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Hartford Council President, Accused Of Sexual Harassment, Was Previously Cited For Inappropriate Touching

City Council President Thomas “TJ” Clarke II, who has been accused of sexual harassment and discrimination by a former council aide, was cited in 2013 for inappropriate touching, according to records in Clarke’s city personnel file.

Clarke, who worked for Mayor Pedro Segarra from December 2010 to August 2013, was reprimanded in June 2013 for touching a woman while on the job.

“As part of the city’s mandatory training program, Thomas had attended sexual harassment training on Sept. 20, 2012; and therefore, I reminded him again about the city’s sexual harassment policy and provided him with a copy of the policy,” Assistant Human Resources Director Debra Carabillo wrote in a June 18, 2013 memo to then-Chief of Staff Jared Kupiec and Juan Figueroa, a special assistant to the mayor.

“He admitted that he had ‘poked’ [the woman] at the budget meeting, but that he did not mean anything by it,” Carabillo wrote. “I then discussed inappropriate touching with him, and explained that harassment is not necessarily just about intent, but how it is perceived by a reasonable person.

“I told him the touching had to stop.”

Clarke did not return calls seeking comment. Council members and Mayor Luke Bronin declined to comment Wednesday.

Bronin said Tuesday that Clarke should not be able to remain in his position. In a joint statement the same day, council leaders said they were “committed to a discussion with our colleagues about next steps, and how we demand accountability and restore integrity.”

In the 2013 case, the woman ultimately decided not to file a formal complaint. Carabillo noted that during a follow-up inquiry, the woman reported that the behavior had stopped. She then closed the investigation.

“I told her to call me immediately if the situation changed and/or there was any retaliation,” Carabillo wrote.

Clarke worked as an assistant to the mayor and chief of staff, and as director of constituent services under Segarra. He resigned Aug. 19, 2013, after informing Segarra that he had accepted another employment offer.

He is now a public information officer for the Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford.

Clarke was elected to the city council in 2015, and named council president in January 2016.

A former council aide filed a complaint with the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities Dec. 13 accusing Clarke, City Clerk John Bazzano and Olga Colon, another council assistant, of sexual harassment and discrimination.

The aide charged that Clarke, Bazzano and Colon discriminated against her because she is white. Clarke is black, Bazzano is white and Colon is Hispanic.

In the complaint, which was forwarded to the city, the aide said Clarke sent her numerous inappropriate text messages commenting on her appearance and asking about her relationship status.

“Sometime in June 2016, Council President Clarke discovered I had a boyfriend,” she wrote. “He began to make inappropriate sexual comments or make references to my boyfriend’s sexual prowess.”

In one text message, sent as the woman was about to leave for vacation, Clarke wrote to her: “OK Smart Ass! Have fun on your trip. Don’t slip up and send me any see thru bikini pics.”

The aide, who worked for the city from January 2016 to June 2017, said she felt uncomfortable reporting the situation to Hartford’s human resources office because Clarke was her supervisor.

Clarke, 36, apologized Tuesday, but said that he was concerned about “political agendas at work.”

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

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