Updated: January 18, 2021 05:30 PM
Created: January 16, 2021 09:11 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Hours after local leaders celebrated the reactivation of Rochester's NAACP chapter Saturday morning, the chapter's president and Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell acknowledged sending an explicit photo "intended for my wife to an individual I was working with."
Flagler-Mitchell sent the photo to a then-19-year-old woman, who issued a statement Saturday addressed to county legislators, claiming he sexually harassed her and has reported the incident to authorities.
In her statement, LaKaya Sinclair says she first met Flagler-Mitchell after the Pennsylvania Avenue mass shooting in Sept. 2020.
"I am asking for his resignation so that he does not continue to use his seat and abuse his power and am asking this body to formally investigate this matter," Sinclair said. Read her statement in its entirety below.
Flagler-Mitchell claims political rivals are trying to use the photo to force him to abandon the Black and Asian Caucus in the legislature.
In his statement, the Democrat says that in November 2020, he accidentally sent a picture meant for his wife to an "individual I was working with." He did not name Sinclair as the recipient of the photo.
Flagler-Mitchell says he apologized to the individual, who accepted his apology and said they were not offended. Flagler-Mitchell also took responsibility for the incident by telling his wife about what occurred.
After months of believing the issue was resolved, however, Flagler-Mitchell now says that he has been contacted both directly and indirectly by “politically connected individuals” who have tried to “use this mistake as a form of blackmail” to force him into abandoning the Black and Asian Caucus. That caucus was formed last year amid intra-party tensions among local Democrats.
Additional members of the caucus have been contacted with similar threats, Flagler-Mitchell says.
Flagler-Mitchell finishes his letter by saying that neither he nor his colleagues will be intimidated and that they have consulted legal counsel and are asking law enforcement to investigate the “extortion.”
Capt. Sam Lucyshyn with the Rochester Police Department says they were "advised of this matter, however at this time the Rochester Police Department is not the agency handling this incident."
Read Flagler-Mitchell's full statement below:
"As a man of faith I believe we all must take responsibility for our actions and I have always tried to do that both in my personal and professional life. In November, I sent a picture intended for my wife to an individual I was working with. I took immediate responsibility for my mistake. I deleted the file, acknowledged the mistake, apologized and hoped I had not offended them. They responded at the time by accepting my apology and assured me that they were not offended. Additionally, I immediately took responsibility for what occurred with my wife, by telling her what had happened and I regret that she is now embarrassed by my error.
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.
I fully believed this matter was resolved at that time, but subsequently I have been contacted both directly and indirectly by politically connected individuals who have tried to use this mistake as a form of blackmail to force me into abandoning the Black and Asian Caucus in the Legislature.
These agents have threatened to make my mistake public unless I bow to their political wishes and walk away from this important caucus in an effort for me to “fall in line” with their agenda. They followed through with this threat because I was contacted by a media outlet regarding this matter. It was after that I learned that these same individuals have also contacted nearly every other member of the Black and Asian Caucus with the same threat.
I did not bow to this pressure and asked my colleagues not to either. I know what I did and I take full responsibility for it, but it is 'extortion' to threaten me and my colleagues with making this incident public unless we abandon the Black and Asian Caucus. Threatening us to abandon our people is a disgusting politically motivated power play, but more than that, it is illegal.
I have consulted legal counsel and we're asking law enforcement to investigate this extortion and hold those responsible accountable. I have taken responsibility for my actions and those who have tried to use them to extort compliance with their political agenda need to take responsibility as well.
I cannot reiterate enough that I regret what occurred, but I have taken and continue to take responsibility for it because that was the right thing to do from the start and I refuse to be intimidated by those who wish to pressure me now.
Editor's Note: since this matter involves the possible commission of the crime of extortion and will be turned over to law enforcement for investigation, I will not be making any further comments beyond the above statement.
Ernest S. Flagler-Mitchell"
Read Sinclair's full statement below:
"Dear County Legislatures,
I am writing this letter to share with you that your colleague County Legislature for Legislative district 29, Ernest Flager-Mitchell, has explicitly sexually harassed me and has sent me an unsolicited photo of his genital. I first met him after being the victim of the Pennsylvania Ave graduation shooting that occurred on September 18th, 2020. A few days later there was a community gathering and he introduced himself to me as the official county legislature for my district. He gave his county legislature business card and told me if I ever needed anything to give him a call. There was also a number of other elected officials and pastors, who also provided their official business cards and said the same thing, if I needed anything to reach out. I reached out for help not to be sexually harassed.
I am writing this so that you are all aware of the type of person he is. I am going public and will be asking for his resignation. No one should be in a position where they turned to their elected official for help and are met with unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate messages. I am only 19 years old. I believe there are other women who are victims of him and I will be pleading with the community to not only support me, but to come forth if this has been their experience with this particular legislature.
I am asking for his resignation so that he does not continue to use his seat and abuse his power and am asking this body to formerly investigate this matter. The fact that he did this to me so swiftly lets me know that he has done this before and as I stated, it is my hope that other women in this community find their voice and come forward to share their stories.
The Monroe County Democratic Caucus Monday said it was calling for an investigation and released the following statement:
"Legislators hold a position of trust, and we are obligated to hold ourselves accountable. Tomorrow we will formally request that Monroe County Legislature President Joe Carbone investigate the serious and disturbing allegations of misconduct by Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, made by Lakaya Sinclair, who showed courage in coming forward."
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