Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo’s former chief of staff said she was fired from her position because she asked Mingo about rumors that he had been having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.
Six months later, after she said that the source of those rumors had lied, Mingo’s office gave Jerzell Pierre-Louis, the former chief of staff, a $135,000 consulting contract for six months of work.
Mingo said that the whole situation was driven by malicious, third-party rumors, and he has never acted inappropriately with an employee.
Pierre-Louis has not been willing to speak to reporters directly about what happened. Here’s what’s known about the situation:
In late January, Mingo told Pierre-Louis that he had decided to move the office “in a new direction,” Mingo said, and that he would be looking for a new chief of staff.
He says he didn’t intend it as a termination, just that he was looking for someone else to be his top employee.
Pierre-Louis told her attorney, Rex Elliott, that she believed she had been fired.
In early February, Elliott sent Mingo a letter demanding 18 months of salary for his client, stating that Pierre-Louis believed she was fired because she asked Mingo about the rumors. Pierre-Louis made about $98,000 a year with the office.
The deadline for Mingo to respond to the letter passed without a lawsuit being filed. Mingo said he then reached out to Pierre-Louis because he thought there had been a misunderstanding.
“Once we sat down, it was clear that it was not about her and I. It was about rumors and the influence of other people,” Mingo said.
Through discussions, it was revealed that Pierre-Louis had received her information from someone who claimed to have seen Mingo behave inappropriately with another office employee, including taking the person to lunch and shopping during work hours. Elliott said that after Pierre-Louis met with Mingo, the person who made the claims told Pierre-Louis they were lies.
Elliott said Pierre-Louis does not know why the person’s story changed. She has not named the person.
In May, Pierre-Louis sent Mingo a letter retracting the previous letter from Elliott. She wrote: “It is unfortunate that irresponsible conjecture by others has cost so much. Their comments and actions fostered my belief in the matters asserted in my attorney’s letter, which I understand they have denied.”
In June, Pierre-Louis signed a consulting contract with the auditor’s office that would pay her $135,000 for work to be completed by the end of the year. Mingo said the contract has nothing to do with the allegations.
Pierre-Louis is making a plan to handle an expected flood of homeowners who will seek informal reviews when the auditor’s office adjusts home values next year. During the most-recent adjustment, in 2011, more than 20,000 homeowners took part in such reviews at 17 events.
Mingo said he lacks the employees to plan the events this year because of projects to update the computer systems the office uses to set, track and record property values.
Pierre-Louis was best-suited for the job because she had run the program, Mingo said. “I would have asked her to do the work irrespective of the other matter.”
By Josh Jarman - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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