Watertown city manager to be investigated after employee complaint

Updated: Nov. 7, 2019 at 5:42 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - 7 News has learned there will be an investigation into Watertown City Manager Rick Finn after an employee filed a formal complaint.

City Council Member Cody Horbacz confirms the complaint was submitted by a female department head to the city attorney and the city's human resources director.

“This employee feels like they’ve been treated unfairly and they’ve been feeling that way for some time and it came to a point where they felt like they had to file an official complaint," said Horbacz.

Horbacz adds it is not sexual in nature.

7 News has learned the complaint includes more than half a dozen instances and lists a number of witnesses.

Horbacz and Mayor Joe Butler say it is now going to be investigated by an independent human resources expert and the city will get an unbiased report.

“We take every complaint seriously and we owe it to both individuals involved to do a thorough investigation and determine if the allegations are true and if so proceed with action if necessary," said Butler.

Horbacz says he has heard murmurs of other complaints of this kind, but says no official complaint has been made until now.

"We're going to take it seriously regardless if there were a pattern or not. Every allegation should be taken seriously and investigated fully," he said.

When Finn was hired last July, reports of a number of controversies came to light from other cities where he had worked. Watertown lawmakers say that shouldn’t be taken into account here.

"We don't know what happened in those other communities; we don't know the background of the complaints and how they're filed and when you're in a position of management, you have to manage people and sometimes you have to be stern with people, you have to do things that are unpopular among your employees," said Horbacz.

“I can’t speak on those issues that were raised by the media in the past because I don’t have first hand knowledge of them or any documentation to support that so I think that’s irrespective in this case,” Butler.

We reached out to Finn for comment but have not heard back.

We also reached out to City Attorney Robert Slye, who said he had “zero comment.”

Despite controversies at his past jobs, city council unanimously voted to approve Finn as the new city manager in July 2018.

Finn was reportedly accused of racist comments in 2011 while city manager in Peekskill, New York, though Watertown officials said those allegations were dismissed by the city of Peekskill.

“His employer passed a resolution unanimously saying that those were false,” said Butler in 2018.

There were also reports of various problems at jobs in Sandusky, Ohio, Takoma Park, Maryland and Bay City, Michigan, though Finn reportedly said he was exonerated - and that he held employees to high standards.

Finn replaced Sharon Addison, whose contract was not renewed after she served six years in the city’s top job.

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