Three Hartford city employees accused of harassment - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Three Hartford city employees accused of harassment

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Hartford City Hall (WFSB file photo) Hartford City Hall (WFSB file photo)

Hartford City Hall is being hit with allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

A former aide has filed a complaint against the City Council president and two others.

In the 57-page complaint, a former city aide says she was a victim of sexual harassment and discrimination on the job.

Dozens of text messages were filed with the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and forwarded to the city.

The complaint names City Council President Thomas "TJ" Clarke, City Clerk John Bazzano, and former council assistant Olga Colon.

The woman alleges she was discriminated against while working at City Hall because she is white.

In the complaint, she also details instances of sexual harassment and inappropriate text messages she says "Clarke,” the council president, sent her, including one she says she got as she left for vacation which read: “Have fun on your trip. Don't slip up and send me any see thru bikini pics."

The former aide's attorney Devaughn Ward said she brought the case to him after she left the city job in June.

"This was a city job that paid nearly $50,000 a year and carried significant pension and healthcare benefits and she gave that up,” Ward said. "Once this conversation started about appropriate workplace conduct and workplace harassment I think a lightbulb went off in her head and said ‘Me too’.”

Ward said the aide worked for a year and a half and had a long string of text messages with the City Council president about her appearance and her relationship status.

“A lot of text messages that cross the line from typical workplace conversation and banter into over the line sexual suggestive discussions,” Ward said.

The aide alleged that Colon, another city council assistant, created a hostile work environment and said she felt discriminated against because she is white.

"Comments on her weight, comments on her appearance, almost bullying,” Ward said.

About a year ago she wrote that Bazzano told her that Colon had started a rumor that they had been sleeping together.

Ward says he abetted the harassment by not reporting it.

"If it wasn't an explicit duty he certainly had a moral duty to report this harassment that he was aware of,” Ward said.

When asked why the former aide wouldn't speak sooner, Ward said she feared she would have been fired.

“She would either try to diffuse the situation with humor or try to redirect the conversation back to work,” Ward said.

The attorney for the city said there was no comment at this time.

TJ Clarke issued a statement that said “Myself, Olga Colon and John Bazzano are subject to a CHRO complaint by a former city employee involving labor and personnel matters.  I find the timing of this complaint suspicious, and am concerned that there may be political agendas at work. That said, it was never my intention to upset, offend, or make anyone uncomfortable and to that extent that I might have done so, I apologize profusely. I look forward to a full and transparent exploration of this issue and I pledge my full cooperation. As this involves a city matter, we are being represented through the Office of the Corporation Counsel and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said “The behavior detailed in this complaint is inexcusable from a person in a position of authority.  Based on the text messages included in this complaint, I do not believe that Council President Clarke can continue to serve in a position of leadership in the City of Hartford.”

Stay updated with Eyewitness News as more information becomes available.

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