Hostile work environment alleged in Peterborough
Long-time Peterborough Town Clerk Linda Guyette is accused of creating a hostile work environment in town hall, prompting the town to hire an outside investigator, according to documents obtained by NH Reporter.
Guyette declined to comment on the story when contacted last week.
“I can’t talk about this right now,” Guyette said.
She referred questions to her attorney, Anne Rice, who is based in Laconia. Rice did not respond to a request for comment.
The issues that sparked the investigation happened on July 15, according to an email sent by Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett to Guyette. That day, Guyette apparently acted in a way to prompt a formal response from Bartlett, though the exact action is not detailed.
“Obviously your out burst this morning was inappropriate and very unprofessional,” Bartlett wrote to Guyette. “Your actions have clearly created a hostile work environment. I have received numerous inquiries about your actions this morning. These actions will no longer be tolerated.”
Bartlett declined to answer questions when contacted.
“I have no comment,” he wrote in an email.
Bartlett declined to answer questions clearly in the public sphere, such as how much Guyette receives in pay from the town, and how much the town spent on the outside investigation.
According to the emails, Peterborough engaged the Leddy Group, a Dover-based staffing and human resources company, to investigate the accusations that Guyette has created a hostile work environment.
In the July 15 email, Bartlett told Guyette that she had until the end of that day to come up with a plan to reopen her office. In a July 16 email, Bartlett told Guyette that after he conducted a review of the past three plus months of her actions he determined she had created a hostile work environment. Bartlett said in the July 16 email that he would reassign staff and then start a formal process.
“My office will begin the process of a formal review of my initial determination of a hostile work environment,” Bartlett wrote.
According to a July 26 email from Bartlett to Guyette, that formal process included Sandy Conley with the Leddy Group interviewing several people about the July 15 incident,. Selectman Bill Taylor served as the liaison to the investigation.
Along with the specifics of the July 15 incident, Bartlett informed Guyette that she was also being looked at for other concerns. According to Bartlett’s July 26 email, Guyette is accused of swearing and yelling at staff members in allegedly creating the hostile environment. She is also accused of putting public health at some sort of risk, though that accusation is not detailed in the emails obtained.
“It has been alleged that you often treat residents and staff with rudeness and condescension, and have failed to put the public health and welfare ahead of your own wishes,” Bartlett wrote.
The clerk’s office was closed without explanation on June 8, and it later came to light that it was shut down because Guyette had tested positive for COVID-19. Guyette told the Mondanock Ledger Transcript in June that she and her parents had tested positive, though they were all asymptomatic.
Guyette reportedly planned to quarantine until June 18. The July 15 email indicates an issue with Guyette reopening her office played a role in the outburst.
The investigation into Guyette was slated to be completed and presented to the board of selectmen by Aug. 7., according to Bartlett’s July 26 email. Select Board Chair Tyler Ward did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not know what, if any, action the board took following the investigation and it is unclear what the board can do. Guyette is elected to her position and answerable to voters.
Town clerk’s in New Hampshire certify elections, collect property tax payments, register motor vehicles, issue dog licenses, and are responsible for keep the town’s vital records such as both and death certificates. Guyette has been town clerk since 2009, and she first served as the deputy town clerk from 2004 to 2008.
Photo by Damien Fisher