facing primary challenger William Burgess on June 22.
Many area politicians have called on Flagler-Mitchell to resign, including Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, County Clerk Jamie Romeo, Assemblyman Harry Bronson, Congressman Joe Morelle, County Legislature President Joe Carbone.
Flagler-Mitchell released a statement Thursday, calling the latest accuser’s allegations “false.” He did not address the 12 other accusers’ allegations. His full statement reads:
“These allegations against me are not true. I have always been one to help people who call on me and I attempted to do so in this instance. Unfortunately, we were unable to resolve this individual’s situation favorably and now she has launched false allegations against me. I have always been one to admit my shortcomings and today will be no different.
As in any marriage, I have experienced ups and downs. Regretfully, I have had moments of infidelity. These are personal matters that my wife and I continue to work through. I have never promised anything in return for favors nor used my position for anything other than serving the people of my district and that’s what I will continue to do. I request that you respect my family’s privacy during this difficult time.”
A statement Friday from the Black and Asian Caucus:
“Today the Black and Asian Caucus announces a change in leadership. Our focus has been and continues to remain on uplifting marginalized communities in Monroe County. We’ve been able to bring many changes to County government by continuing to remain focused on the people and the work.
We understand that there have been a number of allegations that have arisen regarding Legislator Flagler-Mitchell. We believe that matters regarding infidelity are between him and his wife. At this time, he needs to focus on repairing that relationship thus he is temporarily stepping down as Leader and Calvin Lee, Jr. will assume the position of Acting Leader.
None of us condone any harassing behavior and we will allow the independent organizations investigating these matters to conduct their review.
We will continue to focus on rebuilding housing, providing resources to social services, and the people of our community as a whole.”
The Democratic Caucus in the Monroe County Legislature penned a letter to legislature President Carbone Friday, calling for a special meeting to consider censuring Flagler-Mitchell and an ethics reform referral:
John Baynes is a Monroe County legislator in the 18th district. He said they’ll keep pushing for the ethics reform as long as it takes and Flagler-Mitchell temporarily stepping down as leader doesn’t change that.
“It feels like a lot of the messaging we’ve heard is delay and deny, fend off. I don’t see any commitment to confront the truth and this strikes me as one more example of that,” he said Friday. “I’m sad but that doesn’t mean were not gonna act. I’m very sad for the victims and I believe them and it hurts me as a community member and it hurts our community. As a community we can do better.”
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.
That incident prompted a district attorney investigation, as well as a county board of ethics investigation, which yielded more than 50 pages of documents and more than a dozen accounts women coming forward to testify.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.