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A Carl Monday Investigation: City councilman's public private life

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

There's no denying.  Councilman Zack Reed is one of Cleveland's most visible and engaging city leaders.  He's currently sponsoring hot topic legislation like a driver texting ban.  And pushed for improvements in his ward, like and ecco-friendly rain garden.

But it's been Reed's very public, private life that sometimes overshadows his good deeds.  His battle with the bottle--one he says he is now winning---was well documented by 19 Action News as far back as 2006.

And now there are questions being raised about Reed's relationship with a woman named DeShae Howard.  In 2009, DeShae was working for Quicken Loans when she met Reed at a bar.  Reed says: "You go out and see somebody that's attractive and you say, can we go out? So we did."

It was good timing on DeShae's part.  While she was dating Reed, the councilman happened to be looking for a new executive assistant.  He quickly found one in DeShay.

When asked by 19 Action News Chief Investigative Reporter Carl Monday if he had a problem hiring a woman who at the time was his girlfriend, Reed replied: "Oh no, I don't have a problem."

Both Reed and DeShae insisted they stopped dating once she started working.  But she says the Councilman wasn't on board with the decision.

"Hi, I'm calling about Zack Reed," said a caller on Monday's voice mail.  "Councilman Zack Reed."

When Monday returned Deshae Howard's call, she accused her then boss of stalking her, even  sitting in his car outside her home at 3 a.m.

"She says you were stalking her," Monday told Reed, who answered, "at the end of the day, Carl, you know if that's true, there's a mechanism and procedure in place to take that from an allegation to a realization."

Carl Monday Investigations checked and found no record that DeShae ever filed a formal complaint with the City's Human Resources Department or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"I'm asking you, were you stalking her?"  No, of course not,"  Reed assured Monday.

By phone, DeShae had shared what she said were emails and texts sent by Reed.

"Please 'Shay,' I want to see your cute butt and legs.  I love you so much.  I can't live without you."

Was she making those messages up?

"I can't say...ha....I know I don't remember sending it," replied Reed.

Reed said DeShae's performance as his assistant was "subpar," awarding her a "C" grade.

The grade contradicts what 19 Action News found in DeShae Howard's personnel file.  During her two years on the job, Reed paid DeShae thousands of dollars in pay raises from his City Council expense account, in addition to her $18-an-hour salary.  One raise hiked DeShae's salary by $600 a month.  Not bad for an employee whom Reed now says:

"She wasn't bad.  She wasn't terrible."

In recommending the raises, Reed said he was rewarding DeShae for her "dedication and service to the residents of Ward 2.  Now, Reed says those were "just words."

So why did DeShae quit?  And why now, the allegations of sexual harassment?  Reed says DeShae had asked for a letter of recommendation after she quit.  He says he wanted the request in writing.  She refused.  He declined to write the recommendation letter and DeShae got upset.

"She was gonna call Channel 19.  I said call 'em," Reed recalled saying.

That was back in July.  DeShae has since moved out of town, found another job, and decided not to pursue the story with 19 Action News.  But she did return to town a few weeks ago.  In fact, Reed says she called and asked him out to lunch.  They met at the Nauti Murmaid in the Warehouse District, but Reed says the allegations of stalking and sexual harassment never came up.

 Reed continues to insist he did nothing wrong:

"You're a good investigative reporter," Reed told Monday.  "Go look at my file.  There's never been any allegations against Councilman Zack Reed."

But in this tangled web of love and politics, Reed may not have the last word.  In a phone message left on Monday's phone last week, DeShae said she still may pursue the allegations down the road against her former boss and boyfriend---Zack Reed.

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