Sources: Beacon Hill encounters cost Globe reporter his job

Alleged incidents followed internal sexual harassment complaint at newspaper

A PROMINENT BOSTON GLOBE State House reporter, who was the subject of an internal sexual harassment complaint, was forced out last month after reporters and editors at the paper learned he allegedly initiated inappropriate communications with women who work on Beacon Hill, who were fearful of rebuffing his advances outright because of his position, say sources.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Jim O’Sullivan, a longtime State House fixture who had been one of the Globe’s leading political reporters, was forced to resign after Globe reporters were alerted during the course of reporting on sexual harassment in the Legislature that he had uncomfortable and unwanted written communications with at least one woman, and possibly a second, who had work-related dealings with the Globe. It’s unclear whether the women worked in state government or in some other capacity on Beacon Hill.

The forced resignation came eight months after O’Sullivan was the subject of a complaint to the Globe’s human resources department by a young woman who worked at the paper. The internal incident was detailed as part of a larger story the Globe ran on December 8 about sexual harassment in the media. O’Sullivan was not named in the article, which referred only to a “male employee” journalist at the paper, a decision that has stirred controversy because of the Globe’s coverage of the so-called #MeToo movement and its willingness to name names in covering other incidents.

The Globe story recounted a number of incidents, past and present, concerning the atmosphere at the paper and provided a few details about the internal incident involving the male employee. “Later, the male employee was pressured into resigning after additional accusations emerged from outside the company, according to two people familiar with the situation,” Globe reporter Mark Arsenault wrote.

But sources tell CommonWealth that in late October and early November, a Globe reporter investigating the breadth of sexual harassment in the Legislature had been given vague references to O’Sullivan having inappropriate communications with at least one woman working on Beacon Hill. The reporter pursued the information further and felt there was enough concern to bring it to Globe editor Brian McGrory in mid-November.

O’Sullivan’s last byline appeared in the Globe on November 17. He had recently written stories about sexual harassment policies in the House and Senate after reports of prominent men being accused of sexual misconduct erupted around the nation. Many of the men were accused of using their positions to coerce women into unwanted interactions.

It’s unclear what, if any, discipline O’Sullivan received following the internal complaint, but the alleged conduct on Beacon Hill occurred after the internal incident, sources confirmed. McGrory declined to comment about the situation other than to refer to an internal memo he released when the story about reporting on sexual harassment in the media was published.  

McGrory declined to address questions about O’Sullivan, who did not respond to a request for comment, and why he was not named, as the paper had done with allegations of sexual harassment against people elsewhere. The Globe has written stories about individuals such as WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook, Boston union leader Tyrek Lee, and NESN anchor Marc James, who exchanged texts with a woman who turned down his requests for a date. In his memo to staff, McGrory defended his decision as a matter of standards

“Quite simply, the transgressions would not meet our standards for a reportable event if they happened at another company,” McGrory wrote. “To all our knowledge, nobody was physically touched; no one was persistently harassed; there were no overt threats. We’re covering it because we’re applying an extra measure of transparency to ourselves.”

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 initial Globe story about Ashbrook, a former top Globe editor, said he had been suspended pending investigations into unspecified allegations, while the story on Lee said “[u]nion officials did not detail the allegations” and it reported no details, making it difficult to determine if those incidents met the same standard applied to O’Sullivan’s case. The texts between James and the woman first appeared on her Facebook page and the Globe then did a story on that, though she never claimed James threatened or harassed her, just that his responses were arrogant and inappropriate.

A source said McGrory had a meeting with about a dozen female editors and managers at the Globe about how the story on incidents at the paper was going to be handled, and while there was an animated discussion, there was “quite a bit of agreement” among the women about withholding O’Sullivan’s name as well as the names of other employees being written about in the Arsenault story.