Globe sues ex-employee over sex harassment claims

Paper says it wants to hear 'more, not less' from Sargent about exchanges with McGrory

THE BOSTON GLOBE filed suit Friday against a former reporter and editor to compel her to release the full text she said the paper’s editor, Brian McGrory, sent to her that included an unwanted, sexually suggestive message.

In the suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the Globe’s lawyers say Hilary Sargent is in violation of the separation agreement she signed in 2016 that requires her to cooperate with the paper in investigations of matters that occurred when she was employed there.

Sargent on Sunday posted a screen-grab to Twitter of an exchange she says she had with McGrory about story writing. In one part of the exchange, the person she identifies as the Globe editor asks, “What do you generally wear when you write?”

Sargent did not initially identify the person as McGrory, but did later, writing that it was an example of powerful men sending inappropriate and unsolicited sexual messages to women over whom they have control.

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory and former Boston.com deputy editor Hilary Sargent.

The Globe says they asked Sargent on Monday to give them the full text, which she had cropped to hide the name of the sender and the date of the exchange. The paper’s lawyers claim she declined to cooperate, forcing them to file the suit.

The paper is citing what appears to be standard language for separation agreements. It says that Sargent, among other things, “agree(s) to cooperate with any reasonable request by the Company in connection with any matter with which you were involved or any existing or potential claim, investigation, administrative proceeding, lawsuit or other legal or business matter that arose during your employment by the Company.”

The suit seeks to force Sargent to cooperate with Globe officials in an investigation of the accusations, which they labeled “false” in the complaint, but does not seek monetary damages. A copy of the suit shows portions that had initially sought compensatory damages, legal costs, and interest were deleted by hand with the initials of Mark W. Batten, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose LLP, who filed it.

“By refusing to cooperate…she has caused the Globe immediate and irreparable harm by making public (and, as the Globe has reason to believe, false) accusations that she received inappropriate texts from a Globe employee during her employment at the Globe,” the suit says. The suit does not explain how officials arrived at the conclusion the accusations are false without having completed an investigation.

Both Sargent and McGrory have declined to comment, but a statement from Sargent’s attorney that was sent to several media outlets, including the Globe, disputed the charge of noncooperation.

“Ms. Sargent has not refused to cooperate in the Globe’s ‘investigation,’” William Kennedy, a lawyer in Quincy, said in the statement. “As our office acting as her present counsel made the Globe’s counsel aware, Ms. Sargent is at this point attempting to retain other counsel to advise her going forward on this matter – a process which is ongoing. The suggestion that the Globe’s requests for her cooperation have been ignored is false. In fact, our client over the last several months attempted to contact upper management at the Globe about her concerns and her calls were ignored. Given the Globe’s decision to file suit against our client, Ms. Sargent will have no further comment at this time.”

Sargent worked at the Globe as a co-op student and intern in 1999 and 2000, returning in 2013 as a reporter and editor for Boston.com, a website owned by the paper. McGrory, in a memo to the Globe staff, defended himself by saying he and Sargent dated, though they “did not work together at the time.”

It’s unclear when the two began dating but when Sargent was first at the paper, she was in her late teens and early 20s. McGrory, a Metro columnist at the time who had been recently divorced, is about 17 years her senior.

McGrory, in his note, says he doesn’t recall the exchange in question, but said the two had maintained a “friendly banter” after they ceased dating. A spokeswoman for the paper said McGrory turned over his phone but they have been unable to find the messages Sargent is referring to. The spokeswoman, Jane Bowman, did not say if the paper was examining McGrory’s work or personal phone or if he has turned over a personal phone as well.

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.

McGrory’s personal lawyer had sent a letter to Sargent on Wednesday demanding she stop sending out tweets accusing him of misconduct and, while not saying he will sue, called the claims “actionable.” Bowman said the Globe’s suit doesn’t seek damages because all the paper wants is to get to the bottom of the claims, something for which it says it needs Sargent’s cooperation.

“Our filing today seeks Ms. Sargent’s cooperation in collecting information related to her specific claims — nothing more, and nothing less,” Bowman, the paper’s vice president marketing and strategic partnerships, said in an email. “We do so in an attempt to hear more, not less, from Ms. Sargent. We have an obligation to this institution and its readers to hold the same lens to ourselves as we do to those we write about in our pages.  We continue to intend to do that here.”