Maryland native Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who has endeared himself to countless children as the voice of Sesame Street muppet Elmo, has taken a leave of absence from his job amid allegations of sexual impropriety.
The Dundalk High School graduate, long a supporter of philanthropic efforts in his hometown, stands accused of having sex with a then-16-year-old boy, according to TMZ.
The reports says the unidentified accuser, now 23, claims that he and Clash had a sexual relationship when he was 16 and Clash was 45.
Clash reportedly admitted to TMZ that he did have a sexual relationship with his accuser, but only after the man turned 18.
Sesame Workshop, which produces Sesame Street, issued the following statement:
"We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him. We met with Kevin, who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding internet usage and he was disciplined."
According to TMZ, Sesame Street officials said that Clash adamantly denies the allegations of under-age sexual abuse and has been given a leave of absence so the puppeteer can work to clear his name and reputation.