Stoneham Selectmen Deny Claims Made in 'Hostile Work Environment' Lawsuit
Jan 14, 2019 06:46PM
● By Lisa Redmond
Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the news and information in your community.
STONEHAM - The three Stoneham selectmen named in a 2016 federal lawsuit filed by former Selectmen's clerk Erin Sinclair steadfastly deny allegations of a "hostile work environment'' and deny any wrongdoing, despite a recent settlement in the case, according to their attorney.
Attorney Seth Barnett, who represented the Town of Stoneham and selectmen Caroline Colarusso and Ann Marie MacNeill, as well as former selectman Thomas Boussey, sent an email to North Suburban News stating, "While I cannot discuss the terms of any settlement, I can offer that there is no admission of liability or acknowledgement of any wrongdoing by the Town, Mr. Boussy, Ms. Colarusso or Ms. O’Neill in reaching a settlement of this matter.
"In fact, they expressly deny the allegations contained in the Complaint and any settlement reached on their behalf is independently undertaken by the Town’s insurer as a business decision,'' Barnett wrote in a statement.
Barnett added, "Mr. Boussy, Ms. Colarusso or Ms. O’Neill maintain that the information gathered before and during the litigation supports their steadfast belief that the allegations brought against them were without merit, regardless of the insurer’s independent decision to engage in settlement negotiations on their behalf."
Prior to the lawsuit, the Board of Selectmen retained the services of an outside investigator to investigate the allegations in order to determine whether such charges had merit, Barnett wrote. "After conducting thorough investigations into the complaint, investigator determined that the charges of a hostile work environment and defamation could not be substantiated," Barnett wrote.
Before publishing the Jan. 8 story about the lawsuit and the settlement, North Suburban News attempted to contact Barnett and town officials for comment.
As part of the Dec. 18 settlement in U.S. District Court, both sides signed a non-disclosure agreement, so the details of the settlement are not available.
In her lawsuit Sinclair, a seven-year town employee and the Board of Selectmen's office manager since 2012, alleged her work environment changed for the worse when she entered the race for one of two seats on the Board of Selectmen, including one held by her father and the other held by selectman incumbent Robert W. Sweeney.
In the end, both father and daughter lost in the election. Colarusso unseated Sweeney and then selectman Thomas H. Boussy won re-election.
During the campaign, Sinclair claims she encountered “friction,’’ even hostility, from board members, according to the lawsuit. She alleges that O'Neill and Colarusso gave her the cold shoulder at work, an allegation they both deny.
As tensions increased, Sinclair registered a complaint about her treatment with the town’s Human Resources Department and even sought a doctor's help to deal with the stress at work, the lawsuit states. By Sept. 28, 2015, Sinclair registered a complaint with the town administrator claiming she was being subjected to a hostile work environment. From then on, Sinclair claims her relationship with the selectmen got worse.
The board hired special counsel to investigate Sinclair’s complaint. When Sinclair arrived at a board meeting on Nov. 16, 2015, she found a report on her chair concluding that her complaints regarding a hostile work environment and allegations about a flyer were “unfounded.’’
Sinclair claims she felt forced to take a lower paying job at the Department of Public Works. She currently works for the Stoneham Police Department, according to her attorney.