The city continues to block the release of the full details of its investigation into hostile-workplace complaints against Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, most recently by denying a public records request by the Gloucester Daily Times.

The Times, which filed the Freedom of Information request on June 30, was informed Monday by Thomas A. Mullen, the Lynnfield attorney representing the city, that it would not honor the request for the full report of the investigation.

"The city has been as forthcoming and transparent as it is allowed to be under applicable law and policy," Mullen said in his letter denying the request. "The reports you requested cannot be produced pursuant to the public records law because they are clearly 'disciplinary reports' and as such fall into the category of 'personnel . . . files or information."

The hostile-workplace complaints were filed by Harbormaster T. J. Ciarametaro Jr., Community Development Director Jill Cahill, and former Human Resources Director Donna Leete.

David Olson, editor of the Times, said the newspaper plans to appeal the city's denial to the public records division in the office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State.

"This is a report the public has a right to see," Olson stated. "The mayor has referenced it repeatedly as proof her actions didn't rise to the level of breaking the law. The citizens of Gloucester — who elected her — have a right to see that proof, and to assess the report's results for themselves."

The complaints

Ciarametaro and Cahill each accuse Romeo Theken of making abusive, harassing and inappropriate comments regarding the race, religion and sexual orientation of city officials and employees, as well as members of the public.

Ciarametaro also has filed suit against Romeo Theken and current and former members of her administration alleging similar charges. The lawsuit, first filed in Essex County Superior Court, has been moved to U.S. District Court in Boston at the request of the defendants.

Leete, who retired last year, authored a letter to the editor that was published by the Times in April. In it, she described the hostile work environment she experienced. She subsequently filed a formal complaint with the city against the mayor.

Mullen said the workplace complaints from the trio of city officials "are part of the workplace discipline of the city" and do not fall within any of the exceptions contained in workplace statutes.

"Disclosure of this report is neither called for by, nor consistent with, the terms of the policy," Mullen wrote.

Mullen also stated the investigation's findings and recommendations "have been shared with the complainants" as required by the city's anti-harassment and discrimination prevention policy.

"The mayor went further than the policy demands by publishing a summary of these findings and recommendations," Mullen wrote.

Attorney Liam T. O'Connell, who represents Ciarametaro, and attorney Meredith Fine, who represents Leete, disputed the claim that they or their clients have seen the full report.

"We have requested the reports and been told no," O'Connell said Tuesday. "To my knowledge, the only people who have seen the report are City Solicitor Payson, the city's outside counsel Thomas Mullen, the mayor and her counsel Lenny Kesten."

Fine said she formally requested the final investigative report, but never received it.

"I believe attorney Mullen is engaging in some hair splitting," Fine said. "He shared a summary of the report, but not the report itself. You just have to wonder why they won't release it. If it exonerates the mayor in any way, you'd think they'd release it in a heartbeat."

Mayor, summary

At issue is the city's outside investigation into Romeo's Theken's conduct that led to three employees filing hostile workplace complaints against the mayor with the city's human resources department.

The independent investigation was conducted by Regina M. Ryan, an attorney and president of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions, LLC.

The full report of Ryan's investigation has not been publicly released in its entirety by the Romeo Theken administration or city lawyers.

Instead, the mayor has released an uncorroborated summary of the investigation, its findings and its recommendations.

On June 22, Romeo Theken issued a statement in which she said Ryan's investigation exonerated the mayor of any illegalities, while finding she violated the city's standards for professional communication by using profane language.

The statement said the investigation also determined that Romeo Theken violated confidentiality rules for city personnel by discussing one of the workplace complaints during a meeting with the complainants, and by discussing job performances with other employees.

In her statement, Romeo Theken said she accepted the investigation's findings and vowed to expand sensitivity training and other initiatives to improve the city's workplace culture.

"I deeply regret my choice of language and any other violations found in these findings," Romeo Theken said in the prepared statement. "While the pandemic crisis challenged us all to change how we work, having a commitment to the highest standards remains a necessity." 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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