with TOM DUGGAN
By: Tom Duggan – February, 2008
LAWRENCE, MA – Last month I wrote about the $610,000 lawsuit settled by the City of Lawrence with former Assistant City Clerk Jenniffer Padellaro. (Blanchette was Absolutely Right on Padellaro Lawsuit)
Padellaro had been on worker’s compensation after leaving the position because she was exposed to pornography at work when (then) City Clerk Jim McGravey was using city computers for his personal recreation.
But Padellaro was not only forced to view porn on city computers at work (at the hands of McGravey), according to her complaint, McGravey was harassing her to have a sexual relationship with him.
In my column I called the settlement a “disgrace” because, given what we knew at the time, it was hard for me to understand how viewing naked images on a computer could cause someone to be “unable to work” as Padellaro claimed.
And after McGravey resigned it was also hard for me to understand why Padellaro would even want to be elevated to the City Clerk’s position. A position where she would have to work directly with the very same friends of McGravey that she claimed covered up the issue and furthered her harassment.
I wrote in my column last month;
“Strangely enough, Padellaro was so emotionally distraught by having seen naked pictures on a computer, and so psychologically damaged by the ‘hostile work environment’ of having to deal with McGravey’s friends in city hall every day, that she ended up applying for McGravey’s job after he resigned in total disgrace.”
Since then, however, The Valley Patriot has come into possession of documents detailing more of McGavey’s actions beyond what had been reported in the Eagle Tribune, as well as the unbelievable behavior of City Council President Patrick Blanchette, whom I defended in these pages saying
“… City Council President Patrick Blanchette absolutely did the right thing in not hiring Padellaro. It was both responsible and in the best interest of the taxpayers to seek a candidate for the job who was unconnected to the controversy and scandal that rocked city hall for more than a month and still had the potential of lawsuits; both by McGravey and by other city employees in that office.”
Because we cover so much of Blanchette’s political shenanigans in city hall, and there is a feeling among Blanchette supporters that we are “out to get” Patrick, I was overly eager to defend the council president in a case that seemed pretty clear.
Unfortunately, my eagerness to quell the misperception that Blanchette cannot get a fair shake in this newspaper blinded me to the reality that a legitimate sexual harassment victim had been treated badly by officials in the Sullivan administration, in particular the City Council President, the city’s personnel director and the city attorney.
And I was rightfully called on the carpet for it by the editorial board of this newspaper, which not only disagreed with my opinion but felt that I was “blaming the victim.”
This was even before we obtained additional documents detailing the gross and sordid details of just what Padellaro had to endure in Lawrence City Hall.
Initially, the board planned to write an editorial disagreeing with my assessment of the situation. But, since the issue was initially addressed in my column, and it was in this column where I dismissed the extent of the harassment that Padellaro had to deal with; I wanted to step up to the plate and correct the misperceptions I gave my readers last month.
After reading some of the material we have received on this lawsuit, it is now clear to me that I was, in fact, blaming the victim.
Also, it seems clear that officials in the City of Lawrence have learned little from the Padellaro lawsuit as their priorities have them scurrying around, spending precious time “investigating” how the The Valley Patriot obtained copies of Blanchette’s Employee Action Form showing his recent $5,000 raise.
The record indicates that Padellaro had complained to city officials several times about McGravey’s behavior. Her complaints were ignored while city attorneys were busy handling political issues for the city council president.
And, according to the documents we have seen, it was City Council President Patrick Blanchette who called Padellaro’s home every day, (some days more than once), leaving threatening and harassing messages for her on her answering machine.
I am happy to be able to clear the record on this issue.
It is important to us that we be diligent in providing our readers an accurate picture of the facts in any story, especially in cases where the known facts evolve over time.
What I am not so happy about is that once again, it seems the city council president was involved in harassing a city employee and abusing his authority as a public official to cover up the misdeeds of his friends (in this case Jim McGravey) while declaring an all out war against another innocent victim.
According to the appeals judge in the case, the evidence against McGravey, Blanchette and former Personnel Director Larry Lefebvre (on behalf of the City of Lawrence) was so overwhelming that he “advised” the city to come up with an offer before he awarded double damages to Padellaro for the pain and suffering she endured at the hands of Lawrence politicos. Politicos who sought to cover up the scandal and paint Padellaro as the perpetrator of a crime instead of the victim of sexual harassment and assault.
In the coming months we will be pouring over additional documents on the case and reporting exactly what happened to cause the city of Lawrence to pay out $610,000 to Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Padellaro, as well as reporting on additional complaints being ignored by the city attorney’s office in Lawrence.