Charges include: racial, gender, color, national origin and retaliation
By Josh Resnek
Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the school committee have been charged in yet another complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
The complaint filed by Assistant Superintendent of the public schools Kim Tsai last week alleges racial, gender, color, national origin and retaliation, according to a report that appeared in the Boston Globe over the weekend.
Tsai, who identifies herself in her complaint as one of the only Asian and Pacific Islander deputy superintendents in the state, was recruited in 2019 by Superintendent Priya Tahiliani, according to the Globe report.
“Despite Tsai excelling in her work performance during her tenure as Deputy Superintendent, she has been subjected to unlawful discrimination based upon her race and gender, and her affiliation with Tahiliani in the form of intimidating, hostile, and/or offensive conduct,” states her complaint, which was obtained by the Globe. It accuses four school committee members, including Mayor Carlo DeMaria, of interfering with her work and cultivating a hostile work environment.
Tahiliani had filed a similar complaint with the MCAD about seven months ago. She claimed DeMaria and several school committee members were trying to get rid of her despite stellar performance reviews, as reported in the Everett Leader Herald and the Boston Globe.
She said the mayor and the school committee were trying to oust her because she is a woman of color.
Among her complaints was that the mayor sought and secured a position on the school committee for the first time after she became the district’s first superintendent of color, the Globe reported at the time.
Tahiliani’s lawyer, Benjamin Flam, said that complaint has been withdrawn so it can be filed in superior court. Tahiliani and Tsai had previously worked together at Boston Public Schools, where they also filed an MCAD complaint alleging race and gender discrimination by way of pay disparities, the Globe reported.
In addition, Tahiliani is said to be close to filing a civil law suit in Superior Court. Complaints must be filed with the MCAD and held there for 90 days before they can be withdrawn and taken up with a Superior Court law suit.
Last Tuesday, at a meeting of the school committee, the mayor voted against beginning talks with Tahiliani for an extension of her contract as reported by the Leader Herald.
Despite the mayor’s vote, the school committee voted 6-4 to begin negotiations.
The mayor’s adamant opposition to Tahiliani, and her complaints of sexism and racism against him and members of the school committee, reveals the extent to which apparently racist based feelings control the mayor’s decisions and of some of those on the school committee.
The new discrimination claim comes as the city faces a federal investigation by US Attorney Rachael Rollins and the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division as reported in the Leader Herald.
Rollins launched the investigation in June after a series of racist and racially charged incidents. Among them was a leaked recording of a private Zoom meeting showing several city officials joking about recruiting Black people to public events to insulate themselves politically against charges of racism. The mayor’s spokeswoman, Deanna
Deveney, asked City Councilor Anthony DiPierro to recruit “one of your dark friends” for a political event, according to the Globe and the Leader Herald.
“I don’t have a lot of those friends, I’m just saying,” DiPierro responded.
City officials initially threatened the whistle-blower that they could be sued for distributing the video, which was secretly recorded. Later, after the Globe reported about the incidents and Everett High School students staged a walkout to protest the city’s inaction, the two resigned. The resignations also followed a written warning by the city’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion that, by not taking action, the city could be considered a hostile work environment and exposed to legal action, the Globe and the Leader Herald reported.
Rollins’s investigation followed those disclosures and is based on Title VII, the federal statute that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, gender, sex, and other factors, a lawyer representing the city said last week. At least seven attorneys from the two offices have been involved in the investigation, attorney Lin- da Ricci said at a city council meeting Nov. 15, “The stakes are very high,” Ricci said. “This is a very significant investigation, ” the Globe and Leader Herald reported.
The city is at risk of financial penalties, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reputational damage, she said.
Ricci described the investigation as “very broad in scope,” requiring multiple city agencies to hand over five years’ worth of documents.
“Everyone is part of the investigation, which is why it’s so important to have independent counsel, outside counsel, to really conduct the inquiry we need within the city so we can respond in an appropriate way,” Ricci said at the meeting according to reports in the Globe and the Leader Herald.
The city retained her law firm, Greenberg Traurig, within a day of being notified by Rollins about the investigation in June, she said. But officials did not ask the council for any money for the legal costs until last week, when they requested $500,000.
“Our whole purpose is to try to avoid the potential of a civil lawsuit,” Ricci told the council, according to the Globe and the Leader Herald.
The mayor has been represented by Greenberg Traurig for about 4 years. He is represented by John Pappalardo, a former US Attorney.
Assistant City Solicitor At- torney Keith Slattery described using Greenberg Traurig as “the best thing to do.”
Several councilors, including Mike Marchese have questioned the Greenberg Traurig representation given the firm’s close relationship with the mayor.