Four women accuse Everett mayor of sexual harassment
EVERETT — She barely knew Mayor Carlo DeMaria when she walked into his office on a winter’s day in 2008 to ask for help starting a program for local residents serving in the military. The woman, the mother of a soldier in Iraq, had put up a DeMaria lawn sign before the last election, but they had no personal relationship.
DeMaria, best known now as the political face and key supporter of Steve Wynn’s $1.6 billion casino proposal for Everett, was new to office then. He immediately acted overly familiar with her, the woman recalled in a recent series of interviews, ushering her into his office, locking the door, and sitting uncomfortably close. Then, she said, she felt his hand on her thigh. The woman said she tried to get DeMaria to focus on the support program, but when she stood up, he wrapped his arms around her and groped her breast.
“He tried kissing me, all slobbery,” she said. “It was hard and aggressive.”
She went home to “cry and cry,” the woman recalled, but DeMaria continued to seek her out, groping her again when she met with him a second time — foolishly, she admits — in hopes the mayor would behave more professionally in response to her request. On a third occasion, she said, the mayor approached her as she sat in a car on a city street and leaned through an open window to hug and kiss her.
“He kept on saying stuff like ‘I’m really attracted to you,’” said the woman, who has not filed a police report because she is embarrassed and afraid of retaliation. “He invited me out so many times.”
The soldier’s mother is one of at least four women who have alleged that the mayor of Everett, married since 1997, sexually harassed them over the past decade. In addition to the soldier’s mother, the mayor’s accusers are two employees at doughnut shops owned by DeMaria, and a city employee who abruptly resigned in 2012 after she said DeMaria asked her for oral sex.
Three of the women asked not to be identified, and the Globe is not naming them as they are alleged victims of sexual harassment.
The fourth, Janice Campo, is one of the two Honey Dew Donut shop workers who told police about DeMaria’s alleged conduct. Campo, who worked in one of DeMaria’s doughnut shops in Revere, said he forced her to touch his genitals, though a judge dismissed the 2005 case after she changed her recollection of part of the episode.
Before the dismissal, DeMaria’s lawyer asked Campo how much money it would take for her to drop the charge, but she refused to settle, according to Campo and her lawyer.
“I wasn’t there for money,” said Campo in a recent interview. “I was there to hold him accountable.”
DeMaria denies that he harassed any of the women or that he ever offered to settle Campo’s case.
The second Honey Dew employee said DeMaria made unwanted sexual advances in 2006 when police were investigating a heated argument between her and DeMaria at another Revere doughnut shop owned by him, but she did not pursue a formal complaint.
The other two women, whose allegations came after DeMaria was elected mayor in 2007, have never made an official complaint against DeMaria, though the Globe has determined through interviews that both had discussed some of their allegations with others — friends, family or, in two cases, city councilors — at the time of the alleged events.
The soldier’s mother also provided witnesses who confirmed DeMaria’s aggressive behavior while the former City Hall employee had text messages from DeMaria asking her to call him after she resigned.
The number of women making allegations against DeMaria may extend beyond the four. DeMaria told Revere police investigating Campo’s complaint that still another unnamed Honey Dew Donuts employee had accused him of sexual harassment. The Globe was unable to identify her. DeMaria told police at the time that the earlier charges, while false, could have inspired Campo to make similar allegations.
“Everyone knew about the previous matter,” DeMaria said, according to the police report on Campo’s allegations.
DeMaria declined to be interviewed. But in a written statement, he flatly rejected all the allegations and suggested that opponents of the casino plan could be spreading false rumors about him.
“We are in the middle of a battle for a casino license that could change the future of this city forever. It is obvious that some are willing to go to any and all lengths, including purporting lies, to keep Everett from succeeding,” DeMaria said.
He stressed that no sexual harassment complaints have been made against him as mayor or in any other elected position he has held, and that the former Honey Dew employees made their allegations to police when they were in the process of being fired. Each, DeMaria said, was “an angry former employee seeking revenge” by making false claims against him.
“At no time have I acted in the manner described by any of the alleged incidents,” he said in his statement.
DeMaria, 41, added: “I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage to my wife of 18 years, nor would I do anything that could harm or jeopardize my children’s future.”
None of the four women interviewed by the Globe have filed lawsuits and none want publicity. Campo has taken no legal action since her 2005 complaint.
The women also have no connection to the anti-casino movement that the Globe could determine, or with supporters of a rival casino plan in Revere. And they have no personal connection to one another.
In interviews with the Globe, several of the women told similar stories: They described not just off-color or sexist remarks, but overt sexual overtures and unwanted attention that went on for months or even years. The soldier’s mother said unwanted contact with DeMaria continued for four years.
The women said that DeMaria seemed to become infatuated with them, in the case of the city employee, repeatedly calling her to his office for no apparent reason. The former city employee saved four text messages that DeMaria sent after her resignation, imploring her to call him.
“Can you please call?” DeMaria texted on Dec. 3, 2012, almost a month after she abruptly quit, citing family reasons. “I haven’t talked to you in a long time.”
Campo recalled that she struggled to escape DeMaria’s grasp during their March 2005 encounter, screaming “What about your wife?” She said she decided to file a police complaint only when she became convinced the harassment could happen again because DeMaria insisted that she continue to work in the same store with him.
Campo went to the hospital for “anxiety and difficulty sleeping” within days of the episode with DeMaria, hospital records show, and police wrote in an open letter for the case file that Campo was unable to work for weeks afterward.
Several other women said they, too, had suffered lasting emotional harm from their encounters with DeMaria. The veteran’s mother said she’s haunted by DeMaria’s conduct, which went on intermittently for several years, and she has sought help from a counselor. She said DeMaria came uninvited to her home twice, once asking if she had split up with her husband.
Laura Studen, a lawyer at Burns and Levenson who often represents women in sexual harassment cases, said the type of allegations leveled against DeMaria rarely result in criminal complaints, much less convictions. In general, most victims of sexual harassment are vulnerable people who may be reluctant to speak out against a more powerful person, she explained, and, even when they do, they generally lack physical evidence to prove their claims.
“If a guy grabs your [breasts], it’s not going to go far in a criminal system. I generally wouldn’t advise a client bringing a criminal complaint,” Studen said.
However, she added that all unwanted sexual contact or comments are potentially unlawful, especially in a workplace, and could offer the basis for a civil complaint.
DeMaria was first elected mayor in 2007 promising a “new beginning” for Everett, a densely populated, mostly low-income city of 42,000 that hosts an array of industrial facilities including a liquefied natural gas plant.
He had grown up in the thick of Everett’s rough and tumble politics, winning election to the city’s Common Council before he graduated from Northeastern University. He was also a successful businessman, the owner of four doughnut shops with his wife — whose father founded the Honey Dew chain — and now comes to work in a silver Mercedes.
And DeMaria made good on his promise of a new beginning for Everett: He helped persuade a Las Vegas casino mogul to propose a massive resort casino on contaminated industrial land along the Mystic River, a plan that could transform the local economy if approved by the state gambling commission.
But before he was elected, DeMaria had already faced at least three accusations of sexual harassment from his employees, including Campo’s complaint, which was the subject of two court hearings.
Campo told police in 2005 that DeMaria had ordered her to remove her uniform top while they were alone in the Revere store and, when she refused, DeMaria pulled out scissors and suggested that he cut off the shirt, claiming he had medical training. He eventually “pulled down his pants, exposing his penis,” according to the police report. Later, after DeMaria had pulled his pants back up, he pulled on the woman’s right wrist “until her hand was placed against his penis,” according to the police report.
A clerk magistrate, with no witnesses or physical evidence to support Campo, dismissed her charge.
Campo appealed the dismissal to a judge. At a court hearing, Campo shifted her account, saying DeMaria’s genitals were exposed when he made her touch him. The mayor’s lawyer pounced on the inconsistency and the judge dismissed the complaint.
In his written statement to the Globe, DeMaria described Campo’s complaint as “completely unfounded and determined to be without merit.”
Little more than a year later, in June 2006, DeMaria faced another allegation that was brought to the attention of police. In this case, DeMaria himself called police to a Honey Dew Donuts shop located inside a Revere gas station, asking police to restore peace after an argument broke out between him, an employee, and her boyfriend. DeMaria explained that the woman had given her two weeks’ notice and he told her to leave immediately, making the woman angry.
But when a police officer asked the employee and her boyfriend to leave, the boyfriend said that DeMaria had sexually harassed her, according to the police report. The woman never pursued a complaint, but she told police that DeMaria had made “unwanted advances” on her while she worked in the shop.
“He makes you feel very uneasy,” the woman said in an interview with the Globe, who asked that the Globe not publish her name even though it appeared in the 2006 police report on the episode. “He asked me out several times, even though I had a partner.”
DeMaria, in his statement, said that the woman made up the whole story after he fired her for “insubordination” and they got into an argument. He pointed out that the Revere police chose not to pursue her harassment complaint, proving, in his view, that the complaint was baseless.
By early 2008, DeMaria was the new mayor when the mother of the soldier in Iraq went to City Hall for help launching a program to support local military personnel serving overseas. A city worker told her she would have to take such a request up with mayor, which is how she ended up in DeMaria’s office where, she alleges, he groped her.
But that wasn’t the end of it, the soldier’s mother said.
“Like a fool,” she said she went back to DeMaria to renew her request for help. This time, she said, DeMaria lured her into his private office under the pretext of looking at some rugs he had just purchased. Again, she said, DeMaria closed the door, began squeezing her breasts, and told her how beautiful she was.
The woman said she left DeMaria’s office sobbing and went straight to the city’s veteran’s office to inform them that she no longer wanted to start a program. “I can’t do it. I can’t work with the mayor,” she said she blurted out.
But that didn’t end DeMaria’s alleged unwanted attention. She said that one day in 2008, DeMaria approached her as she sat in a car with a friend and said, “Hey, can we call a truce? Are you still mad at me?”
Then, the woman said, the mayor stuck his head in the window and started kissing and hugging her. Her friend corroborated this account and described the kissing as inappropriate.
DeMaria, through his lawyer, said he doesn’t know what the woman is talking about or even who she is. The Globe provided the mayor a detailed description of when and where the alleged events occurred, but not the woman’s name.
The woman told a city councilor about the mayor’s allegedly harassing behavior several years ago, something the councilor, a sometime critic of DeMaria, now confirms.
Most recently, in October 2012, a city employee abruptly resigned after a little more than four months on the job, officially citing family obligations and thanking the mayor for his support in her letter of resignation.
However, an Everett city councilor, who has sometimes clashed with DeMaria, said that the woman said at the time that she had resigned because “I wouldn’t service the mayor,” an apparent allusion to DeMaria’s alleged request for sexual favors. The councilor asked not to be named because of the explosive nature of the woman’s allegations.
The woman told the Globe recently that, from the start of her city job, DeMaria called her to his office for no apparent reason, sometimes getting uncomfortably close and making inappropriate remarks.
“I was sitting there and DeMaria said, ‘You know, the only reason you got hired was that you have nice [breasts],’” the former employee recalled. “I didn’t really acknowledge what he said, but I left just as soon as I could.”
On another occasion, she said DeMaria tried to console her in the small private room behind his office after she had a heated dispute with a more senior employee over her job responsibilities — a dispute that left her afraid she might lose her job.
She had gone through the room to use an adjoining restroom, she said, and DeMaria was waiting for her when she emerged. She said she recalls him saying, “You can do no wrong in my eyes if you [provide oral sex.]’
“He had me cornered and the door was closed and he was standing in front of the door,” she said. “I remember him grabbing me and holding me when I tried to get past him.”
DeMaria specifically denied all of the former employee’s allegations, noting in his statement that neither this employee nor anyone else ever officially complained about his conduct.
The woman turned in her resignation and left City Hall within a week of the episode, thanking the mayor “for the continued support and encouragement,” but saying that “family issues on a personal and medical level” forced her to step down.
But DeMaria said he did not want her to leave and he began sending her text messages asking her to reconsider.
“I heard about your letter of resignation and I really do not want to accept it,” he wrote on Nov. 9, 2012, the day after her resignation.
But the former employee said there was no chance she would ever return.
“The mayor shouldn’t be there,” said the woman. “I’m ashamed I even went there for four months, but I had bills to pay.”
DeMaria said in his statement that he will “refuse to waste any more time and energy on useless distractions based upon patent untruths.