According to the Certification of Action, the Monroe County Board of Ethics held a public meeting on June 3rd at 2:00 PM. The meeting was to review the complaint received from a member of the public concerning County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell and the report regarding that complaint prepared by independent counsel, David Rothenberg.
The complaint stemmed from a sexually explicit photo sent via Facebook Messenger to a young woman named LaKaya Sinclair. Sinclair, a victim of the Pennsylvania Avenue mass shooting, met the legislator during a community event. The report states, Flagler-Mitchell introduced himself as a Monroe County Legislator and handed Sinclair a business card. In an interview published on rochesterfirst.com, Sinclair stated that the two did speak over the phone and exchanged messages. She admitted that the conversations contained “inappropriate undertones in the messages.” Which eventually led to the legislator sending a photo of an erect penis to her inbox. Flagler-Mitchell later confirmed he indeed sent the photo accidentally to Sinclair, but the photo was for his wife.
The independent investigation determined Flagler-Mitchell’s behavior did violate the code of ethics. The report supports this determination based on Monroe County Code of Ethics Section 45-13 of the Monroe County Code of Ethics which reads as follows:
Every officer or employee should endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that he is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his trust. He should not use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or others. He should not by his conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties or that he is affected by the kinship, position or influence of any party of person.
This investigation focused on that portion of Section 45-13 that prohibits an officer or employee from attempting “to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or others.” This report recognizes that interpretation of the Code of Ethics is the province of the Board of Ethics and not this investigator. However, it is our belief that an attempt to utilize a legislator’s office as an opportunity to secure personal favors from the county residents-regardless of whether the resident was a direct constituent of the legislator-constitutes a violation of Section 45-13.
Now, Monroe County Legislator Vince Felder is speaking out in support of fellow legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell. Felder claims the report is full of inaccuracies. The report states that during these Facebook messages, Sinclair advised Flagler-Mitchell that she was having difficulty obtaining financial aid at Monroe Community College (“MCC”) and asked if he could help her in that respect. Sinclair was put in touch with an individual who supposedly could help out with her financial aid. Felder stated that Sinclair is his constituent that's why he assisted Sinclair with issues she was having with financial aid, not Flagler-Mitchell. The report also states that Sinclair encountered Flagler-Mitchell at a local diner and she became distraught and began to cry. Sinclair stated that she felt so uncomfortable that she left the diner and as she was leaving Flagler-Mitchell didn’t speak with her but instead held up his phone in her direction. Felder claimed he was at the diner that day and Sinclair is mistaken about what transpired. Felder stated that he noticed Sinclair and deliberately walked Flagler-Mitchell to a location that would avoid the two from coming face to face. Felder claimed Flagler-Mitchell’s back was facing Sinclair and he never held his phone up in Sinclair's direction.
We asked Felder if Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell would resign. Felder stated that there will be an appeal to this decision because the code of ethics was not violated.
Read the full report:
LaKaya Sinclair's Interview: