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Princetown accused of gender discrimination

3 women submit complaints to state human rights agency

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
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— Princetown’s clerk, justice and court clerk have filed a human rights complaint against the town, claiming they were subject to discrimination because they are female.

Town Clerk Carol McClaine and Justice Michelle Van Woeart filed complaints with the state Division of Human Rights in March, claiming town officials unjustly discriminated against them based on their gender. Rebecca Selee, Van Woeart’s lone court clerk, followed suit last month by filing her own complaint, accusing the administration of Supervisor Mike Joyce of creating a hostile work environment for the town’s female employees.

McLaine declined to discuss her complaint in detail. She said, however, that it was a last resort when her situation at Town Hall became untenable.

“It’s not something I wanted to do against my town,” she said.

In Selee’s complaint, the court clerk claims the all-female town clerk and court offices are treated poorly by the Joyce Administration in comparison to others in Town Hall. Among her accusations, she said the town didn’t pay her for vacation time she was allotted by Van Woeart, falsely accused her of doctoring her time sheets and expected to cover the extra workload created when Van Woeart was removed from the second clerk’s position, despite not receiving any added compensation.

“Since Supervisor Joyce and his team have taken control, the environment in this town has become hostile,” she wrote in the complaint obtained by The Daily Gazette. “I fear this complaint will result in worse conditions and retaliation.”

In her complaint, McClaine accuses the all-male Town Board of cutting personnel in her department and her budget. She claims her office and the court were both subject to cuts in January, unlike other departments supervised by men.

McClaine also claims the board passed resolutions regarding the application of the state’s Freedom of Information Law that would “be in violation” of her duties as clerk. She claims Joyce referred her to the town’s Ethics Board last month in retaliation for filing a complaint.

Van Woeart’s complaint also claims she’s faced unlawful discrimination because of her sex. She also names Joyce in her complaint.

Joyce deferred comment to Michael Cuevas, the town’s attorney. Cuevas acknowledged the complaints, but declined to discuss them in detail.

“It’s an open matter,” he said. “Claims have been made against the town and I’ll be defending them to the best of our ability.”

The complaints are yet another volley in ongoing hostilities between the Joyce Administration and Van Woeart. There has also been significant friction between McClaine’s office and the supervisor’s office.

Earlier this month, Deputy Supervisor Norm Miller filed a lawsuit against Van Woeart, claiming she publicly slandered him during a video-recorded Town Board meeting by wrongly accusing him of killing a man. The legal action asks for $500,000 in damages from the town justice.

Last year, the board forced Van Woeart out of her court clerk’s position after the state Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion advising that the post was subordinate to the elected justice position, rendering the two jobs “incompatible.” She then filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the town, which was subsequently dismissed by a state Supreme Court justice; she has since appealed the ruling.

Van Woeart also filed an unemployment insurance claim for losing her clerk’s job. The town contested the claim, but an administrative law judge sided with Van Woeart earlier this year, a decision the town has since appealed.

 
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