– Internal investigation in Dekalb County determined complaint was a “he said she said” and cleared Cedric Alexander
– Warren knew about the situation, according to email
“He asked me if I would ever get in a relationship with a guy like him…I had to come out and tell him directly, ‘I do not sleep with old men.’ Chief Alexander smiled and replied, ‘So you think I’m too old for you?’”
(This has been updated with comments from Lt. Consuela Howard.)
Deputy Mayor Cedric Alexander was accused of sexual harassment by a subordinate in his previous job as Public Safety Director in Dekalb County, Georgia.
Through an open records request, we obtained the 166-page investigation, which concluded in February 2016. The probe concluded the sexual harassment allegations amount to a “he said, she said” and were not provable. The intimidation and retaliation allegations were found to be without merit.
“It was a one sided investigation. It was never meant for me to do anything except just write it up,” said Lt. Consuela Howard.
Rochester for All Deputy Director Annmarie Van Son, a retired Rochester Police Department official, found the complaint credible and the internal investigation problematic.
“This is a female officer’s nightmare – to have to turn down a superior’s advances. This wasn’t just any superior. This was the man in charge of the department,” said Van Son. “Women struggle to be believed, especially when there’s no ‘proof.’ I urge everyone to read Lt. Consuela Howard’s words. People backed up much of what she said, including Alexander himself. What’s more, she didn’t come forward on her own.”
The probe found that Alexander went for “ride-alongs” with officers and supervisors. Alexander went for several ride-alongs with Howard when he arrived in Dekalb County in 2013.
“Why was I going to his apartment to pick him up and do ride-alongs and he comes out in regular clothes?” Howard said.
During a ride-along, Howard reported Alexander said that “we had a strong connection and that there was nothing wrong with two consenting adults caring about one another. At that time, I could see Chief Alexander was talking about more than a friendship.” Howard said that although she liked Alexander as a friend she could not see herself dating an older man. She said he told her he liked younger women because women his age did not keep themselves in good shape. Howard said Alexander brought up their conversation a few days later, and called her “naïve.”
Howard said Alexander asked her to accompany him to Florida, where his mother lives, but she turned him down saying that she would not be comfortable in a bikini in front of him. Alexander allegedly asked her to go to the movies, but she was too tired. Howard said Alexander invited her to his apartment for dinner before her shift, and suggested that she not wear her gun belt and bullet proof vest, so she could “relax.” When she wasn’t able to attend dinner, she reported that Alexander was disappointed and said, “If you didn’t want to come over you should have just said so.” Alexander also called her a number of times, Howard reported.
In the internal report, Howard describes privately navigating the situation. Alexander confirmed to the investigators he complained to other bosses that she was rude because she failed to acknowledge him at an event. He had supervisors meet with her and tell her to stay away from him. He had other supervisors “counsel” her about disrespecting superiors.
Howard said the tension went on for over a year. One night, after a funeral she met other officers. Over drinks, Howard confided to the other officers about Alexander’s advances, and her belief he was angry she turned him down. Alexander confirmed he later heard about Howard’s comments to the officers.
Not long after, Major Karen Anderson, Howard’s supervisor, was transferred from her job overseeing youth services to a position overseeing the fleet. Anderson had served DeKalb County for 33 years and said she had a clean record of service. Anderson complained to human resources about Howard’s problems with Alexander. Human resources began an investigation into Howard’s allegations. Howard said she would cooperate.
The investigation included interviews of 32 people, who were asked to complete written questionnaires, talk on the phone, or be interviewed in person. The vast majority of these were written responses. Anderson was not among those interviewed.
According to the report, Alexander agreed with much of what Howard said. The only area of disagreement is private conversations. Alexander denied expressing romantic interest in Howard, inviting her to travel and inviting her for dinner.
“Out of all of that, you’re telling me there was no legitimacy to anything I wrote? Nothing in this packet? They never called me and asked me for anything else. They never called me and asked for anything,” said Howard.
“This investigation shows a number of red flags that should have been more closely examined,” Van Son said. “Alexander admits to multiple ride-alongs, phone calls and being angry with Howard. I’ve never heard of an officer being disciplined for not speaking to superiors at an event. Notably, Anderson was not interviewed. This investigation appears designed to produce a certain outcome.”
Anderson Reached Out to Mayor Lovely Warren
To have these so called leaders to refuse to stand up and do the right thing because they’re afraid of losing their positions, they’re cowards. I told the truth. That is what happened. – Lt. Consuela Howard
Last month, Anderson, reached out to Mayor Lovely Warren in an email that read in part, “I can no longer suffer in silence. I am compelled to speak out against unjust actions in attempts to avoid the same patterns of behavior from occurring with other females.” Anderson wrote she was inspired by the #MeToo movement.
An anonymous person mailed Rochester for All a copy of the email Anderson sent to Warren.
When we got in touch with Anderson, she forwarded her email to Warren and a response that appears to be from Warren. In the email, Warren allegedly said Alexander disclosed the complaint before he was hired as deputy mayor, and she urged Anderson to review the attached four-page summary of the investigation.
We have not been able to independently verify Warren’s alleged email. We have filed an open records request for the communication, and the city responded we could have the emails in February. We reached out to city spokesman James Smith on Sunday to discuss Howard’s complaint, and provided specific questions. In an emailed response he said he would not talk to our organization outside of the open records process.
Anderson andHoward said no one from the City of Rochester government has ever called them.
Anderson left the police department shortly after her transfer. She told Rochester for All she retired, but the county records her departure as a termination. Anderson suspects Alexander wanted to get rid of her because she knew about Howard’s allegations and refused to harm the younger woman’s career. Anderson’s complaint to the EEOC was closed for lack of evidence, and she said she doesn’t have the money to sue.
“Connie is very hurt by what happened,” Anderson said. “I want people to know what they’re dealing with, with this guy. Maybe (Alexander) was mad I wouldn’t come after her in a negative way. I don’t know if he thought I knew too much.”
“I have 21 years as of Saturday with Dekalb. I always stood up and fought for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. That’s what police officers do. If you were right, I stood by you. To have these so called leaders to refuse to stand up and do the right thing because they’re afraid of losing their positions, they’re cowards. I told the truth. That is what happened,” Howard said. “I lost friendships that I had for years because they reused to stand up and say that is what happened.
Howard has been following the #Metoo movement.
“It’s beautiful. I love it,” she said. “I wish the people in Dekalb county stood up too.”