10 Investigates: Tax Dollars Paid To A Woman Who Claimed Sexual Harassment
A former Chief of Staff for Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo was paid more than $8,500 in administrative leave payments and given a contract for $135,000 after she made claims of sexual harassment, according to records obtained by 10 Investigates.
Jerzell Pierre-Louis worked in Mingo's office until he removed her on January 28, 2013.
In an interview with 10 Investigates, Mingo said that the he removed Pierre-Louis from the position because she no longer possessed the "leadership qualities" he desired. Mingo declined to specify the exact issue.
However, he did acknowledge that the move came after Pierre-Louis brought to his attention her concerns that he had been accused of sexual harassment.
Even though Pierre-Louis "was separated" from Mingo’s office, he continued to pay her administrative leave, for a total of $8,509.
Mingo called the payment to Pierre-Louis a "courtesy." He said that it was paid to other top staff members who have left the office and is intended to make sure the employee is available if needed.
Mingo was unclear whether Pierre-Louis was ever called to offer any services during the time she was getting paid administrative leave.
Pierre-Louis clearly wanted more than pay for administrative leave.
In a letter from her attorney dated February 7, 2013, Pierre-Louis called her removal, "retaliation...for complaining to you about your harassing conduct towards (a) staff member and others."
The letter made several detailed allegations involving complaints that Pierre-Louis claimed she had received from another employee in Mingo's office.
Those allegations included claims that Mingo sent the woman late night texts and messages, watched her try on clothes and had a physical relationship with the employee.
Mingo said the allegations were "absolutely not true."
Mingo adamantly claimed loyalty to his wife.
"I want you to pay very close attention to this. I have never—I have never been with any other woman sexually, except for my wife," Mingo said.
The letter from Pierre-Louis’ attorney stated that Mingo also solicited an affair with Pierre-Louis.
"You asked Ms. Pierre-Louis on more than one occasion, 'what would you do if we had an affair,'" the letter said.
Mingo denies he made those statements. He said that it was possible Pierre-Louis had mistaken something he said during sexual harassment training for office staff.
Pierre-Louis' attorney, Rex Elliot, said the statements were made but could not be sure of the context.
"She certainly took it one way. He may have taken it another way," Elliott said. "But she is certainly not making that up."
At the end of the letter, Pierre-Louis made an ultimatum. She promised "to release any claims in exchange for a payment equal to 18 months salary (about $150,000)"
Following the letter, negotiations continued, according to Elliot.
On May 29, Pierre-Louis partially recanted her claims.
She sent a letter stating that the allegations were based on "irresponsible conjecture" by someone in the office. She did not recant what she had claimed Mingo had said to her directly about the possibility of an affair.
About two weeks later, June 14, 2013, Pierre-Louis signed a contract to act as a consultant for the office. Mingo called it "meaningful work" that involved tasks that Pierre-Louis had done in the past. Mingo pointed out that in previous years, the same tasks had also been contracted outside of the office.
When asked whether the contract was really a payoff to make the allegations disappear without scandal, Mingo adamantly denied the idea.
"Absolutely not. No. A payoff would look like something very different," Mingo said. "This was a responsible choice for her to do meaningful work for this office."