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Sinclair files sexual harassment lawsuit against Flagler-Mitchell, Monroe County

WXXI News | By Jeremy Moule

Published November 24, 2021 at 12:33 PM EST

Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell faces a $1 million sexual harassment lawsuit from LaKaya Sinclair, the 20-year-old woman who received unsolicited sexually explicit messages from Flagler-Mitchell late last year.

Sinclair and her attorneys from Advocates for Justice, Arthur Schwartz and former Democratic congressional candidate Nate McMurray, filed the lawsuit Tuesday.

The complaint also names Monroe County as a defendant because it is Flagler-Mitchell’s employer.

“I stood here months ago asking for his resignation and asking for the support of Monroe County,” Sinclair said during a brief news conference outside of the Monroe County Office Building on West Main Street. “I did not receive either. No laws have been changed, no charges have been pressed.”

Sinclair is seeking $1 million for “damages to her mental well-being and reputation,” from either Flagler-Mitchell or both he and the county, according to the complaint. Flagler-Mitchell did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a spokesperson for the county said it does not comment on pending legislation.

Local, county, and state elected officials — including the Legislature’s Democratic Caucus, the Legislature’s Republican Caucus, County Executive Adam Bello, and Mayor-elect Malik Evans — also called for Flagler-Mitchell to resign. The GOP-led Legislature never censured him or took disciplinary action against him; Flagler-Mitchell was a member of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus which frequently voted with chamber Republicans to form a veto-proof supermajority.

Max Schulte/WXXI News File Photo Ernest Flagler-Mitchell.

Flagler-Mitchell was defeated in a June Democratic primary by William Burgess, who will take the seat come January.

“They want this brushed under the rug and disregarded,” Sinclair said Tuesday.

Sinclair met Flagler-Mitchell during a vigil that followed a September 2020 mass shooting at her Pennsylvania Avenue home. She has recounted that he offered her his support but instead made unwanted sexual advances toward her.

In November 2020, Flagler-Mitchell messaged Sinclair, who is a photographer, stating that he had a project for her. He then sent her a photo of a man’s genitals. Flagler-Mitchell has apologized, stated that the genitals pictured weren’t his, and claimed the message was meant for his wife.

After an investigation, the county District Attorney’s Office did not charge Flagler-Mitchell with any crimes. But in the report, investigators said that he used his standing as a county legislator, a pastor, and a retired firefighter to “continually seek out women on social media platforms” to engage in “sexually related topics.”

Investigators spoke with 11 women who described having varying experiences with Flagler-Mitchell, from consensual sexual relationships to unwanted solicitations. The complaint filed Tuesday frames Flagler-Mitchell’s actions towards Sinclair as part of a pattern of behavior.

The complaint filed Tuesday also alleges that Sinclair was the target of a harassment campaign “organized and encouraged by Flagler-Mitchell.” She was threatened, insulted, and confronted online and also confronted in person, the filing claimed.

In June, a filed a separate complaint with the state Division of Human Rights, alleging that Flagler-Mitchell had propositioned her multiple times, including at his office in the Monroe County Office Building, as she sought his help with a Child Protective Services issue. The county was also named in that complaint.

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