In the crowded primary race to challenge Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) for her Senate seat, Republican Kevin Smith argues that his decade as the town manager of Londonderry is what sets him apart.
But Smith allegedly dismissed and mishandled repeated complaints of workplace harassment and retaliation while he held that role, and the town eventually settled a related lawsuit at the public’s expense, HuffPost has learned.
Smith is running in an 11-way Republican primary with no clear front-runner, but he is near the front of the pack. In the first quarter of the year, his campaign trailed only state Senate President Chuck Morse’s in the amount of cash on hand and fundraising.
Whoever prevails will challenge Hassan, whose seat is a must-win for Democrats hoping to keep their fragile 50-seat majority in the Senate. Hassan is considered one of their most vulnerable members. In 2016, she unseated Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte by just 1,017 votes, and her current approval rating hovers below 50%.
Smith’s alleged role in mishandling the harassment and retaliation complaint has not been previously reported.
In 2018, Nicole Doolan, who had worked for the town of Londonderry as an administrative assistant for nine years, sued the town and her former manager, accusing them of disability discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. In her lawsuit, Doolan said the harassment began after she complained to her union that her boss — the town tax assessor — was making her do personal errands, and she said it escalated for several years. Smith, who served as Londonderry’s town manager from 2013 to January 2022, eventually became involved in covering for those who were harassing her, Doolan claimed.
Smith himself made demeaning comments about women in the workplace, Doolan claimed, such as making “dumb blonde jokes” and referring to a female subordinate as “pork chop.”
Doolan’s suit lays out several allegations against her former boss, Karen Marchant, and Marchant’s deputy, Rick Brideau. While Doolan was on disability leave, she claimed, a town official threatened to eliminate her job. When Doolan returned, there was a video camera pointed at her desk with a feed and audio that played in Marchant’s office, ostensibly to monitor people entering the office. Brideau also used the video feed, she said ― to see whether members of the public who needed tax assessor services were good-looking and decide whether to get up from his desk and help.
Doolan said Brideau made jerk-off motions at her on several occasions, made lewd comments about how other women in the office dressed, and watched video of girls undressing on his work computer. When Doolan complained to Marchant about the video, she said, Marchant told Brideau to angle his computer monitor so others couldn’t see.
Doolan complained repeatedly to Smith, according to the lawsuit, and in late 2014 he set up a mediation with Doolan, Marchant and Brideau. Smith discouraged Doolan from bringing a union representative, her lawsuit claimed, although she was entitled to do so, saying he believed the representative would intimidate her bosses. Smith met with Doolan three more times, she said, and each time told her not to bring a representative. She said he pushed her to take a job in another department instead of taking action against her bosses.
For much of this time, Doolan claimed, Marchant, Smith and other town government employees sandbagged her requests to increase her hours or become a full-time employee while other part-time employees were allowed to work up to 40 hours.
Eventually, she said, Smith also took actions that she believed to be retaliatory. In 2016, after she complained to him that she was being assigned more work than was possible in her 28-hour week and was working off the clock without additional pay, Smith told her she was being “disrespectful” and gave her an official warning. She resigned a month later.
Doolan filed her suit in June 2018, which Doolan and the town of Londonderry settled for an undisclosed amount of money in September 2020.
In its initial response to Doolan’s lawsuit, before the settlement, Londonderry admitted that Doolan complained to Smith about Brideau’s lewd behavior. But the town denied that Brideau acted inappropriately or that Marchant failed to intervene. Smith did offer Doolan a job in another department, the town said, but it denied that he told her not to bring a union representative to any meetings.
Doolan did complain that Smith called a subordinate “pork chop” and made dumb-blonde jokes, the town said, but it called her claims “baseless.” Her co-workers who were allowed to work extra hours were covering for staffing shortages, the town said, and the cuts to Doolan’s hours were budgetary, not discriminatory. The town also conceded there was a video camera pointed at her desk to monitor members of the public.
Seb Rougemont, a spokesman for Smith’s Senate campaign, called Doolan’s claims “flat-out false.” Smith managed more than 200 employees, Rougemont added, and has made his personnel file available to the public.
“As Town Manager, Kevin always put what was in the best interest of the people of Londonderry first,” Rougemont said in a statement. “Doolan was disciplined for insubordination toward her supervisor. This caused her to resign. … The statements made about Kevin Smith in this lawsuit by a disgruntled former employee are entirely unfounded and uncorroborated.”
Doolan, her attorney and the attorney who represented Londonderry all did not respond to requests for interviews, and Marchant could not be reached for comment. Brideau died in 2021. The chair of Londonderry’s town council, John Farrell, declined to comment.