Settlement reached over attorney’s fees in Finn report case

Settlement reached over attorney’s fees in Finn report case
Watertown City Manager Rick Finn (Source: WWNY)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The City of Watertown will pay Gray Media Group, owners of WWNY-TV, $10,395 in lawyers fees tied to the release of the Rick Finn report.

A settlement agreement between both parties was finalized Thursday.

As part of the agreement, the city will make the payment within 30 days.

This marks the end of a drawn out legal fight over the release of an independent investigation into the behavior of former Watertown City Manager Rick Finn- an investigation sparked by allegations that Finn created a hostile work environment.

The report concluded that Finn’s actions didn’t rise to the level of a violation, but also determined the accusations, brought forward by former Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin Gardner, had merit. It found Finn treated some female workers differently, and acted in an intimidating and offensive manner. The third party investigation determined Finn violated the city’s policies on non-discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace.

The report led to Finn’s resignation in January of 2020.

City officials refused to release it until 7 News and its parent company, Gray Media Group, took the matter to court and won.

As part of that ruling, State Supreme Court Judge James McClusky determined Gray Media Group was entitled to an attorney fee award. In cases involving the release of public documents through a Freedom of Information Law request, these awards are meant as a deterrent, dissuading governments from withholding public documents in the future.

Gray Media Group spent more than $120,000 working on the case. In the end, Judge McClusky determined the city should pay just over $10,000.

The agreement reached between the city and Gray Media group honors that ruling and settles all legal action in this case. It also means the city will withdraw its appeal to avoid paying a portion of Gray’s lawyer’s fees.

The city has spent $24,000 defending the action, bringing the city’s total bill to nearly $35,000.

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