Ex-Southampton official files lawsuit alleging harassment, discrimination 

  • Southampton Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 10/3/2016 7:12:27 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Former interim town administrator Regina Shea-Sullivan has filed a lawsuit against the town of Southampton and former highway superintendent Edward J. Cauley alleging sexual harassment and workplace discrimination during her years working at Town Hall.

Two Select Board members, including Chairman Charles J. Kaniecki, said they have not seen the complaint filed in Hampshire Superior Court in August and therefore would not comment on it. Shea-Sullivan is seeking about $800,000 in damages.

In the lawsuit, Shea-Sullivan, of Chicopee, alleges she was sexually harassed on several occasions in the workplace by Cauley, her supervisor, dating back to 2008. She resigned from her position as assistant town administrator in April 2014, citing hostile work conditions. She had filed a complaint against Cauley in September 2013, which the Select Board was scheduled to discuss in an executive session when Shea-Sullivan resigned.

Among the allegations in the court complaint are that Cauley inappropriately touched Shea-Sullivan on several occasions, including rubbing her shoulders and attempting to kiss her after asking her to help fix his work computer, and on one occasion, at his home.

Shea-Sullivan alleges that in the fall of 2008, Cauley rubbed her upper left thigh while driving her to the Tighe-Carmody Reservoir, according to the complaint, which states Shea-Sullivan pushed Cauley’s hand away. On another occasion, Cauley grabbed Shea-Sullivan with both arms and attempted to kiss her after asking her to fix his computer in the spring of 2010, among other alleged incidences of sexual harassment, according to the lawsuit.

Cauley denies charges

Cauley denied all of the allegations in an interview with a Gazette reporter at his home on Thursday.

“This has been going on for four years,” Cauley said of Shea-Sullivan’s complaints.

Cauley spent more than 30 years working as highway superintendent and retired in December 2013. He also served as water commissioner and became a member of the Select Board in 2012.

Shea-Sullivan started working for the town of Southampton in 2006 as administrative assistant. She also began working once a week for the highway and water departments under Cauley’s supervision.

The alleged sexual harassment has had the “effect of unreasonably interfering with her (Shea-Sullivan’s) work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating and sexually offensive work environment,” according to the complaint.

In August 2011, Shea-Sullivan became interim town administrator and was reappointed every 12 weeks. It took two and a half years to fill the permanent position, a job that went to another candidate. During her time in the interim position, Shea-Sullivan still carried out her duties as administrative assistant.

Money an issue

Shea-Sullivan earned $45,000 as interim town administrator and asked the Select Board for an increase in pay in July 2012, but did not receive a raise. A week prior, the complaint states, the town’s interim fire chief received a “substantial” raise. The complaint states Shea-Sullivan “has been the subject of adverse treatment and treated differently from other employees who are similarly situated but not women.”

Cauley, who was on the Select Board at the time, said Thursday the two positions are completely different because the interim fire chief was on call 24/7 and requires knowledge of emergency procedures as well as working in adverse conditions.

“There’s a big difference,” Cauley said of the responsibilities of the two posts.

Later that year, the board approved a job description for town administrator that did not require a bachelor’s degree. Shea-Sullivan did not have a bachelor’s degree at the time she was applying for the job.

During the town administrator search, Shea-Sullivan was offered a “courtesy interview” for the position, but was not a finalist, according to the lawsuit. Shea-Sullivan complained about the town administrator screening committee, which included Cauley.

The top choice was Michael A. Szlosek of Ludlow, who turned down the position in August 2013 because it was lower-paid than his job as town manager in Athol.

A month later, the Select Board reopened the search for town administrator and voted unanimously to make a bachelor’s degree a requirement.

After Shea-Sullivan’s complaint filed in September 2013 against Cauley, he said he took himself off the screening committee and did not want to be involved.

“I separated myself the second time,” Cauley said.

In December 2013, the Select Board chose Lyn N. Simmons, an aide to Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz who had held several positions in Northampton city government. However, a month later Simmons declined the Southampton position.

The Select Board decided to work out a contract for the job with Heather Budrewicz, who was appointed to the position in March 2014.

A month later, Shea-Sullivan resigned from her position as assistant town administrator, stating in a resignation letter to the Select Board that it was “due to an ongoing hostile work environment that I have been dealing with for some time and the fact that I as well as other employees, reported it to you and to date nothing has been done to stop it.”

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.


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