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.

June 7, 2018

Hilary Sargent watches the proceedings during Thursday’s hearing.

The Globe believes the separation agreement Sargent signed when she left the Globe in 2016 requires her to cooperate. Sargent’s attorney, however, said the text exchange his client said she had with McGrory most likely occurred when they were not working together at the newspaper, which would make the terms of the separation agreement moot. But Sargent subsequently said the text exchange with McGrory was just one of many unwanted messages and emails from McGrory and others during her time as an intern and in her two years as an editor and reporter at Boston.com.

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.”

Mark Batten, attorney for the Boston Globe, at Thursday’s hearing in Suffolk Superior Court.

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.

Siegal, who told Roach he’d prefer she rule before any agreement on cooperation was made, said the Globe’s demand for “full cooperation” stemming from a suit has a “chilling effect” in that it left open the potential for them to put a gag order on his client in violation of her free speech rights.

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.”

June 7, 2018

Hilary Sargent’s lawyer, Jack Siegal, outside the courtroom.

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.”

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.

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.