Harassment claims may hurt Sammarone

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — As the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against a mayoral candidate in Youngstown get under way, those running for City Council president against current Mayor Chuck Sammarone are starting to weigh in on the matter as well.

Lawyers for Special Projects Director Lyndsey Hughes claim she first complained about then-councilman DeMaine Kitchen in early 2011, saying he touched her and made unwanted advances. The lawyers said Hughes turned to then-Council President Sammarone, who reportedly told Kitchen to stop what he was doing, but didn’t follow the city’s established policies for dealing with harassment cases.

“The next step is to take it to the law department. Obviously that didn’t happen. If it did happen, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation that we are today. So once again, we’re talking about the judgement of the people involved,” said City Council president candidate Chris Travers.

As part of her complaint, Hughes claims Kitchen renewed his unwanted conduct in July of this year while working as chief of staff for Sammarone.  Her lawyers claim she was suspended from her job this summer in retaliation for her complaints.

The Mayor wouldn’t respond to Travers’ comments, saying he doesn’t want to risk compromising the investigation, which he said should be completed in the next couple weeks.

One of the candidates in next month’s general election in Youngstown said the allegations of sexual harassment at City Hall and the way they were reportedly handled is reinforcing her desire to keep Sammarone from returning to his old seat as Council President.

“The way that things are run and the way the politics run and you know, it’s been this way for a long time in this city. And people have either just looked the other way, not spoken out for fear of retaliation, which is also in this,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, who is challenging Sammarone for the seat.

Former local district attorney Matt Mangino said there’s a lot the public doesn’t know about the allegations.

“We only know one side of the story, but if we look at that one side of the story, it doesn’t appear that policy that was in place with  the city of Youngstown was complied with,” Mangino said.

He is referring to the city’s sexual harassment guidelines, which went into effect in 1999.

Mangino said Sammarone’s decision to handle Hughes’ 2011 claims on his own may have led to what he called the woman’s “continued victimization” when she claims Kitchen renewed his unwanted behavior in July.

“If this matter was adhered as the policies and procedures require, and investigated by the law department, maybe that victimization would have ceased at that point,” Mangino said.

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