ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — County Legislator Sabrina LaMar (D-27) announced Monday she is filing a formal complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics against Rep. Joe Morelle (D-25) for an alleged ethics violation.
According to LaMar, Morelle’s administration called the Rochester Institute of Technology, where LaMar works, and tried to get her terminated and threatened that if she wasn’t, some of the funding he gives to RIT would be discontinued.
“In April, I was asked by his opponent to come on her show and talk about my work at RIT. After this video, I received numerous phone calls inquiring why would I be supporting his opponent when I am a Democratic County Legislator. My appearance on her show had nothing to do with politics. It was to talk about my work as the CERV project coordinator and the limitations that COVID-19 had presented on curbing gun violence on our community,” LaMar said.
As the project coordinator for CERV, LaMar works with the initiative to reduce retaliatory gun violence in Rochester.
“It’s time for Joe to go,” LaMar said. “Just a few weeks ago he stood with Black Lives Matter and acted like he cared about black lives but when it came to this black mother, he did not care if I would be able to take care of my family.”
LaMar said she filed a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics as well as the House of Representatives Ethics Committee.
“We really believe the next step is for Joe Morelle to formally resign,” Stanley Martin of Free the People ROC said. Martin as well as other community members stood with LaMar as she made her announcement on Monday in front of the Federal Building in downtown Rochester.
“This is a powerful white man, using his power to remove her from her job so thinking about the fear, the harassment the threats she’s gotten just for going on a show and speaking about her job. “
LaMar said although she was reprimanded, she was not terminated from her position as her supervisors did not find the accusations to be true.
A statement from Morelle for Congress Campaign Monday afternoon:
“The Morelle campaign inquired about RIT personnel appearing in political campaign advertising in their professional capacity as an RIT employee. At no time was the employee’s employment or funding for the institution raised.”
At a brief press availability Monday afternoon, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was emotional in showing her support for LaMay’s claims.
“County legislator Sabrina LaMar had the courage to stand up and to say that Congressman Joe Morelle, one of the most powerful men in our community, threatened her and her ability to provide for her family,” Mayor Warren said Monday. “Ms. LaMar filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics because Representative Morelle called RIT, her employer, because he was upset LaMar accused her son of being racist. The fact is, Congressman Morelle told me this personally, and he told others personally, that he made that call. He thought it was acceptable to call RIT, an institution that receives millions of dollars from the federal government, regarding the actions of one of its employees. The purpose of that call was very clear: To threaten and to silence Ms. LaMar — a county legislator, a single mother, and a strong black women, by putting her employment, and her ability to provide for her family at risk.
“I know what speaking out on this issue will likely mean for me and our city, however I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors — I have seen too much,” Mayor Warren said. “The people of my community have suffered for too long, and I am tired. I am tired of people like Joe Morelle abusing their position to silence women, to silence a black woman they disagree with. I won’t allow this to occur without speaking up. Ms. LaMar, and black and brown women have a right to speak truth to power without being silenced. To say what needs to be said, without being threatened by men who can’t accept that our voices matter.”
A spokesperson from RIT released the following statement Monday evening:
“While RIT does not comment on personnel matters, we want to point out that the university has a clear and widely disseminated policy regarding permitted political and legislative activities for all employees.”
You can read the full policy on their website.
LaMar’s letter to Congress
“Dear Chairman Skaggs
My name is Sabrina LaMar and I am a Freshman Legislator in the 27th District of the
Monroe County Legislature. I am a African-American woman, single mother, a
caregiver to my mother and a full time employee at Rochester lnstitute of Technology
(RlT) as the Project Coordinator for CERV an initiative working with the community to
curb gun violence in the Rochester area.
ln mid April, I was asked by Robin Wilt, a Congressional Candidate for the 25th
Congressional District and current Town Board Member in Brighton, NY to come on her
show and discuss my work at RlT. After the video aired via social media, I received
numerous calls inquiring about why I was supporting Congressman Joe Morelle’s
opponent when I’m a Democratic County Legislator. My appearance on her Facebook
show had nothing to do with politics but simply to discuss my work as the CERV
coordinator at RlT.
On April 29,2020, I was made aware by my direct supervisor that Congressman Joe
Morelle called the administration at RIT regarding this video and attempted to use his
position to terminate my employment. I was reprimanded due to his false accusation
that I mixed RIT’s business with my role as a Legislator. My direct supervisor reviewed
the online video as well as informed the administration that I seeked permission prior to
participating on the show. lt was found that there was no violation of company policy.
Since the callwas made I have been afraid to adequately represent my positions for
fear of retributions. But today, I refuse to continue to live in fear, which is why I am filing this complaint and asking for this committee to hold Congressman Morelle accountable
for his abuse of power.
The Official Code of Ethics for the 116th Congress states in Section 14 – A member may
not with the intent to influence an employment decision or employment practice of any
private entity. The member cannot take or withhold, or offer or threaten to take or
withhold, an official act. The member can not influence, or offer or threaten to influence,
the official act of another.
Congressman Joe Morelle not only threatened me, but he threatened RIT and revealed
to severa,l people that he called RIT in an attempt to have me terminated from
employment. lt is widely known that RIT receives several federal grants and depends
upon the federal government to conduct business. A call from a Congressman in this
manner is a threat to a private entity and this conduct is not befitting of a Congressman,
it should be investigated and he should resign from office.
Sabrina A. LaMar”
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.