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Gardner

WATERTOWN — Erin D. Gardner, the city’s parks and recreation department superintendent who filed a complaint with the state’s Division of Human Rights against former City Manager Rick Finn, has been suspended.

Ms. Gardner confirmed on Wednesday evening that she was suspended without pay pending a hearing. City Manager Kenneth A. Mix told her about the suspension on Wednesday, accusing her of insubordination for talking to council members about her complaint that Mr. Finn created a hostile work environment.

She thinks the suspension is retaliation against her for filing the complaint against Mr. Finn.

Saying that she’s had enough, Ms. Gardner said she’s tired of “the lies going on.”

“It’s not right,” she said, adding “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

While he was a candidate last fall, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and unidentified City Council members encouraged her to file the hostile work complaint with the city against Mr. Finn, she said.

“I’m blaming him for encouraging me to file the complaint concerning Rick Finn and now he’s trying to get me out,” she said.

A hearing officer will preside over the hearing and then make a recommendation to Mr. Mix, who will then determine what should be done with Ms. Gardner.

Mayor Smith and Mr. Mix couldn’t be reached for comment. City Attorney Robert J. Slye declined to comment.

“The city doesn’t comment on these things,” he said. “We didn’t comment on the Finn investigation and we’re not going to comment. We don’t comment. Period.”

In December, Ms. Gardner filed a complaint with the state human rights division about Mr. Finn, who abruptly resigned on Jan. 24.

Before that, the city hired an independent human resources consultant, HR Consultants, Glenville. The firm conducted the internal probe for the city and completed a report. The city has never made the report public.

After reviewing the report, the council determined that Mr. Finn’s alleged behavior did not rise to the level of having created a hostile work environment, but that “other concerns and issues arose during the investigation which are of concern to both Mr. Finn and the City Council.” He abruptly resigned that day.

Two weeks ago, a Human Rights Commission spokesman would not comment on the investigation being conducted by its Syracuse office. The commission will hold a public hearing if it determines the complaint was warranted.

On April 8, the human rights commission conducted a teleconference with both parties to find out more about the complaint.

Since then, Ms. Gardner filed an amended complaint with the human rights commission. The city then answered the complaint.

Mr. Slye hasn’t heard from the human rights commission since then.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Gardner’s attorney, James D. Hartt, said he had just heard about “recent events” involving his client and that he was still learning about it.

“I literally don’t have enough information to comment,” Mr. Hartt said, adding that he would have more information on Thursday.

On the day that Mr. Finn resigned, Mr. Mix was appointed to city manager until a permanent one is named.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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