Longtime New Bedford City Councilor Brian Gomes has filed a 1.5 million dollar wrongful termination suit against Southcoast Health, the group that owns St. Luke's Hospital locally where Gomes worked for 29 years before being dismissed last June.

The dismissal centers around allegations of sexual harassment against Gomes by an acquaintance who was also employed by the hospital. It also involves several investigations that were conducted into Gomes's behavior and a Corrective Action Form Gomes signed in order to return to work after a five-day suspension. Gomes says he signed the document, but admitted to having done nothing wrong.

In addition to punitive damages, Gomes is also looking for reinstatement to his job or to a similar position.

In the interest of full disclosure I have known Councilor Gomes for the better part of 50 years and while we do not socialize I count him among my friends. That said, I can vouch for the kind of person that I think Gomes is based upon the way in which he behaves in my presence. I have never known him to harass anyone, sexually or otherwise. But, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

We have watched recently as allegations of inappropriate behavior have ended the careers of a number of individuals. Many of them were never afforded a trial or an opportunity to publically defend themselves. This is unfortunate. Councilor Gomes deserves an opportunity to be heard.

By the same token, the alleged victim in all of this also deserves to be heard. We cannot condemn her or dismiss her allegations simply because we like Councilor Gomes. Harassment is wrong anytime and anywhere and cannot be tolerated. Before we judge any of the individuals involved in this matter, we need to hear all sides.

If Councilor Gomes is guilty as alleged, he must pay a price. But, if Gomes has been falsely accused, Southcoast Health must be held accountable.

As voters we certainly deserve the truth.

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