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City settles lawsuit for $610,000 over computer porn

Council President Patrick Blanchette & city clerk Jim Mcgravey

Council President Patrick Blanchette & City Clerk Jim Mcgravey

City Clerk’s Internet Porn, Harassment Cost City Thousands

By: Tom Duggan – January, 2008

Lawrence’s former assistant city clerk, Jennifer Padellaro, settled her workers’ compensation claims as well as her federal lawsuit against the City of Lawrence last month for $610,000.

A settlement conference (called a lump sum conference) took place at the Industrial Accident Board in Lawrence on November 30, 2007 when an Administrative Judge approved the settlement between Padellaro and the City of Lawrence. Both her workers’ compensation attorney, Alan Pierce of Salem, and her federal lawsuit attorney, Kevin Powers of Boston, were present at the conference.

This settlement also ends the federal lawsuit against the city.

Attorney Alan Pierce filed a workers’ compensation claim with the Industrial Accident Board in Lawrence claiming emotional stress and mental disorder arising from her allegations that she was sexually harassed by then City Clerk James McGravey and that the City of Lawrence did nothing to either prevent nor appropriately react to the alleged harassment.

Attorney Powers of Boston also filed a complaint in Federal court alleging sexual harassment by then City Clerk James McGravey and retaliation by the City of Lawrence when City Council President Patrick Blanchette refused to hire her to replace McGravey.

Padellaro filed her lawsuits alleging that the sexual harassment began in 1998 when her boss, then City Clerk James McGravey, used the office computer to visit pornographic websites and pass around pornographic material.

Padellaro further alleged that pornographic sites then began popping up on her office computer while she was trying to work. Padellaro said she reported all of this to the city attorneys and the Mayor but, according to the lawsuit, little was done and McGravey continued to visit porn sites at work. McGravey’s wife, Carrol Hajjar McGravey, was an Assistant City Attorney at the time.

On June 13, 2004 City Clerk McGravey suddenly resigned and, when Padellaro – his assistant – voiced her interest in replacing McGravey as the next City Clerk, she claims that Council President Patrick Blanchette informed her that the council would probably not appoint her as acting clerk after her complaints against McGravey caused the very job opening she was applying for. Padellaro claims that her denial of the appointment was retaliatory by Blanchette.

Councilor Blanchette said at the time that he was “very sad about the whole incident,” and further stated that “the environment in city hall is really contentious with all of this still very fresh in people’s minds. Jim McGravey has not been charged with anything as of yet and I can’t see how it helps the city to hire someone who’s accusations were responsible for the vacancy in the first place. Some people are saying that this was the plan all along. I don’t know if that is true, but I am not going to put the city into that situation to find out.”

As both cases were making their way through the different court systems, Padellaro’s workers’ compensation case was concluding faster than the Federal suit, so all the parties involved agreed to settle the workers’ compensation case and dismiss the Federal Lawsuit.

On February 17, 2005, Padellaro filed the workers’ compensation claim and the case was heard at Conference on June 30, 2005.

The Judge awarded Padellaro weekly benefits in the amount of $600 a week based upon an average weekly wage of $1,000 per week. The City of Lawrence appealed this decision and a Hearing was held several months later upholding the Conference Order.

The City again appealed the case to a three-panel reviewing board, which had not heard the case prior to settlement. During this appeal process, Padellaro continued to receive $600 per week in workers’ compensation.

While the appeal was making its way through the workers’ compensation system, Attorney Pierce filed a second workers’ compensation claim on December 7, 2006 for Section 28 benefits.

Section 28 benefits are double compensation benefits “if an employee is injured by reason of the serious and willful misconduct of an employer.” These actions are almost quasi-criminal in nature. A judge will decide after a hearing whether to award double benefits based upon willful misconduct. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for October 12, 2007, where it was believed by city hall insiders that the judge was going to award the double benefits. That’s when the parties negotiated a settlement for a lump sum of $610,000, which was approved on November 30th.

Had the City been ordered to pay Section 28 benefits, Padellaro would have received $1,200 a week going back to the date of the injury, which was December 2, 2004.

The City of Lawrence is self-insured, meaning that this settlement money comes directly from the City’s budget, not an insurance company.

When asked how the City will pay for this settlement, The Valley Patriot was advised that the settlement was structured over several years, but the details of the structure was not provided. In a published report last year, City Attorney Charles Boddy said that the City had no money in the budget to settle this case.

 

 *Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The January 2008 Edition of the Valley Patriot
The Valley Patriot is a Monthly Publication.
All Contents (C) 2008, Valley Patriot, Inc.

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover Massachusetts, a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, a 1990 Police Survivor and hosts the Paying Attention! Radio Program on 980WCAP in Lowell, Massachusetts. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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