Hartford council president cited in the past for 'touching'

(WFSB/Submitted)

Hartford's city council president and two other city employees have been accused of sexual harassment and discrimination by a former aide.

The city council president would be considered next in line for mayor if the current Mayor Luke Bronin were to be successful in his run for governor.

A 57-page complaint was filed against the city council president on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Channel 3 looked through his personnel file and found that it's not the first time he has been cited for inappropriate behavior.

Thomas “TJ” Clarke was elected to city council in 2015 and became the youngest city council president at 34 when elected in 2016.

Before Clarke was on the city council he worked for Mayor Pedro Segarra from 2010 to 2013.

According to his personnel file, in 2013 the assistant human resource director at the time, Debra Carabillo, addressed him about inappropriately touching a woman on the job.

The file said “He admitted that he had ‘poked’ [the woman] at the budget meeting, but that he did not mean anything by it."

Carabillo also wrote “as part of the city’s mandatory training program, Thomas had attended sexual harassment training on Sept. 20, 2012."

According to the letter in Clarke’s file, the woman never filed a formal complaint because the behavior stopped, but Carabillo reiterated “I told him the touching had to stop.”

On Tuesday, a 57-page complaint alleging sexual harassment and discrimination by Clarke, City Clerk John Bazzano, and another city council assistant, Olga Colon was filed with the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities by a former aide.

"My initial reaction was extreme disappointment. And that was shared by a number of my council colleagues,” said City Councilor John Gale.

The former 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,” said Devaughn Ward, attorney for the former aide.

In one text about a vacation she had upcoming, she claims Clarke wrote “have fun on your trip. Don't slip up and send me any see thru bikini pics."

Clarke responded with a statement that read in part "I find the timing of this complaint suspicious, and am concerned that there may be political agendas at work."

Gale addressed the comment on Wednesday and said “absolutely not, I think that's a very unfortunate comment."

A city council president is elected every two years by city council members.

Clarke was coming up on the end of his two-year term next month.

"At council, it will call for us to take a good hard look at the policies and procedures of the city,” Gale said.

On Tuesday in a statement, Bronin asked for Clarke to step down in a statement, saying in part "the behavior detailed in this complaint is inexcusable from a person in authority."

City council members are planning on meeting face to face with Clarke on Thursday.

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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