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Members of Hartford City Council Urge President to Step Down

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    Members of Hartford City Council Urge President to Step Down

    Members of the Hartford City Council are asking the council president to step down after a former city employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against Thomas J. Clarke II.

    (Published Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017)

    Members of the Hartford City Council are asking the council president to step down after a former city employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against Thomas J. Clarke II. 

    "Based on the evidence presented to date, the conduct is unbecoming of an elected official, therefore we call for the Council President to resign from his leadership role. We further believe that it is in the best interest of the City and public trust if he steps down from Council," a letter signed by eight members of the city council reads.

    The city council members also want a full review of the city's sexual harassment policies. 

    "Trust has been broken, judgment called into question and our ability to work together has been compromised," the city council members' statement said.

    The former Hartford city employee has filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, alleging Clarke, the council president of the City Court of Common Council, sexually harassed her and another colleague and created hostile work environment.

    The 57-page report contains alleged inappropriate text messages sent by Clarke to the complainant. 

    "In many circumstances, you think someone should have a fair trial or give his or her point of view, but in this case, several of us felt that the evidence was insulting to- especially women- but the city as a whole that a public official should have sent such messages," City Councilman for the Working Families Party Dr. Larry Deutsch told NBC Connecticut. 


    The complaint names Clarke, president of the Court of Common Council; Olga Colon, the executive assistant for the city Court of Common Council; and John Bazzano, the clerk for the city of Hartford.

    Colon, the complaint alleges, made comments about the former employee’s work attire and exhibited other inappropriate behaviors. Bazzano, who was the former employee's supervisor at the time of her employment, allegedly did not report her complaints to Human Resources.

    Neither Bazzano or Colon were a part of the city council's letter released to the media. 

    "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," Clarke said in a statement on Dec. 19 after the complaint was filed a few days earlier.

    NBC Connecticut reached out to Clarke on Thursday for a statement regarding the letter from the City Council, but we did not immediately hear back.

    Colon did not provide comment on Tuesday.

    DeVaughn Ward, the attorney for the former employee, said his client struggled for a very long time about bringing forward the allegations.

    On Thursday, Ward said his client is encouraged to see city leadership acknowledge the seriousness of Clarke's actions, but believes their call for his resignation is disingenuous. 

    "If city elected officials are serious about addressing the obvious issues of sexual harassment and assault that are occurring within City Hall, they cannot condone workplace harassment or sexual assault in any form. My clients are further encouraged that City Council has acknowledged structural issues that need to be addressed: the City has been without a permanent Human Resources Director for nearly two years and has not updated its sexual harassment policy in longer. This is unconscionable for an organization with over 1,500 employees. The mayor has yet to address this issue or offer any concrete plan of action,” Ward said, in part, on Thursday.

    In a statement released on Tuesday, 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."

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