WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Watertown City Manager Rick Finn has resigned and a former city employee has been named to replace him on an interim basis.
The announcement was made Friday afternoon following a nearly 4-hour closed door meeting of city council.
Finn had been the subject of an investigation into allegations that he created a hostile work environment for Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin Gardner. The investigation was carried out by a consultant hired by the city.
City council said based on the consultant's report, it "determined that the allegations received and investigated do not rise to the level of a hostile work environment, but that other issues arose during the course of the investigation which are of concern to both Finn and the city council."
According to a separation agreement between the city and Finn, “Given the accumulated stress of the investigation and his decision to move beyond its claims, Finn has determined to resign his position as City Manager and the City Council has agreed to accept his resignation.”
Finn’s resignation goes into effect at the closed of business on Friday.
“Mr. Finn felt that it was in the best interest for him and the city, in addition to the additional stress that was put on Mr. Finn in this investigation, that he separate and move on,” said Mayor Jeff Smith.
Finn declined comment following the announcement.
The separation agreement also said Finn will be paid one month’s salary, receive health insurance benefits through February 29, receive payment for his initial moving expenses, and be paid all accrued vacation and sick leave and paid holidays through Friday.
It was then announced that former city employee Kenneth Mix will serve as interim city manager.
“The city of Watertown is much bigger than any one individual in the city and this isn’t going to stop city business or the functions of the city at all,” said Smith.
According to a news release from Smith, Mix has more than 30 years of experience with the city and previously served as the Watertown’s planning and community development coordinator.
“In the very near future, we will begin the process of identifying an individual to serve as the City’s new, permanent Manager,” the news release said.
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 former Mayor Joe 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.