Globe drops suit vs. Sargent

Ex-staffer says she’ll give paper info on workplace misconduct

THE BOSTON GLOBE dropped its suit against a former Boston.com editor and reporter to compel her to turn over information about her allegations of sexually suggestive texts from editor Brian McGrory.

Lawyers for the Globe filed a “Notice of Voluntary Dismissal” Monday morning in Suffolk Superior Court after both sides submitted a joint statement Friday that indicated the court action has ended. A spokeswoman for the Globe said the suit served its purpose.

“The action’s purpose was to ascertain the truth about a serious allegation Ms. Sargent publicly leveled on social media regarding an inappropriate text exchange between her and Boston Globe Editor Brian McGrory,” spokeswoman Jane Bowman said in a written statement.  “Faced with Ms. Sargent’s refusal to provide the date of the exchange, the Globe brought legal action to expeditiously learn all relevant information from Ms. Sargent.  That legal action succeeded in achieving its purpose: Ms. Sargent has finally provided the information the Globe has requested from the start.”

Sargent, in a statement provided by her lawyer that she also released on Twitter, said if the Globe had taken her up on her offer to talk with them months ago about what she says is a long and pervasive history of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior at the paper, it never would have reached this point.

“My requests to discuss the matter privately were ignored,” Sargent said in her statement. “It wasn’t until I went public last month with an accusation that the Globe contacted me, and immediately threatened litigation. I have never refused to cooperate in the Globe’s ‘investigation.’ No media institution that expects to be taken seriously on the issue of sexual harassment should ignore concerns of one of its former employees, nor should they resort to litigation as a first option. I am disappointed that the Globe’s leadership chose that route, and I’m pleased they chose to drop this lawsuit.”

Sargent, a former intern at the Globe 20 years ago who returned in 2014 as an editor at Boston.com, added she “look[s] forward” to talking with Globe officials about her experiences and knowledge of the workplace atmosphere, which she says goes back decades.

The issue came to a head on May 20 when Sargent – after months of dogging the Globe on social media over their coverage of sexual harassment stories without, she charged, a searing look inward – posted a tweet of a conversation with someone who asked, “What do you generally wear when you write?” apparently in the midst of a discussion about story writing. She responded, “Seriously?”

Though she did not initially identify the other person, she implied he was a work superior. The next day, she identified the sender as McGrory, who said he could not recall the exchange but denied ever sexually harassing Sargent or any other women.

McGrory, in a memo to Globe staff, revealed the two had a dating relationship “many years ago” but not when they worked together. Sargent, in a court filing, said the relationship was “on and off” for about five years, starting in 1999, apparently shortly after her stint as a student intern ended.

The Globe filed suit within several days, saying officials reached out to her but she declined to cooperate, forcing their hand. The paper said she was in violation of her separation agreement, which states she must cooperate with investigations regarding issues during her employment. Sargent says she had tried to speak with people at the paper for months but once the suit was filed, she said she would only speak with an attorney present.

In an affidavit, Sargent acknowledged the exchange likely did not happen while the two worked together but said it was merely an “example” of other sexually suggestive messages and emails she received from McGrory and others at the Globe during her time as an intern and at during her time at Boston.com.

In its filing, the Globe indicated it got the answers it wanted with Sargent’s admission that the text in question was sent when the two did not work together. While the filing says Globe officials plan to speak with Sargent, it only focused on her charges against McGrory.

“The Globe remains hopeful for its outside investigator to interview Ms. Sargent so as to hear directly from her concerning her allegations regarding Mr. McGrory and to review all pertinent information she may possess,” attorney Mark W. Batten wrote in the brief to Judge Christine Roach. “But the Globe is also confident that it has now taken all steps reasonably available to it, and has learned significant new information as a result that will assist the Globe in reaching sound conclusions about Ms. Sargent’s allegations.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

Sargent’s attorney, Jack I. Siegal, in his response, said the Globe is engaging in spin to “save face.” He said the dismissal vindicates Sargent and he hopes the paper launches an internal probe far more comprehensive than the one it has conducted so far.

“The Globe‘s withdrawal of its motion and lawsuit vindicate Ms. Sargent and confirm the lack of merits in the Globe‘s allegations,” Siegal wrote. “The Globe‘s attempt to explain their withdrawal by suggesting Ms. Sargent has in any way misled the public or refused to cooperate is yet again simply an effort to save face publicly while admitting that they should never have filed the action in the first instance. Ms. Sargent has always been at the vanguard of raising awareness of inappropriate behavior at the Globe and remains open to speaking with the Globe – without litigation and threats of reprisal.”