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Gardner files federal lawsuit against city of Watertown

Erin Gardner
Erin Gardner(WWNY)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 11:24 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Watertown’s former superintendent of Parks and Recreation is suing the city.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court this week, Erin Gardner claims the city failed to protect her against a hostile work environment created by former city manager Rick Finn.

The suit also alleges the city retaliated against her when she was suspended and, later, fired.

Mayor Jeff Smith had no comment when contacted by 7 News Wednesday. A message was left for city attorney Robert Slye. We’ll update this story if we hear back.

Finn resigned in January 2020 following an independent report that showed allegations of discrimination against women had merit. The city didn’t release the report until a court ordered it to in October following a lawsuit filed by WWNY.

Gardner’s federal lawsuit says that Finn repeatedly castigated her and on at least two occasions yelled at her during department head meetings, something the suit claims he wouldn’t do if she were a man.

The suit claims the harassment continued under Ken Mix, who was interim city manager after Finn’s departure and became city manager shortly before Gardner was fired in November.

City officials said they fired Gardner because she discussed her complaints about Finn to city council members and the media, calling those actions insubordinate.

The suit is seeking damages from loss of income as well as from physical and emotional suffering. No dollar amounts are named in the suit.

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