AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATOR hired by the Boston Globe cleared top editor Brian McGrory of violating the company’s sexual harassment policy but admitted he exchanged “personal” messages with former Boston.com editor and reporter Hilary Sargent.
“As we informed our employees earlier (Thursday,) the investigation by outside counsel into the matter regarding Brian McGrory that was raised by Hilary Sargent has concluded,” Globe spokeswoman Jane Bowman said in an email. “The investigator found that Mr. McGrory did not violate our anti-harassment policy. We are grateful for the complete cooperation of Ms. Sargent and Mr. McGrory. There will be no further comment available on this personnel matter.”
The Globe did not release the memo sent to staffers announcing the decision and it gave few details of the investigation itself. Sargent did not respond to a request for comment but posted on social media her disgust for what she indicated was a sham investigation designed to protect the paper’s top editor.
“I wish I could say I am shocked by the Globe’s announcement,” Sargent wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, it’s no surprise that an institution that chooses to sue a former employee who speaks out would then conduct an ‘investigation’ only in name.”
The internal memo indicated McGrory and Sargent were the only people who were interviewed. The investigation, conducted by a lawyer at the same firm that represented the Globe in its suit to compel Sargent to cooperate, apparently found that there were exchanges of a personal nature but concluded both sides bore responsibility.
“While the investigation revealed a series of exchanges and interactions between Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent that were of a personal nature, the investigator found that they were initiated by and reciprocated by both parties, and did not violate our anti-harassment policy,” the memo from Human Resources director Claudia Henderson and the paper’s general counsel Dan Krockmalnic, said.
The memo did not make clear whether those exchanges occurred while Sargent was at Boston.com and McGrory was the paper’s top editor and, if so, why they did not rise to the level of inappropriate behavior. While McGrory apparently received no discipline, the memo acknowledged “We have addressed this personnel matter directly with Mr. McGrory.”
In an email to CommonWealth, McGrory said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment.“ He told the reporter for the Globe’s story about the investigation, “I’m relieved the review is concluded” but also added he did not want to comment further.
On Friday, Sargent’s attorney Jack Siegal issued two statements, one from Sargent and one of his own. Sargent repeated that she was “incredibly disappointed” that McGrory was cleared and said the paper “sought to protect itself and its editor and to punish me for speaking out.”
“Nothing the Globe has done suggests that they understand or care about creating a safe workplace,” she said. “Instead, they have signaled to their own current and former employees that speaking out means swift retaliation.”
Siegal took aim at the process and dismissed the findings as a foregone conclusion.
“The same law firm that brought suit against my client led the investigation and the investigator took direction from and reported to the same general counsel who authorized the lawsuit,” he said. “My interactions with the investigator and over seven hours of cooperation by my client showed me that the investigator was the Globe’s agent and hired to rubber-stamp the Globe’s predetermined conclusions. If anything, independence means free from influence or control. The Globe at all times controlled the investigation and arrived at the conclusion it wanted – -no surprise.”
Sargent had accused McGrory of sending sexually inappropriate messages to her starting back when she was an intern in 1999 and throughout the ensuing years, both when she worked at the Globe and when she did not. Both Sargent and McGrory acknowledged they had a dating relationship on and off between 1999, when Sargent was a 20-year-old college student and McGrory was a high-profile Metro columnist nearing 40, and 2005.
Since last fall, Sargent had been posting angry tweets hinting the Globe had a decades-long issue with sexual harassment in its offices and implored officials to dig into it. She wrote letters to both Globe owner John Henry and president Vinay Mehra imploring them to speak with her about her and others experiences. She received no response.
In May, Sargent posted on Twitter an undated text that she purported to be from a supervisor talking about a writing project she was doing. “What do you generally wear when you write?” the unnamed person asked. Sargent responded, “Seriously?”
The following day, Sargent identified the sender as McGrory, who denied any knowledge of the text or harassing Sargent “or any other woman.” The Globe filed suit against Sargent, claiming she violated her separation agreement by not cooperating with requests to answer questions about her allegations. That suit was dropped when it became clear the Globe would lose its request for an injunction. Last week, Sargent met with the investigator twice for a total seven hours of meetings.
The internal memo gave no indication that other people were investigated in relation to Sargent’s allegations and there was no reason given for why Henry and Mehra never responded or asked subordinates to investigate.
Sargent took a jab at the paper for its coverage of sexual harassment and sexual abuse of other institutions while skimming over its own internal problems.
“If the @BostonGlobe applied the same investigative techniques to this that they applied when searching for the truth about the Catholic Church, there sure as hell wouldn’t be a Spotlight movie,” she tweeted. “Or a Pulitzer.”