Executive Assistant Quits County Post

Marsha Smolev Had Leveled Charges of Hostile Work Environment; Attorney Studies Case

By ALEXIS TONTI

The executive assistant to the county manager, Marsha Smolev, has resigned, leaving the position without clear resolution regarding her previous allegations of a hostile work environment and sexual harassment by a county commissioner.

In May an administrative investigation commissioned by the county concluded that any improper treatment did not rise to the level of illegality, and the commissioners took no disciplinary action in the matter. But Ms. Smolev's attorney said yesterday they are still evaluating each incident in its context.

"It is obvious that she had some issues back then, and she still has some ongoing issues that directly contributed [to the resignation]," said attorney Jim Rogers of Dailey and Associates in West Bridgewater.

"Nothing has been filed, but we still anticipate legal action as an alternative," Mr. Rogers added.

Ms. Smolev told the county manager in a letter dated Sept. 15 that she will leave this Wednesday after more than three years on the job. Yesterday she would not comment on her departure or future litigation.

As the county tries to put behind it the months of controversy surrounding the hiring of a new county manager, Ms. Smolev's resignation comes as a reminder of the turbulence that marked the beginning of the year. In January the county was recovering from the abrupt departure of former county manager Carol Borer and the messy handling of salary owed for her unused vacation and sick time.

In early February, Ms. Smolev filed a complaint in Dukes County Superior Court against Ms. Borer. The complaint seeks damages against Ms. Borer and her husband, Steven, for emotional distress, defamation, assault and battery and civil rights violations.

Mr. Rogers said work on the case is ongoing.

At the time Ms. Smolev also alleged harassment by county employees, though she filed no formal complaint. The commissioners placed Ms. Smolev on paid administrative leave for six weeks pending an informal review of her claims.

In March, Mr. Rogers wrote a letter to the county detailing her charges. The letter prompted commissioners to hire human resources expert Thomas L. Saltonstall to look into allegations of sexual harassment by commissioner Robert Sawyer; unfair treatment in the workplace by both Ms. Smolev's supervisor and peers, and negligent supervision by the county.

Mr. Saltonstall concluded in mid-May there was no unlawful treatment of Ms. Smolev. He did, however, find instances of improper treatment by Dukes County officials including "inappropriate and offensive behavior" by one commissioner.

The county commissioners supported the report's findings but took no disciplinary action. Chairman John Alley urged everyone to move forward, and said Ms. Smolev was free to pursue her claims.

Yesterday Mr. Alley said the resignation came as a surprise. He added that he supported county manager E. Winn Davis in any decisions he makes regarding the vacancy.

Mr. Davis said he regrets Ms. Smolev's resignation, but will use the opportunity to reevaluate the position. He said the county will hire temporary employees to fill the job until they are ready to advertise.

"This is a great chance to revise the job description and requirements," Mr. Davis said. "We'll solicit input from department heads, and then advertise for a permanent person once we're satisfied the description reflects the reality of the job."