CLEVELAND — Until News 5 Investigators started asking questions, a Cleveland recreation instructor accused of raping a former co-worker was still working with kids and teens, despite a city policy stating employees facing felony charges should be placed on unpaid administrative leave.
Michael Stennett, 65, was placed on unpaid administrative leave Tuesday afternoon, one day after News 5 Investigators asked city officials why Stennett was still working as a recreation instructor at Zelma Watson George Recreation Center.
In email and text messages, Marie Zickefoose, Press Secretary, City of Cleveland, wrote, "The city was very recently made aware of this (the charges)." She wrote Stennett was placed on leave after a hearing at 1 p.m.
Zickefoose did not know why it took eight months after his indictment on felony charges for Stennett to be placed on leave, per city policy.
The Cleveland human resources policy says any city employee facing felony charges should be put on unpaid administrative leave. However, there are two loopholes. The policy also says it is up to the employee to report the charges. The policy also says an "Appointing Authority" can allow the employee to continue working if it's determined charges do not interfere with the employee's job duties.
Stennett was indicted May 9, 2022 on two counts of rape and one count of abduction in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
Stennett's accuser reached out to News 5 Investigators because she was outraged Stennett was still on the job and working with children. News 5 is not naming her to protect her privacy.
"If this was you, your mom, your sister, your aunt, cousin, would you want the same person still having their job?" she asked.
"If he's willing to do this to me, then he could do it to anybody else," she said.
She said Stennett sexually assaulted her inside his office at the rec center on Aug. 10, 2021.
"He took a piece of me away," she said.
"The system is just slapping you in the face," she said about Stennett's continued employment after his indictment.
She said it sent her the message "that what I went through doesn't matter."
Stennett's accuser said she and Stennett were friendly prior to August 10, 2021. On that evening, she said they were locking up the rec center after a storm knocked out power. She said Stennett then asked her to watch a video in his office and raped her.
She immediately went to the hospital for a sexual assault forensic examination and filed a police report two days later.
She also eventually left her job, which she loved. She said it was too difficult to see Stennett each day.
"I couldn’t think. Couldn’t eat," she said, "I was dying inside, to be honest."
News 5 reached out to Dan Misiewicz, Stennett's attorney. In an email, he replied, "We have no comment."
A City of Cleveland database said Stennett was hired in 2016 and lists his salary as $16,556.80/yr.