Judge urges Globe, Sargent find common ground
Roach indicates she can’t force ex-staffer to cooperate
A SUFFOLK SUPERIOR Court judge on Thursday told the lawyers for the Boston Globe and former Boston.com staffer Hilary Sargent they had 24 hours to work out an agreement for Sargent to speak with people from the paper conducting a probe into her allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by editor Brian McGrory and others.
Judge Christine Roach also indicated that she doesn’t think the Globe has shown enough to warrant a court order compelling Sargent to cooperate, though she said she’d make that decision after the attorneys talk.
“Based on what I have on the record so far, it’s not clear how the court can find a breach of contract,” Roach told Globe attorney Mark W. Batten in addressing the paper’s request for an injunction that would compel Sargent to cooperate with an investigation into her charges.
Batten told Roach that since Sargent’s allegations have widened to possibly include other workers, the Globe has a responsibility to investigate and to send the right message to employees and readers that the paper is not engaging in any double standards and to determine whether there needs “to be discipline of Mr. McGrory or somebody else.” Without Sargent’s cooperation, he said, that cannot happen.
“She has alleged there are other inappropriate messages Mr. McGrory sent her,” he said. “We’d like to see those… The only thing that is left at this time is to talk with Miss Sargent. Without that, that would not be a complete investigation. We want to get to the truth of these allegations.”
Roach, though, questioned why the Globe couldn’t complete an investigation without a complainant’s cooperation.
Sargent not cooperating “doesn’t necessarily interfere with the investigation. The Globe still can finish its investigation and draw conclusions. If any complainant is unwilling to cooperate, the employer still conducts an investigation,” Roach said.
Siegal told Roach it was misleading for the Globe to say Sargent refused to cooperate since she had sent emails last year to top Globe officials, including owner John Henry, asking to discuss her concerns about a culture of sexual inappropriateness at the Globe. He said the Globe refused to respond to her emails and other social media postings until her tweet last month about McGrory and then they filed suit.
“I find it hard to believe it was an unanticipated possibility,” Roach said, interrupting him.
Roach, though, said Sargent, who was in the court but did not speak during the hearing or to reporters after, opened the gates to the probe by putting her allegations against McGrory out on social media as part of the broader discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“It’s not this tweet or this fact per se, it’s a much broader issue,” she said. “I don’t see how your client can have it both ways. Your client wanted to bring public awareness… that’s broader than the tweet itself. It’s not just about the tweets.”
Roach asked Siegal if Sargent had any reluctance to telling her story to Globe investigators. “If we can get past this hearing, no,” Siegal said. “My client is not trying to hide the facts.”The Globe has argued that Sargent’s allegations have caused the newspaper irreparable harm, though it is not seeking monetary damages. Batten said the harm stems from the hit on the paper’s reputation and the unresolved issue of what happened. Siegal said Sargent’s reputation was also being harmed but Roach was skeptical of both lawyers’ claims.
“I’m not sure I see any irreparable harm on either side,” she said.