Complaints against the Tisbury police department and Sgt. Timothy Stobie alleging discrimination based on sexual harassment have been found to have probable cause, after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination investigated a broad complaint by a female officer, Kelly Kershaw.
The parties must meet for a conciliation conference on Dec. 29, and make an effort to settle the matter at or before that time, a commission spokeswoman said. Settlement can be of any mutually agreed nature, including financial compensation, an apology, additional training or other remediation. “We do not impose any settlement conditions,” commission spokeswoman Barbara Green said. If no agreement is reached, the matter then goes before a public hearing of the commission.
The commission issued a split decision in Ms. Kershaw’s case. The state investigation into other aspects of her complaint did not reveal enough evidence of unlawful acts of discrimination to continue proceedings.
Ms. Kershaw’s initial complaint was filed with the commission in April 2009, alleging that she has been sexually harassed by Sergeant Stobie, verbally and physically, including rubbing her shoulders, over a period of months in 2008. She further said she was subjected to a hostile work environment after rejecting his advances. She then faced retaliation for complaining about the sexual harassment to the chief, according to her complaint to the commission, which argued, “I believe that Stobie, [then] Chief [John] Cashin and the town are trying to force me out.”
In subsequent months she amended her complaint to take in what she believed was further discrimination and retaliation once she filed with the state commission.
Ms. Kershaw alleged that the town, its police department, Sergeant Stobie, former Chief Cashin and town administrator John Bugee had aided and abetted and retaliated against her after she filed her initial complaint. This involved, in part, a dispute over reimbursements for hotel expenses during an out-of-state training session, as well as disagreements about mileage reimbursement and whether a period of leave was paid as sick days or as work-related stress leave; these complaints were dismissed after the investigation. Sexual harassment allegations against the town and Mr. Cashin also were dismissed for lack of probable cause.
Officer Kershaw has 10 days from when she received the decision to appeal for an independent review by another branch of the commission, Ms. Green said.
Investigating commissioner Julian T. Tynes found “probable cause,” or merit enough to continue proceedings over the sexual harassment after the investigation. Sergeant Stobie denies the allegations, the commission said in its disposition, which noted there are material issues in dispute:
“Whether she was sexually harassed by respondent Stobie is left to a fact finder to determine.”