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Bar's Firing of Director Causes Waves

The mystery surrounding the Massachusetts Bar Association's decision last month to terminate its executive director, Marilyn J. Wellington, is causing waves within the state's legal community. Last week, the Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association sent MBA leadership a letter demanding that it be provided with an explanation for her firing by noon today. On Monday, MBA President Edward W. McIntyre denied the MLGBA's request, "in the interest of employee confidentiality." Then yesterday, Wellington filed a complaint of gender discrimination against the MBA with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

As Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reported Dec. 22, the Dec. 11 termination of Wellington came about abruptly. But rumors had swirled around her tenure since last summer, when Lawyers Weekly reported that the MBA had hired an outside lawyer to conduct an investigation pertaining to Wellington and that she had retained an employment lawyer to represent her interests. Her lawyer, Paul F. Kelly, now tells MLW that last summer's investigation focused on whether Wellington had been subject to retaliation for having lodged complaints about gender discrimination.

Leadership of the MBA (of which I am a dues-paying member and committee member) has provided no explanation for its decision to terminate Wellington, a former court administrator who had held the job for three years. She succeeded an executive director who also alleged gender bias after being terminated from the post. The resulting rumors of gender bias in Wellington's case led the MLGBA to write its letter demanding a "full written accounting."

All of this may come to the fore tomorrow, when the House of Delegates, the MBA's governing body, is slated to meet. The MLGBA told MLW that if it did not receive an explanation by today, it may resign its MBA affiliation at tomorrow's meeting. The MBA may be between a rock and a hard place on the question of disclosure, given that Wellington's lawyer said in a public statement that her employment agreement bound the MBA to protect her confidentiality. "Without an employee’s written consent and voluntary waiver of rights of confidentiality and privacy," the MBA's president told the MLGBA, "it would be unlawful under state and federal law to release confidential employee information; it would also be unethical."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 14, 2009 at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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