Violations found after city contractor claims sexual harassment against Health Dept. Bureau chief

HOUSTON – Through tears, Shadawn McCants told Channel 2 Investigates, "I have nothing to gain from this, nothing at all.” However, she quickly adds, “But it's time that I stand in my truth."

The truth for McCants translates to an emotionally challenging chapter in her life, "You know what it feels like to be afraid to be in a situation, and you feel like you have no recourse you have no power? But I am speaking up because I am no longer powerless, but that I know I'm strong."

McCants said she is the victim of sexual harassment by a high-ranking City of Houston executive while working for a city contractor.

It is only now, after the city's Office of Inspector General sustained her claims, that the 41-year-old is opening up to Channel 2 Investigates, "One of the reasons why I never said anything is because I felt that nobody would ever believe me."

The man McCants is referring to is Noel Pinnock, Bureau Chief of the Houston Health Department Bureau of Youth and Adolescent Health as well as Director of My Brother's Keeper Houston. 

Pinnock has spoken before the city council. He makes nearly $105,000 a year with the city, according to city records.

However, his behavior has been scrutinized and exposed through a recent OIG investigation. The OIG says Pinnock was not an angel, violating several city policies revolving around sexually oriented materials. McCants said it went from talking to images.

“It went from sexual conversations telling me how he was attracted to me, how he would have wanted to basically have sex with me and how he had always been turned on by me to eventually asking me for sexual pictures," she said.

McCants does admit to engaging in acts with Pinnock. However, she attributes it to the pressure of holding onto her job.

"That's the part I'm not proud of, but because I felt like I needed my job. I went along with it," she said. 

McCants’ points to a letter by the OIG as her proof that she was victimized. However, she said the investigation has come with a price.

"Despite having the letter, despite knowing that the allegations were substantiated, he is still at work, he is still employed and I'm still without a job," she said.

When Channel 2 Investigates asked the Health Department why he was allowed to stay on board, Director Stephen Williams sent Channel 2 Investigates the following statement: "Mr. Pinnock went on leave September 23, 2019. He is currently out on FMLA and submitted his resignation effective November 8, 2019."

Joe Ahmad is an employment attorney that has sued the City of Houston in the past for sexual harassment. His take?

"There is no reason medical leave, for example, should prevent somebody from being terminated if they engaged in misconduct." The bottom line for him in this case? "They should be promptly terminated."  

For McCants, the future is far from certain. Her wounds are not only fresh but profound. As for compassion from the city? McCants said it is non-existent.

"This is one of those situations where compassion and empathy, goes a long way ... goes a long way," she said.

When asked how much has been directed her way?

As she held back her emotions, McCants responded, "None. As I stated, not one person has said to me, 'I am sorry that this has happened to you. I'm sorry that you had to experience this.'"

McCants recently was informed that lack of funding is forcing her out of her position with the city’s contractor. She made it clear during our interview she believes it is in retaliation for speaking up.

McCants also added Pinnock should be terminated and not allowed to leave the city on his own accord. However, he will do just that this coming Friday, when he officially resigns some six weeks after the OIG informed McCants her claims were substantiated.