Deputy Town Clerk gets $25K in whistleblower settlement
Peterborough ’s now former Deputy Town Clerk, Gayle Bohl, is getting at $25,000 pay-out after she settled the lawsuit alleging she was punished for reporting the hostile work environment created by elected Town Clerk Linda Guyette.
Bohl’s lawsuit was settled late last month, according to court records. Representatives for Primex, the town's insurance carrier, said the settlement was finalized last week for the amount of $25,000.
The problems in the Town Clerk’s office threatened to derail the town’s 2020 election operation as Bohl was handling absentee ballots in the town hall basement because she could not be in the same room as Guyette. Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan eventually got involved and admonished town officials for taking away Guyette’s legal duties.
Scanlan told then Town Manager Rodney Bartlett that Guyette has the legal obligation to handle the absentee ballots, and Bohl’s position in the basement was an “usurpation” of Guyette’s duties.
Bohl’s lawsuit claims that having her lift the heavy boxes up and down stairs with her asthma was a retaliatory move by the town and punishment for speaking out.
Bohl resigned her position last September, after months of problems with Guyette that culminated in an outside party investigation that found Guyette had created a hostile work environment, and that she may have exposed people in the town house to COVID-19.
Guyette easily secured reelection to her post as Town Clerk in May. Brendan Bohl, Gayle Bohl’s husband, ran unsuccessfully against Guyette.
Bohl said Guyette was locked out of her office by town officials after she first tested positive for COVID-19 over the summer of 2020. The lock out came after she reportedly entered the building while being positive for COVID-19.
“She was not allowed into the Town House or the Town Clerk's Office after her first positive test because (Town Administrator) Rodney (Bartlett) had a padlock installed on each of the Town Clerk Office doors and told her she would be arrested if she came in the building,” Bohl said in a statement after her lawsuit was first filed.
Bohl filed the whistleblower’s lawsuit against the town claiming that after she reported Guyette’s refusal to follow COVID-19 safety protocols Guyette created a hostile work environment. Bohl resigned claiming that her interactions with Guyette made her sick and led her to take anti-anxiety medication.
Throughout the summer of 2020, Bohl tried to get Bartlett to do something about Guyette.
“I’m not sure what else I can do. She makes it impossible for me to keep myself safe. And she gets away with it every single day,” Bohl wrote in an email to Bartlett, which is part of the lawsuit.
Guyette for her part denied she knowingly exposed people to COVID-19, but instead said she reported the dates of her tests incorrectly to the third-party investigator.
The lawsuit uses Bohl’s emails and a report from the outside firm, The Leddy Group, to claim that Guyette refused to move her desk away to a safe distance, and refused to put in a safety shield. Guyette also allegedly forced Bohl use contaminated equipment, according to the lawsuit.
“Yesterday I picked up the phone to answer it and the receiver was literally wet and sticky in my hand. While she was on a conference call this morning, she took the phone in to the bathroom with her, I literally watched her bring it in there from the selectman’s room and could hear the conversation because she had it on speaker phone. Then she wanted me to use her phone, that she just took in to the bathroom with her, to take the voicemail messages off of it,” Both wrote to Bartlett, according to the lawsuit.
Bartlett’s response to Guyette’s treatment was to put Bohl, who suffered from asthma, in the town hall basement to work on “special projects,” like the absentee ballots.
Guyette’s parents tested positive for COVID-19 on June 7, according to court records, and according to the lawsuit, Guyette had also tested positive on June 9 and she reportedly exposed several people at a town hall meeting who were unaware of her status, according to the lawsuit. Guyette was forced to go home and quarantine, but Bohl said she was seen around town during her quarantine, not wearing a face mask, according to the lawsuit.
Bohl said in her statement that Guyette told her on June 21 that she had tested positive again for the virus and had to stay away until she tested negative. Guyette had a meeting with Bartlett and Bohl on June 30 about taking safety steps to protect Bohl, according to the lawsuit.
Guyette issued a statement disputing that she knew about her COVID-19 status until June 10. Guyette, however, has given different dates for her positive test.
The town engaged with human resource firm The Leddy Group to investigate Bohl’s complaints, and Leddy investigator Sandra Conely found Guyette had created a hostile work environment. In Conley’s report is the statement that Guyette tested positive on June 7. Later, in August after the Leddy investigation, Guyette gave the date in another Facebook post as June 10. Guyette also complained about being required to wear a face mask at work.
Guyette reportedly swore at and screamed at Bohl during her tenure working in the office, and at times this summer, other town employees were concerned, according to the Leddy report expected in the lawsuit.
“On July 15, the yelling and use of extreme profanity towards the complainant were so loud that concerned employees went to the Town Administrator for assistance. Upon arrival, Ms. Guyette yelled and used extreme profanity towards him,” the Leddy report states.
At one point during the angry 2020 summer, Guyette’s outbursts were reported to police as a potential violent threat against Bartlett, though Police Chief Scott Guinard told NH Reporter the matter did not require a criminal investigation.
The Leddy report also states that Guyette was unprofessional to residents who went to her office for services.
“Ms. Guyette is alleged at times to hold residents’ car registration, dog license, or other paperwork and insist that they pick it up in person instead of mailing if there was not a stamped self-addressed envelope provided,” The report states. “Ms. Guyette’s speakerphone was on, and the complainant alleges to have heard a resident “begging” Ms. Guyette to mail her dog licenses because she was afraid to come to the Town office to pick them up. She was afraid to go to the Town Hall due to COVID-1. Ms. Guyette was alleged to have not accommodated this individual."
As an elected official, Guyette is not answerable to selectmen or town administration. She claimed the Leddy report was released in an attempt to force her to resign. The town paid the Leddy Group $3,500 for the report. Guyette is paid more than $69,000 a year for her position.