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Lawsuits & Litigation

Planning Board Secretary Sues Town Officials Over Sexual Harassment Claims

— July 13, 2021

A former Planning Board secretary in Seabrook, New Hampshire recently agreed to settle a lawsuit she filed against the city back in 2019.

Maria Brown, a former Planning Board secretary in Seabrook, New Hampshire, agreed to a settlement to end a lawsuit she filed against town officials over sexual harassment claims. Prior to her lawsuit, Brown worked for the town as a secretary from 2015 to 2018. She recently “filed court documents dismissing her federal suit with prejudice and without costs against then-Planning Board chair Jason Janvrin, then-Planning Board Vice Chairman Mike Rabideau and Town Manager Bill Manzi.” When commenting on the settlement announcement, she said the decision “was made by the town’s insurance company, Primax.”

Lady Justice
Lady Justice; image courtesy of AJEL via Pixabay,

Primax will pay the financial settlement, though details of the settlement will not be made public for some time. That isn’t stopping some organizations, like Seacoast Media Group, from filing a Right to Know request with the town for a copy of the settlement.

Brown originally filed her lawsuit back in 2019 over allegations that her “contract as secretary was not renewed in 2018 because she complained about sexual harassment from Janvrin, which she claims Manzi and Rabideau did nothing about.” The suit argued that Janvrin, who was serving as a state representative at the time, “referred derogatorily to female town employees and selectwomen, using terms like ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ in the planning office.” On top of that, she alleged “Janvrin retaliated against her by destroying her office decorations and at one point began leaving ‘his filthy soiled clothing’ in her office that reeked of ‘body odor, feces, and stale cigarettes.’”

The town pushed back against the allegations and said Brown’s contract as secretary expired on March 31, 2018, and claimed the decision “not to renew it was for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.” They added that Brown “frequently disturbed, disrupted, complained about and generally did not work well with other town employees.” Additionally, Janvrin denied the allegations that he “referred derogatorily to female employees.” Manzi and Rabideau also denied the allegations that Brown “routinely complained about Janvrin’s behavior and they did nothing.”

The town did admit that “no formal sexual harassment training was provided to town employees between October 2015 and March 2018.” When commenting on that particular issue, Manzi said the town “conducted mandatory sexual harassment training for all town employees in 2020. He said the decision to conduct the training had nothing to do with the lawsuit.”

In addition to the financial settlement, Manzi said the insurance company, Primax, will cover the attorney fees so that no taxpayer money will be used. He said:

“Obviously the more claims you have the higher your premium…But in this case, I don’t anticipate any change because of the case…Not in regard to this case, but in general, when the cost of going to trial is higher than a potential settlement, the insurer will make the determination as to what is in their best financial interest…If the cost to going to trial is $400,000 and the cost to settle is $50,000, which one do you think the insurer is going to take?”


Former-Seabrook secretary settles sexual harassment lawsuit against town

Ex-secretary sues Seabrook officials claiming sexual harassment

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