The town of Oak Bluffs has settled sexual harassment and discrimination claims against its fire chief John Rose, agreeing to pay former fire department administrator Cynthia Hatt $97,500 and unspecified costs of mediation leading to the settlement.

A copy of the settlement agreement was provided to the Gazette Thursday in response to a public records request.

The settlement was signed on Sept. 10, 2019, but its release comes at the same time the fire department is under investigation by the FBI over its ambulance billing practices. To date there is no indication that the FBI probe is related to the sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

Ms. Hatt, who was employed as an office administrator for the fire department between 2013 and April 2019, filed a sexual harassment and discrimination grievance last May with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) against the fire department and Mr. Rose. She filed a separate lawsuit in July in Barnstable Superior Court.

The Gazette received a copy of the MCAD complaint Friday through a public records request.

In it,  Ms. Hatt describes an unsettling pattern of conduct inside the fire department with Chief Rose at the helm, including a tangle of romantic relationships.

Fire chief John Rose. — Mark Alan Lovewell

She claimed she and Chief Rose began a year-long consensual relationship in 2015, recounting alleged sexual advances initiated by the chief inside the firehouse. After the relationship ended, she said she began dating a volunteer firefighter.

She alleged Mr. Rose later tried to renew the relationship, sending her “unceasing, harassing text messages and phone calls.”

When she rejected the advances, she claimed he retaliated in a variety of ways, including moving her desk into his office, halting comp time payments, taking away job duties and singling out the firefighter she was dating. She claimed the fire chief stalked her outside the workplace in fire department vehicles.

The complaint alleges other forms of inappropriate conduct in the workplace during 2017, among other things claiming Chief Rose assigned himself a locker in the women’s locker room and used the women’s locker area to shower and change his clothes twice a day.

Ms. Hatt resigned from the department in April 2019.

The MCAD claims were never investigated and the case was dismissed on Oct. 31 with prejudice, after the settlement was reached with the town.

The settlement specifies that neither the town nor Chief Rose has admitted any wrongdoing, and indemnifies all parties against any future legal action or admission of guilt.

In the lawsuit seeking back pay, Ms. Hatt alleged that the town failed to pay her overtime for work as the fire department’s administrator. She alleges in her complaint that she had been getting compensatory time for extra hours worked until 2017 when she began refusing sexual advances from Chief Rose.

“Defendants took Ms. Hatt’s ‘comp time’ away in 2017 after she rejected sexual advances from the defendants’ fire department chief,” the complaint states in part.

Ms. Hatt requested $25,000 in damages for the lost overtime pay, as well as other forms of relief. The settlement agreement, however, specifies that the $97,500 payment is for damages that do not involve wage-related wrongdoing on the part of the town. Ms. Hatt’s lawyer is listed as John Regan, who works with the Boston-based Employee Civil Rights Group. Reached by telephone this week, Mr. Regan declined to comment on the case or the settlement.

Under the agreement, Ms. Hatt has dismissed all claims against Chief Rose and the town, including the case in Barnstable and the MCAD complaint. The agreement also prevents her from pursuing further legal action against either party.

The town has also agreed to pay for the cost of mediation that led to the settlement.

Reached by telephone Thursday afternoon, Oak Bluffs selectman and board chairman Brian Packish said the cost of mediation was not known yet.

But he said the payment, as well as negotiations, were handled through the town’s insurance company and that the money will not be coming out of the town’s general fund. He also said the town pursued a settlement at the recommendation of the insurance company. The settlement lists Trident Insurance Services, LLC and Argonaut Insurance Company collectively as the town’s insurer.

“We have an insurance company, and the insurance company is responsible for managing these types of situations,” Mr. Packish said. “And there’s costs to litigations and things, and on their advice, we participated in what they felt was the best course of action.”

The town spent $63,335 for insurance services during the fiscal year, according to the 2018 Oak Bluffs town report.

Questioned about the settlement, Mr. Packish spoke bluntly, representing it as a bitter pill to swallow and deploring the actions that led to it. He described it as a stain on the town, and something of a reckoning for its leaders.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the outcome of the agreement,” Mr. Packish said. “I’m disappointed that our town is exposed to this kind of behavior, and these are the type of options that were presented and that we have to work through.”

Mr. Packish said that, as of Thursday, Mr. Rose was still employed as the Oak Bluffs fire chief, and he could not comment further on the status of the chief’s employment as a personnel matter. Reached earlier in the week about the FBI matter, Chief Rose said he was on vacation.

Mr. Packish said he expected that more information and details regarding the situation would be discussed at the selectmen’s meeting this coming Tuesday.

Although the situation remains complicated, Mr. Packish said his feelings on the matter are clear.

“Quite frankly, it’s shameful,” the selectman said. “It’s shameful that this is a conversation that is even associated with the town of Oak Bluffs’s name.”

Barry Stringfellow contributed reporting.