Council lawyer steps down amid Jennings abuse claim

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General counsel Thomas McMahon quit last Thursday just hours before his lawyer released portions of a confidential report that appeared to clear him and Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) of allegations they tried to cover up a staff attorney's complaint, Newsday reported Friday.

Representatives for McMahon and the City Council did not return repeated calls for comment.

A memo written by the woman lawyer and dated Sept. 26, 2002 was leaked to City Hall reporters earlier this month. According to Newsday, the woman wrote that she told Miller during a May meeting that Jennings had used profanity to describe her several times during an angry phone call, grabbed her wrists while relating his sexual preferences and invited her on dates.

Jennings has denied the allegations, and he and his chief of staff declined to comment.

During the meeting Miller assigned the woman to be the attorney for the Civil Service and Labor Committee, which Jennings headed at the time, reports said.

McMahon called the lawyer at her unlisted home number and warned her against releasing the September memo, according to Newsday. Initial reports said he threatened her but this was later discounted, Newsday said.

A report compiled by Washington-based ADR Associates said investigators could not verify that the lawyer told Miller or McMahon about specific incidents of sexual harassment, Newsday said. The report said she told the two she was uncomfortable working with Jennings but did not specifically say she was harassed, Newsday reported.

Miller said he first heard of the complaints in August 2002 and immediately reassigned the woman. He said that he did not pursue an investigation then because the woman asked that the matter be dropped and kept confidential.

Miller did launch a Council investigation, as well as an independent probe of Jennings' behavior in late 2003, after two of the Jamaica lawmaker's former female aides filed a federal harassment and discrimination complaint against him. According to the allegations, which first surfaced at a December meeting of the Council's Standards and Ethics Committee, Jennings forced the staffers to clean his house on mornings that they picked him up.

The women, who no longer work for Jennings, also said they were made to sit in the front of the office and watch a continuous videotape of his television appearances, while male staffers were given desks away from the display, the committee member said.

The complaint also said Jennings made sexual jokes and gave one woman a Caribbean doll with a giant phallus after returning from a trip there, a committee member said. One woman said she was fired after she rejected romantic overtures from Jennings.

A city Department of Investigation probe into the claims was still pending, a spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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