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Watertown's newly hired city manager has faced complaints over management style

Payne Horning
The Watertown City Council has hired Rick Finn, right, as its new city manager.

When Watertown's mayor and city council announced that they had hired Rick Finn as the new city manager, they cited his experience as one of the reasons for his selection. Finn has been a city manager in five municipalities. But some of his experiences in those jobs are raising some concerns.

Finn resigned from several jobs amid complaints about his management style. According to the Peekskill Daily Voice, he stepped down as city manager in Peekskill, New York, after criticisms that he bullied some employees and made a racist remark during a training seminar. He was exonerated on the racist charge. 

M Live in Michigan reported that Finn was investigated, and later cleared, of wrongdoing over a dispute with a Bay City department head about a study. The city's mayor Kathleen Newsham told WRVO that she thinks Finn used intimidation when working with that employee and she says she does not like his management style. Finn would go on to resign from the Bay City position, but Newsham says city leaders were not interested in renewing his contract anyway.

Watertown City Councilor Cody Horbacz says he and his fellow councilors were made aware of these incidents and others during Finn's interview.

"He was very up front, honest and open about his past and I think that was one of the things that really made us kind of feel comfortable with it," Finn said. 

Horbacz says every candidate the council interviewed for the city manager job had baggage. But they were not deterred by Finn's past after talking to his former colleagues.

"We felt that his accomplishments and his experience and expertise outweigh some of the run-ins he’s had with staff," Horbacz said. "I think he realizes that in the past he has come across a little too harsh on employees he felt were not achieving the standards that he has set. So he recognized that and has adjusted the way he approaches those situations."

Despite those complaints, some of Finn's former colleagues praised his work. Bay City Mayor Newsham said Finn had several good ideas during his employment and that many people enjoyed working with him, including Bay City Commissioner John Davidson who told WRVO that he was sad to see Finn leave.

Finn could not be reached for comment.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.