WATERTOWN — The city will open an investigation into allegations of a hostile work environment against City Manager Rick Finn.
Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. confirmed a female department head has filed a formal complaint against Mr. Finn. The complaint was filed on Wednesday with City Attorney Robert J. Slye and the city’s human resources department.
The mayor learned of the complaint on Wednesday; the city has contacted an independent human resources consultant, Public Sector HR Consultants, Glenville, to conduct the investigation.
Councilman Cody J. Horbacz said the unidentified female employee believes she’s been “treated unfairly.”
“There’s going to be an investigation and we’ll take it seriously,” he said. “We’ll take action if necessary.”
Although he would not name the employee, Councilman Horbacz said he’s been approached by a couple of other female employees who have described a hostile work environment. He would not discuss the specifics of the complaints on Thursday night.
The Watertown Daily Times has learned that the department head submitted reports of a series of incidents involving Mr. Finn and witnesses who could verify the alleged occurrences.
Mr. Finn declined to discuss the allegations.
“I have no comment right now,” he said Thursday night.
The mayor and the councilman have not talked to Mr. Finn.
Councilman Horbacz said that council will need to make sure that the department head will not receive any retaliation for submitting the complaint.
Mayor Butler also stressed that employees would be encouraged to come forward if they feel they’ve been treated unfairly.
The city chose the Glenville firm because it has handled other HR issues in the past for the city, Mayor Butler said.
In recent weeks, there have been rumblings at City Hall about issues involving Mr. Finn and female city employees. Mayor Butler would not say that he or City Council knew about complaints against the city manager prior to when the complaint was filed.
“The council can’t do anything until a formal complaint is filed,” he said. “You can’t go by rumors, innuendo or anything oral. It has to be in writing.”
Under his leadership, the city has put together strategic and comprehensive plans for the city. In recent months, however, council members have expressed concerns about communication issues involving a proposal to move council chambers to the new city courtroom on the first floor and combining the grounds crews in the parks and public works departments.
Mr. Finn replaced former City Manager Sharon A. Addison, whose contract was not renewed by council in January 2018. He is under contract with the city until next July when council members could decide whether to renew it.
Mr. Finn was unanimously appointed to the position in July 2018 amid reports of complaints from employees and elected officials about his management style and the way he handled some issues in other communities he worked.
Both the mayor and Councilman Horbacz defended the way they handled looking into the complaints into Mr. Finn’s prior employment in those communities.
They said council did their “due diligence” in looking at his prior experience, noting elected officials from one community wrote a letter exonerating Mr. Finn.
Mr. Finn was city manager at numerous locations, including Sandusky, Ohio; Sun Prairie, Wis.; Takoma Park, Md.; and Peekskill, N.Y. Most recently, he worked as the city manager in Bay City until he left in June 2017.
Council members Sarah V. Compo, Ryan Henry Wilkinson and Lisa A. Ruggiero could not be reached for comment on Thursday.