Updated at 3:40pm
A federal lawsuit brought by former Boston Police Academy Cadet Danielle Clermont against several Tisbury officials and a West Tisbury Police officer has been dismissed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
Clermont sued Tisbury Police Sergeant Max Sherman, former Tisbury select board member James Rogers, former Tisbury Police Officer Jeremie Rogers (now an officer in West Tisbury), former Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan, and the town of Tisbury over allegations that included conspiracy, retaliation, civil rights violations, and discrimination. In a Dec.16 ruling, Judge Indira Talwani upheld a defense motion to dismiss the case largely on the grounds most counts in Clermont’s complaint were “time-barred” — not filed in time under the law. About a month after Judge Talwani’s decision, Clermont filed suit in Dukes County Superior Court against Sherman and Tisbury, but none of the other defendants in the prior federal suit. The superior court suit alleges intentional improper interference with an advantageous business relationship, conspiracy, slander, and failure to properly train and supervise.
In both the dismissed federal case and the recently filed superior court case, Clermont’s allegations revolve around her internship at the Tisbury Police Department, the subsequent sponsorship by that department to the Boston Police Academy, and a job offer from that department that fell through. As The Times previously reported, Clermont, through her attorneys at the Timothy Burke Law Office, claims she was denied a police position that she was scheduled to get because the town received a letter about her with negative content. The letter was allegedly penned because of “discriminatory animus” toward Clermont’s life partner, Kindia Roman, a former Tisbury Police sergeant who has an open federal complaint against Sherman, the town, and former Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio. The negative letter has never been produced.
Clermont further alleged the town masked the real reason she was denied a job under the guise of a hiring freeze. After she sought employment elsewhere, Clermont alleged somebody from the Tisbury Police Department tried to ruin a job prospect of hers at another police department. Clermont alleged Sgt. Sherman was one of the letter’s authors, and that he was the caller who tried to sink her off-Island job prospect.
James Scamby and Laura Terrasi, Melick & Porter attorneys for the defense in the federal case, took keen aim at the telephone and letter allegations in their motion-to-dismiss memorandum. Scamby and Terrasi cite The Times article “Whatever happened to Danielle Clermont?” (Dec. 2, 2020), an article referenced and quoted in Clermont’s complaint, and argue it doesn’t contain the information the plaintiff claims it does.
The memorandum states that the plaintiff “actually misstates the information contained in the MV Times article. Footnote 2 of the complaint states that this article ‘reveals that the identity of the then-anonymous caller to Westwood Police Chief Jeffrey Silva was defendant Max Sherman’ … Nowhere in this article … does Max Sherman’s name appear. The article does not identify him as the ‘then-anonymous caller,’ nor does it identify Mr. Sherman as the source of information in the alleged ‘negative’ letter … Therefore, any reliance on this article for the accrual of plaintiff’s causes of action against the defendants is unfounded.”
The footnote Scamby and Terrasi refer to from Clermont’s complaint states, “A recent investigative article written by the Martha Vineyard Times, “Whatever Happened to Danielle Clermont?” was published on Dec. 2, 2020. The article reveals that the identity of the then-anonymous caller to Westwood Police Chief Jeffrey Silva was Defendant Max Sherman.”
The Times pointed out the flawed assertion about Sherman being cited as the caller in “Whatever happened to Danielle Clermont?” in a follow-up article about the filing of the federal complaint.
“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 newspaper wrote. “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.”
Scamby and Terrasi assert in their memorandum that not only are Clermont’s claims “time-barred,” but that James Rogers is disqualified from being a litigation target because he wasn’t on the select board at the time Clermont sought and lost employment with the Tisbury Police Department. Further, Scamby and Terrasi assert, allegations against Sherman and Jeremie Rogers are speculative.
“Plaintiff’s claims are time-barred because plaintiff not only failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by filing a claim within the three-hundred-day window afforded by M.G. L. c. 151B, but also neglected to file her current complaint within the applicable statute of limitations,” the memorandum states. “In addition, plaintiff’s claims against defendant James Rogers fail because public records demonstrate that he was not a Tisbury selectman at the time of the facts alleged in the complaint. Finally, plaintiff’s claims against defendants Max Sherman and Jeremie Rogers are based entirely upon speculation.”
Scamby and Terrasi assert that it “strains credulity” that Clermont was unaware of facts on which her case is based prior to “Whatever happened to Danielle Clermont?” being published.
“Plaintiff also claims that she was called derogatory names during her time with Tisbury … and was subjected to other discriminatory actions surrounding her sponsorship and application for employment,” the memorandum states. “These allegations establish that plaintiff knew of discriminatory conduct in 2017. To suggest that she did not know about her claims until The MV Times wrote an article on the situation strains credulity.”
The superior court complaint, which was filed on Jan. 13, makes assertions that are similar to the dismissed federal complaint. The complaint alleges Sherman was the caller who tried to derail Clermont’s employment elsewhere (Westwood Police Department), and while not expressly pinning that information to “Whatever happened to Danielle Clermont?” it notes the publication month, and quotes Westwood Police Chief Jeffrey Silva directly from the article. The complaint alleges more directly that the article somehow indicates Sherman was behind the yet-to-be-discovered negative letter’s content.
“Based on information recently made available in the December 2020 MV Times article,’ the complaint states, “Ms. Clermont avers that defendant Sherman was the source of the information included in the ‘negative’ letter written to the Tisbury board of selectmen.”
Another of the complaint’s allegations associated with that article is that it failed to motivate the Tisbury select board to initiate an internal investigation of Sherman.
Tisbury Police Chief Chris Habekost told The Times Friday, “I have no record of an internal affairs investigation, or any other type of investigation.” Chief Habekost added that he also has “no documentation of a complaint” from Clermont.
When asked Friday for comment on the federal ruling, James Rogers said, “I wasn’t a select person when that happened. I had nothing to do with it, and I wouldn’t know her if she walked into the room today. And I certainly didn’t write any letter.”
Clermont declined comment Friday.
Sherman told The Times by text message Thursday, barring specific questions, “as much as I would love to comment, I can’t.”
When asked specific questions on Friday — did he author or contribute to the alleged letter and did he call Chief Silva — Sherman’s answers were “No and no.”
Former Chief Hanavan, attorneys Scamby and Terrasi, and town administrator Jay Grande could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reached Friday, Burke declined immediate comment.
Updated with additional information from Chief Habekost.