Former Tisbury Police candidate Danielle Clermont has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the town of Tisbury and several individuals. Clermont’s 11-count suit alleges she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation and her gender, retaliated against, and deprived of her civil rights, among other allegations. The suit follows a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaint filed in January that made many similar allegations. That complaint has been withdrawn.
In addition to the town, the suit names Tisbury Police Sgt. Max Sherman as a defendant. This marks the second federal complaint Sherman has been subject to. In 2020, former Tisbury Police Sgt. Kindia Roman also sued Sherman. Clermont’s suit also names former Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Hanavan, former Tisbury select board member Jim Rogers (who wasn’t on the select board when events in the suit are alleged to have occurred), and West Tisbury Police Officer Jeremie Rogers, who is Jim Rogers’ son and a former Tisbury Police officer. The suit further names the Tisbury select board.
As The Times previously reported in December 2020, Clermont was frozen out of a job with the Tisbury Police Department in 2017, even though she had been sponsored by the Tisbury Police to attend the Boston Police Academy, and even though she had been given an assurance by then Chief Hanavan that the select board planned to appoint her as a police officer. When Clermont later sought employment at the Westwood Police Department, someone from the Tisbury Police Department allegedly reached out to Westwood Police Chief Jeffrey Silva and attempted to damage her reputation and sabotage her candidacy at that department.
The suit alleges the reason Clermont was denied employment at the Tisbury Police Department was because Jim Rogers sent a “negative letter” about Clermont to the select board. The suit further alleges Sherman and Jeremie Rogers helped compose the letter. The complaint does not provide the letter, but states a records request has been made by Clermont’s attorneys, Jared and Tim Burke, in order to try to get it. The town previously denied having any letter, memo, email, or voicemail critical of Clermont, following a records request made by The Times. Jim Rogers previously denied writing any such letter about Clermont, and denied knowledge of any such letter written by anyone else.
The suit alleges Clermont never got to see a copy of the negative letter.
Under a conspiracy count, the suit alleges Sherman, Jim Rogers, and Jeremie Rogers “under the color of law and otherwise” subjected Clermont to humiliation, hardship, and anxiety by interfering with her employment process.
Clermont declined to comment on the suit.
Jeremie Rogers didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
In response to a text message seeking comment, Sherman wrote that he wanted to comment but was unable to do so.
Havanan previously declined comment on Clermont.
Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande said that after consultation with the law firm Melick and Porter, he “cannot comment on pending litigation.”
Grande acknowledged the town has received the lawsuit.
Clermont’s suit alleges Sherman telephoned Chief Silva in an effort to wreck Clermont’s chances of employment with the Westwood Police Department
The suit claims Clermont “determined” that Sherman “personally contacted Jeffrey Silva, the Westwood Chief of Police, in an effort to prevent Ms. Clermont from being hired by the Westwood Police.”
A footnote in the suit makes the unsupported assertion that The Times article “Whatever happened to Danielle Clermont?” revealed that Sherman called Chief Silva to defame Clermont. The article does not identify Sherman as the caller. However, like that article, the complaint points out Roman was subjected to a similar and successful attempt to ruin an employment prospect at another department, and that the person who ruined it allegedly spoke to that department from the Tisbury Police Department. As The Times reported in 2020, Roman alleged in an MCAD complaint that Sherman bragged to other officers that he’d told the Walpole Police Department, where Roman had applied, that Roman was gay and in a gay relationship. Roman’s ongoing federal lawsuit alleges that the relationship was with Clermont and that Sherman was behind the defamatory information. Roman’s lawsuit further alleged that Sherman “boasted” that he’d “torpedoed” Roman’s job opportunity.
Clermont’s suit blames three incidents of employment interference on Sherman. “Ms. Clermont alleges that Defendant Max Sherman deliberately and maliciously interfered with Ms. Roman’s application for employment with Walpole in the same manner he had done with Ms. Clermont’s attempts to seek employment with the Tisbury and Westwood Police Departments,” the suit states.
In line with what The Times previously reported, the suit alleges that prior to seeking employment in Westwood, Clermont was poised to be appointed to the Tisbury Police Department by the select board, but her candidacy suddenly fell through. Clermont’s name disappeared from the select board agenda on the day she was to be appointed.
A draft agenda for a July 11, 2017, Tisbury selectmen’s meeting (select board now) that is date-stamped July 7, and a revised agenda stamped the same day with 3:51 pm hand notation, list Clermont as part of the administrative session: “Police Chief, Danielle Clermont: Approval to Extend Conditional Offer of Employment – Police Officer.”
Neither agenda was available on the town’s website, and had to be requested by The Times from the clerk’s office.
The agenda available online at the time was date-stamped July 11, with a 2:54 pm hand notation. Clermont wasn’t on that agenda.
Friends, family, and mentors had planned to attend the select board meeting and watch Clermont be sworn in. Among them was former Boston Police Academy Superintendent Lisa Holmes. Holmes previously told The Times that were it not for civil service impediments, Clermont would have been a member of the Boston Police Department, and described Clermont as “outstanding.” Holmes also previously said Clermont was “devastated” by how her appointment to the Tisbury Police Department fell apart.
The suit notes The Times broke the news about the three Tisbury agendas, and alleges those agendas were “manipulated” to conceal discrimination.
“The MV Times article also disclosed for the first time that the board of selectmen’s agenda minutes which been manipulated and amended by the defendants in an effort to cover up the discriminatory motive behind their decision,” the suit states.
The complaint alleges Hanavan initially told Clermont she was passed over due to a negative letter received by the select board. Hanavan allegedly later told Clermont a “hiring freeze” was also in effect.
“Despite the so-called ‘hiring freeze,’ several individuals who were male and not gay/bisexual were hired by the Tisbury Police Department shortly thereafter,” the suit states. “The Tisbury board of selectmen’s decision to rescind the offer of employment to Ms. Clermont, based upon a so-called ‘hiring freeze,’ was in fact a pretext and done for the hidden purpose of discriminatory animus, bias, and retaliation on the part of defendants Max Sherman and others within the Tisbury Police Department.”
The suit notes Clermont underwent a background check while being evaluated by the Tisbury Police Department. The background check showed a 2010 contempt of court finding. As The Times previously reported, Chief Silva and former Tisbury Police Lt. Eerik Meisner both indicated Clermont had been upfront about her contempt of court finding. That finding occurred in Edgartown District Court. Clermont made disparaging remarks to an alleged sexual assault victim following guilty verdicts against Oak Bluffs businessman Saurabh Chhibber. Those verdicts were later overturned on appeal. Clermont, 19 at the time, worked for Chhibber’s brother Sonny as a bartender at the Island House in Oak Bluffs. Judge Lance Garth sentenced Clermont to 20 days in jail for her outburst, which she served. Oak Bluffs Det. Nicholas Curelli also filed a charge of witness intimidation against Clermont. That charge was later dismissed without an admission of guilt in exchange for a year’s probation. While Clermont’s former attorney, Robert Lawless, previously declined to discuss Clermont’s case specifically, he told The Times that “generally speaking,” a person going to jail for criminal contempt of court is nothing he’d ever seen before. The Times requested records from the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office pertaining to Clermont’s incarceration. In a records battle that has continued for over a year, the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office has refused to hand over records on Clermont, and claims those records are exempt from disclosure under Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) restrictions. The Times has argued CORI has no bearing on those records. The state’s supervisor of records agreed, and ordered the sheriff’s office to hand over the records to The Times with whatever redactions are deemed necessary. The sheriff’s office didn’t comply with the order. In an uncommon move, Supervisor of Records Rebecca Murray referred the matter to the office of Attorney General Maura Healey. A determination from Healey’s office has yet to be issued.
Clermont’s suit states that while she was at the Boston Police Academy, she struck up a romantic relationship with Roman. As a result, the suit alleges Clermont’s sexual orientation “became well known within the Tisbury Police Department and the town at large,” and that she became the a target of discrimination based on her sexual orientation.
Under a count titled “deprivation of civil rights-failure to supervise,” the suit alleges both the town and Hanavan are culpable of failing to “properly supervise” Sherman and Rogers, and that the town and Havanan “encouraged or knowingly acquiesced” to Sherman’s and Roger’s alleged discriminatory treatment of Clermont.
At its core, Tim Burke said, the suit was a civil rights case about a prejudiced hiring process. In the end, Burke said, Clermont took a job that paid less than what she was slated for in Tisbury.
The suit was filed July 29, and seeks a trial by jury and unspecified damages.