Updated: June 04, 2021 12:21 PM
Created: June 04, 2021 12:19 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The woman who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment from a Monroe County Legislator is calling for a change to the way the county handles harassment cases.
On the steps of the Monroe County Office Building, Lakaya Sinclair Friday said she wants the ethics board to pass laws that would prohibit sexual harassment, saying a current proposal by legislators does not go far enough.
Sinclair's allegations first came to light in January when she said Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell sent an explicit photo to her. Flagler-Mitchell claims the photo was meant for his wife, but sent it to Sinclair, who was 19 at the time, by mistake.
The same day, the Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature called for an independent investigation.
Last month, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office determined Flagler-Mitchell would face no criminal charges for the incident.
The county's ethics board Thursday ruled the Legislator violated their code of ethics, finding Sinclair's accusation was entirely credible - and Flagler-Mitchell's explanation for sending the photos lacked credibility.
"Because of Earnest, my name continues to be dragged through the mud by him and his enablers, his gaslighting and victim-blaming to refuse to take accountability for his actions, and even now that the County Ethics Board findings have validated my story with additional evidence," Sinclair said. "But, everyone now knows what many, and myself have known since the start of this investigation."
The legislator remains silent on the matter.
Sinclair's full statement can be found below. A note, the statement may contain graphic content.
“I would like to start this morning by asking you all to close your eyes and imagine this story coming from your 19-year-old daughter...or your sister...your wife...your mother. Imagine this loved one being harassed and violated by a deceptive and manipulative elected official who she trusted to support her during an already extremely traumatic time in her life.
Imagine the hope this elected official gave this young woman quickly replaced by all of the emotional damage that comes with sexual harassment, and for months following, subjected to constant bullying and abuse from this elected official’s friends and family.
I was 19 years old when a mass shooting took place at my home. I knew my life would never be the same. I knew I was going to need the love and support of my community to pick up the pieces. I thought I could count on my county legislator when he reached out to help me, but Ernest Flagler-Mitchell did nothing but make my life hell.
My trust was met with unwanted sexual advances by Ernest. Not a flirtation. Not a miscommunication. A picture of him masturbating to a teenager younger than some of his own children.
Because of him I haven’t so much as been able to grieve the violent tragedy that took place at my home. Because of Ernest, my name continues to be dragged through the mud by him and his enablers. His gaslighting and victim-blaming, refusing to take accountability for his actions even now that the County Ethics Board’s findings have validated my story with additional evidence.
But everyone now knows what myself and many others have known since the start of this investigation: Ernest Flagler Mitchell lies. Ernest Flagler Mitchell deceives. Ernest Flagler Mitchell has a disturbing history as a womanizer and sexual predator.
This investigation’s report was not ‘about politics’; this didn’t happen to Ernest, Ernest did this to me. He did this to AT LEAST 11 other women based on the evidence. I was not a pawn or used by anyone in coming forward. I did this on my own. I risked everything in speaking out and have certainly paid a price. And while I’m disappointed I am the only one who spoke out publicly, I will continue to do so because all of us deserve justice.
Make no mistake. The District Attorney did not clear Ernest’s name. There was evidence of his misconduct and abuse, but the bar for ethical conduct is not criminality. And the current path to holding elected officials accountable for their ethical misconduct is limited at best. That is why I asked you all here today. It is going to take a community-wide effort to ensure Ernest and others abusing their positions of power are stopped, and that young woman like me are protected going forward.
I call on the County Legislature to pass ethics laws that would prohibit sexual harassment, and while the current proposal by the County Executive and some legislators does that, it does not go far enough. That is where I will be focusing in the days ahead. That is what I need you all asking experts to consider as we look at the existing and proposed policies around sexual harassment and ethical misconduct.
What will it take to finally put our “enough is enough” words into action?
What will it take to finally provide protection for women like me so they don’t fear coming forward?
What will it take to help them believe that their community and their elected officials truly have their backs?
The real work here is longer term, but it doesn’t mean we don’t demand better in the short term.
I called for Ernest Flagler-Mitchell’s resignation at the start. I call for his resignation again today. I hope you will join me in doing so", said Sinclair. "
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