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Former employee accuses George Cushingberry Jr. of making sexual advances

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A woman who used to work for former Detroit City Councilman George Cushingberry Jr. is alleging in a new lawsuit that he slashed her hours because she refused to go to Florida to have sex with him and later blamed her for a long hair his wife found in their bed.

The accuser, Cleo T. Wiley, also said Cushingberry repeatedly made inappropriate comments and fired her after she complained about him. She accused the city of ignoring her complaints.

Cushingberry, a former county commissioner and state representative, was council president pro tem when he lost his re-election bid last year.

In a text to the Free Press Wednesday night, he said the allegations are “truly false.”

Wiley began working for Cushingberry in April 2016 for $18.75 an hour.

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She said in the lawsuit filled Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit that the former councilman created a “severe or pervasive sexually hostile work environment.”  She accused him of:

  •  Telling her that a male friend she was travelling with “will be standing over you while you sleep masturbating, so you may as well go ahead and give him some (sex).”
  • Making a comment about her gaining weight, and then asking her if she wanted to get a room with a hot tub.
  • Blaming her for the long, black hair his wife found in their bed in February 2017. The lawsuit said Cushingberry was suspected of having an extra-marital relationship with a female associate, and he falsely accused Wiley, who had a key to his home, of putting the hair in the bed.
  • Telling one of her friends that he intended to “go upstairs (to Wiley’s bedroom) and get me some (sex from Wiley).” The conversation was in reference to a planned group trip to Florida that both Cushingberry and Wiley were to attend.

Wiley said she cancelled her Florida plans after hearing about the comment. She said Cushingberry then retaliated by slashing her hours from 40 to 18 per week.

Wiley said she complained about Cushingberry’s behavior to Steve Grady, chief of staff for Council President Brenda Jones, and later to Portia Roberson, Group Executive for Civil Rights for the city.

Wiley said after the complaint to Roberson, Cushingberry fired her. He continued to retaliate against her, she said, by lying to prospective employers that she was fired for being insubordinate.

John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan’s office, told the Free Press Wednesday: “The Civil Rights and Inclusion Office conducted a full investigation into this matter and forwarded the investigation to the Office of the Inspector General. Beyond that, we do not comment on pending litigation.”

Wiley said when she went to Grady, he told her she was the third woman to complain about Cushingberry’s behavior. Grady told the Free Press he doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Cushingberry is one of 11 Democratic candidates for the state Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, who left the seat in March after pleading guilty to hiring a “ghost employee:” someone who was on the payroll, but who did no work.

Cushingberry’s political career spans several decades. It has not been without controversy; he made headlines in 2014 after a highly publicized traffic stop where police allegedly found alcohol and a marijuana cigarette in his car.

Contact staff writer Ann Zaniewski at 313-222-6594 or azaniewski@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski. 

Detroit Free Press reporter Kathleen Gray contributed to this report.

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