Monroe County Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell has used his standing as a lawmaker, a pastor, and a retired firefighter to “continually seek out women on social media platforms” to engage in “sexually related topics,” according to files compiled by the District Attorney’s Office during an investigation of the legislator.
The files, obtained through an open records request, revealed that investigators found evidence that Flagler-Mitchell was brazen in his approach — contacting women he didn’t know or barely knew, striking up conversations, and quickly turning the tone of their chats into one of a flirtatious or sexual nature, including sending unsolicited images or videos of his genitalia.
Some of the women told investigators they cut off the conversations, but others reported engaging in sextual texting with Flagler-Mitchell and having sexual relations with him because “he gave them money, or paid their bills,” according to the files.
In some cases, according to the files, Flagler-Mitchell contacted the women at all hours of the night. One woman recalled for investigators an instance in which the legislator summoned her to his home “to give him a quickie” while his wife was upstairs sleeping.
The files, which included 55 pages of investigators’ notes of interviews with the women and images of text exchanges, were amassed following a complaint by Lakaya Sinclair, now 20, that Flagler-Mitchell sexually harassed her by sending her a lewd photo and promiscuous messages after they met in September 2020, when she was 19.
A 'VIOLATION OF HIS TRUST'
The District Attorney’s Office determined that Flagler-Mitchell’s behavior was not criminal, but the office subsequently turned the files over to the county Board of Ethics, which was conducting its own review of Sinclair’s complaint.
The board last week ruled that Flagler-Mitchell’s exchanges with Sinclair violated the county’s ethics code, which states in part that an official should “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.”
Under the code, a legislator found to have violated the code can be fined, suspended, or removed from office, although the code is not specific on how any of those penalties would be enforced and no enforcement action has been taken against Flagler-Mitchell to date.
Legislature Democrats introduced a measure to censure Flagler-Mitchell, but the Republican majority and members of the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus, of which Flagler-Mitchell is the leader, voted it down during a meeting Tuesday.
Flagler-Mitchell, a Democrat, was elected in 2014 to represent the county’s 29th District, which covers portions of northeast Rochester. He is facing a Democratic primary challenge this month from social worker William Burgess.
Flagler-Mitchell has not responded to multiple messages for comment since the ruling, but he has said that the photo he sent to Sinclair, which was of male genitalia, was intended for his wife.
Investigators spoke with other women, however, who said they had been on the receiving end of similar behavior by Flagler-Mitchell and refuted the idea that he could have mistakenly sent the obscene photo to Sinclair, according to the files.
REVELATIONS COME AS NO SUPRISE TO SOME WOMEN
One woman, whose identity was redacted from the files made public, told investigators that the messages she received from Flagler-Mitchell made it apparent that “little Ernest wanted to come out and play.”
“(The woman) told us she received these messages a couple of times, and she didn’t know what prompted him to do such a thing,” the investigators wrote.
Another woman described flirting with Flagler-Mitchell through Facebook messages after he commented on her appearance in a photo. According to the files, she said she eventually had sexual relations with him and that their relationship was built around her providing sexual favors for money and food.
“When asked, she stated at first she wasn’t providing sex for money, but later admitted it ended up that way,” the investigators wrote. “She stated this happened because she knew he was married and she needed money, so she figured why not.”
The files span the dates of late December to late February. Investigators marked in their notes that they were first assigned to the investigation on Dec. 21, 2020, upon the District Attorney’s Office learning that Flagler-Mitchell had been accused of sending an obscene photo to Sinclair.
Investigators interviewed 11 women who described having varying experiences with Flagler-Mitchell, from consensual sexual relationships to unwanted solicitations. Some of them described their experiences having taken place years ago, while others said they were first contacted by Flagler-Mitchell within the last year.
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One woman recalled that she received a text from Flagler-Mitchell “several years ago” around 11:30 p.m. that appeared simple enough: he was passing along his new phone number for her to add to her contacts. After she acknowledged receipt of his text, he allegedly replied, “Oh, I’m just getting out of the shower. I’m rubbing myself,” according to the files.
Several described not coming forward sooner because they didn’t know where to turn or how to complain.
Many of them, however, even some who had relations with Flagler-Mitchell, expressed sympathy with Sinclair and said they were not surprised to learn they were not the only ones to have been contacted by the legislator.
Investigators reported interviewing Flagler-Mitchell in the driveway of his home on Randolph Street on Jan. 5. He explained to them, as he has publicly, that the photo he sent to Sinclair was meant for his wife, whom he described as having been simultaneously messaging when he sent the photo.
“Flagler-Mitchell commented that he and (Sinclair) were still both friends on Facebook, and if he had done something that she didn’t like, she would have unfriended him on Facebook,” the investigators wrote.
Shortly thereafter, though, the files suggest that Flagler-Mitchell got to work minimizing his paper trails with other women.
One woman who acknowledged receiving and sharing sexually-explicit photos with Flagler-Mitchell told investigators that, after news broke about Sinclair’s complaint in mid-January, she checked her Facebook conversations.
“Flagler-Mitchell had deleted all of the images he had sent her and most of the conversations,” the investigators wrote.