ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two days after the September mass shooting on Pennsylvania Avenue in Rochester, there was a community event held near the site.
That was near LaKaya Sinclair’s neighborhood, and she says that’s where met Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-29).
“He gave me his card, saying ‘hey you know, sorry this happened to you, reach out to me anytime,'” Sinclair said.
She has not seen him since, but says they did speak over the phone and exchange messages, mostly about networking and trying to further her career in photography. Then …
“It kind of … sometimes inappropriate undertones in the messages,” she said.
Sinclair says the exchange ultimately led to a lewd picture Flagler-Mitchell sent her.
“It was just the lower half of himself — nude,” she said.
Tuesday night, the Monroe County Legislature approved a third member of an Ethics Board to proceed with an investigation into Flager-Mitchell’s conduct.
“We believe that the public should know the standing of the investigation,” said Yversha Roman (D-26), Minority Leader of Democratic Caucus.
Roman says some leaders, both Republican and some Democrats, tried to block discussion of all this Tuesday night. But if the investigation does show that Flagler-Mitchell did commit these offenses, she’d ask for his resignation.
That behavior she says is unbecoming of an elected leader. “Specifically when you’re responding to and engaging with individuals in an official capacity,” says Roman.
Sinclair says she’s not looking to break anyone’s life apart, rather to hold Flager-Mitchell accountable. In a letter to the legislature, she called for his resignation (full letter below).
“That’s all I’m asking for — is his resignation as the County Legislator,” Sinclair said.
Flagler-Mitchell said the photo was intended for his wife and he apologized for sending. His statement sent earlier this month said in part:
“I continue to acknowledge this mistake and I remain truly and sincerely embarrassed it occurred, but I took full responsibility at the time, made immediate amends, made full disclosure to those involved and deleted the mistake as soon as I realized it occurred.”
Flagler-Mitchell’s full statement
Sinclair’s letter to the legislature
Tuesday evening, Bridget Harvey, spokesperson for the Legislature President’s office, released the following statement on the calls in the County Legislature to launch an investigation into Flagler-Mitchell’s conduct:
“During tonight’s Legislature Meeting, President Carbone and Legislature Republicans attempted to expeditiously appoint a final member to the Board of Ethics to allow the complaint against Legislator Flagler-Mitchell to commence. Instead of focusing on the urgency of beginning the investigation, Democrats chose to trivialize the seriousness of the allegations by engaging in unprofessional conduct. There are now two independent investigations underway – one by the District Attorney and another by the Board of Ethics. President Carbone looks forward to the completion of these investigations. Neither the Legislature nor any Legislator should interfere with these independent investigations. The injection of partisan politics into this serious matter will not be tolerated.”
— Bridget M. Harvey, Chief of Staff, Republican Majority, Monroe County Legislature
Wednesday afternoon in response to the investigation, County Legislator Minority Leader Vincent Felder released the following statement:
“During last night’s Legislature meeting, the Legislature unanimously approved a third person to the Board of Ethics. The Board can now proceed with its investigation into these allegations. Quite honestly, I am not convinced that this Board can conduct a fair investigation, because of County Executive Bello’s demonstrated hostility to the Black and Asian members of the Legislature. He himself has conducted himself in an unethical manner several times since last February. I am therefore requesting that an independent investigation, free of any potential political influence be commenced immediately. It is premature, unfair, and unwise for any legislator to be prejudging the outcome of an investigation that has yet to take place. In addition, it is hypocritical for certain legislators to be calling for an investigation on one hand and then trying to discuss the allegations during a meeting of the Legislature. Members of the Democratic Party who would use these allegations situation for partisan gain or worse, to score political points against fellow Democrats, prove that the Monroe County Democratic Party has serious issues as it relates to the Black and Asian legislators who represent the City of Rochester. It demonstrates a plantation mentality; Either we go along to get along, or we will be targeted.”
— Legislator Vincent Felder, D-District 22
On Thursday, Monroe County Legislature President Joe Carbone released a statement in support of the investigations into the incident.
“As President of the Legislature, my job is to ensure Ms. Sinclair’s concerns are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated… and we have done just that. There are presently two ongoing investigations into this matter – a criminal investigation led by the District Attorney’s Office and an ethical investigation led by the Board of Ethics. We need to let these independent entities do their job and conduct thorough and impartial investigations. Anything less is an affront of the seriousness of the allegations. Some have also called for an independent investigation led by the Legislature. I support an independent investigation, but not one that would interfere with either of the two ongoing investigations. Only once both ongoing investigations are concluded will we know whether a legislative-led independent investigation is warranted. Unfortunately, partisan-politics have already been interjected into this serious matter. I acted expeditiously to appoint a final member to the Board of Ethics while Democrats attempted to grand-stand on the matter. I was the only Legislator to direct the matter to be referred to the Board of Ethics despite all Legislators – both Republican and Democrat – receiving formal notification of the complaint at the same time. I want to seek out the truth through a proven, fair, and unbiased process… democrat legislators want to be judge, jury, and executioner. Serious matters like this require sensitivity. I ask that going forward my colleagues in the Legislature, regardless of party, recognize this and set politics aside out of respect for Ms. Sinclair and the importance of the issue at hand. We have a process in place that centers around two ongoing investigations – a criminal investigation led by the District Attorney’s Office and an ethical investigation led by the Board of Ethics. We need to respect the integrity of both investigations and let this process play out. If, as a result of these investigations, it is determined that Legislator Flagler-Mitchell committed criminal wrongdoing, then yes, I think he should resign. At the end of the day, no one has the power to force a Legislator to resign… not the President and not any individual Legislator. Only the voters hold that power.“
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.