Cornelius commissioner subject of harassment complaints from two women

Commissioner accused of sexual harassment

CORNELIUS, NC (WBTV) - A Town of Cornelius commissioner has been the subject of reports from two women who claim they were sexually harassed by him.

WBTV has obtained documents outlining complaints from two women against Commissioner Mike Miltich.

One woman complained in Sept. 2016 of multiple interactions with Miltich "that made her feel uncomfortable," according to the minutes of a meeting held between town officials and Miltich to discuss the complaint.

A second woman filed a written complaint with the town this week claiming Miltich touched her inappropriately, sent her unwanted text messages and provided, unprompted, details of his sex life, among other things.

The Sept. 2016 meeting was attended by then-Cornelius Commissioner Woody Washam (who is now Mayor) and other town officials, minutes of the meeting show.

According to the minutes, the allegations were made by an employee at the Ada Jenkins Center, a nonprofit center in northern Mecklenburg County that is funded, in part, by the Town of Cornelius.

WBTV is not naming the woman who made the allegations because of the nature of the alleged conduct.

According to the minutes, town officials met with lawyers for the Ada Jenkins Center to discuss the allegations.

The minutes characterize the allegations as such: "(The employee) experienced a series of contacts with you (AJC gala and two board meetings) that made her uncomfortable and for that reason she reported to members of the AJC Board's Executive Committee that she preferred she not be left alone in a room with you."

"As a result of the concerns expressed by (the employee), AJC accelerated and adopted a plan to eliminate the 'ex officio' board positions and instead, ask the mayors of the participating towns to act as representatives on the AJC Board," the minutes continue. "The concerns regarding you intentionally were kept confidential and not communicated publicly as a reason or factor in the decision. The effect of this decision was to remove you from the Board and from all contact with (the employee)."

According to the minutes obtained by WBTV, the employee did not want to take further action. But the minutes did say that Miltich's actions, if true, constituted a violation of the Code of Ethics for the Town of Cornelius Town Board and Mayor.

Despite that, no additional action was taken by the town to conduct an additional investigation of Miltich's behavior and the commission never publicly considered censuring him, which would be allowed under the Code of Ethics.

Current town Mayor Woody Washam, who was present for the meeting in 2016 as a commissioner, refused to provide an explanation to WBTV when asked why he and his colleagues didn't take any additional action to address the allegations of Miltich's inappropriate behavior.

"The notes released as public record capture the allegations and resolution (as governed by the Board of Commissioners' Code of Ethics Policy) and me nor the Town has anything to add," Washam said.

The minutes make multiple mentions of a desire by the town to minimize its own legal exposure and negative publicity that could stem from the allegations.

"Your conduct also increases legal liability risk for the Town. If there were to be future complaints about you, there would be evidence of a pattern of behavior that could create liability for the Town," the minutes state. "Additionally, there is obviously reputational risk to the town."

On Thursday, the town received a second report regarding inappropriate behavior by Miltich from a woman who previously covered town government as a reporter.

Like the first woman, WBTV has agreed to not divulge her identity given the nature of her allegations.

"Commissioner Miltich made me feel uncomfortable on multiple occasions. He touched my arm, tried to touch my throat, texted me during meetings while he was sitting in the rotunda of commissioners," the former reporter wrote in her email to the Cornelius Town Manager.

"He asked me to go drink wine with him, asked if I had a boyfriend, told me he and his wife never have sex and other comments about his marriage that I neither solicited or replied to," she continued. "At the cultural dinner last year he sat next to me and told me he was a flirt and complimented me inappropriately."

The woman provided a screenshot of a text message exchange that purported to be between her and Miltich during a commission meeting last year.

Andrew Grant, the town manager, acknowledged the second woman's allegations in an email on Friday.

Miltich, through a lawyer, first agreed to a phone interview with WBTV but then backed out. Instead, his attorney forwarded a statement:

"If you've read the document, you know everything that I know. I have not been informed of any additional details. My lawyer, Mr Michael Elliott, who I authorized to discuss this with you, has also not been able to glean any additional details now or two years ago.  Consequently I am not aware how I made (woman's name withheld) 'uncomfortable'. I thought we had a friendly and professional relationship. My interactions with her were always related to Ada Jenkins and always in the public view. As far as I know, the Town of Cornelius was also not informed of any details.  As 'Ada Jenkins is satisfied of the remedy' and no further action requested at the time, they refused to answer any questions. Consequently no investigation occurred."

Miltich's attorney was provided with details of the second woman's complaint but neither he nor Miltich provided a response to the new allegations.

Watch WBTV News on Monday night at 6:00 to hear from the town activist who originally uncovered the meeting minutes through a public records request but says she feels the town attempted to keep them from her.

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