Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature are calling for an independent investigation into the circumstance that led one of their own, Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell, to send a sexually explicit photo to a 19-year-old woman.
"As legislators, we hold a position of public trust and must hold ourselves accountable," read a letter to Legislature President Joseph Carbone, which was signed by nine of the body's 14 Democrats. "At a time when trust in our government is at historic lows, it is important that we operate with transparency and integrity. Therefore, we request an independent review of the facts."
Flagler-Mitchell has acknowledged sending the photo to the woman, Lakaya Sinclair, in a text message in November, but has said it was a mistake and that it was intended for his wife. The photo was of a male genitalia that Flagler-Mitchell has reportedly claimed is not his.
The legislator met Sinclair, who is now 20, in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Pennsylvania Avenue house party in September. Sinclair had hosted the party.
In their letter to Carbone, Democratic legislators said they felt the president was compromised in his ability to investigate the matter because of comments he made to the Democrat and Chronicle in which he praised Flagler-Mitchell as a legislator of "high moral character" and the "highest integrity" and neglected to look into the matter sooner.
The newspaper reported that Carbone recalled Flagler-Mitchell sharing a version of the story with him over dinner months ago that he described as being relayed in broad strokes and lacking details.
Carbone reportedly said he was left with the impression that it was an embarrassing "personal matter," but that, after learning the specifics, he would consult the Legislature's legal counsel and look into it.
"You accepted his explanation and did not look into the matter further," the Democratic legislators wrote. "These actions have compromised your ability to appropriately look into this serious matter."
The Democrats requested a review by an "outside counsel."
Flagler-Mitchell, a church pastor and a father to eight children, is a key ally for Republican legislators, who hold a slim 15-to-14 majority in the chamber. He is the leader of a four-member breakaway caucus of Democrats that has, on many occasions, sided with Republicans on significant policy and legislative matters.
With their help, and with that of the former minority leader, Legislator Vincent Felder, who has refused to acknowledge being ousted from his leadership post, the Republicans hold a supermajority.
David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.