The mayor of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, has been stripped of his governing powers after a former employee accused him of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Mayor Eugene Grant gained national attention in 2014 when he set up an outdoor “tent office” after being evicted for allegedly creating a hostile work environment. He was a ceremonial mayor but the act helped to change the city’s charter, making him CEO.
The city council took back those CEO powers on Monday after a former employee sent a letter detailing allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Former program and events coordinator JoVone Pender said he initially had a consensual relationship with Grant but that Grant became abusive after Pender ended it.
“I felt manipulated abused. I was going to counseling during the time,” Pender said in an exclusive interview with News4.
Pender said he feared he would lose his job if he spoke up about the mistreatment.
“I've got bills. I can't afford to lose my job, so some of it, like I said in my letter, I did consent to some of it,” he said. “I was like, ‘What am i going to do?’ It's easier to do it than to find another job,” he said.
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He said he felt ashamed yet empowered to come forward. He worked for the city for more than a year and was fired in March.
Grant denies all allegations of wrongdoing and said he will “trust the process.” He declined an on-camera interview. He said he voluntarily stepped aside as CEO before the city council’s decision to strip his powers. He said he did not want it to appear that he was influencing the investigation.
A representative for the city said they are looking into hiring an independent third-party investigator to look into the allegations.
Former Seat Pleasant police chief Devin Martin is now running the city as COO.
Grant has been mayor for 16 years and is facing opposition in September from another former employee who alleged last year that she was fired after she filed to run against Grant.
Pender said city leadership needs major change.
“If you work there, you would understand something needs to happen to change the leadership of this city,” he said. “No one from the outside looking in can ascertain how damaging it is to work there.”