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Watertown's city manager resigns after investigation

Payne Horning
Watertown City Manager Rick Finn, who took over in 2018, has stepped down.

Watertown City Manager Rick Finn has decided to step down after an investigation was opened alleging he created a hostile work environment.

The complaint was filed last year. Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith said the investigation, which was run by an outside firm, was completed last week. Smith said after meeting for several hours, the Watertown City Council came to the conclusion that the allegations did not meet or rise to the level of a hostile work environment.

"However, the report did uncover some other issues that when discussing with Mr. Finn that we felt was -Mr. Finn felt was in his best interest and the city’s best interest that he move on," Smith said. "Additionally, there were - having this investigation over Mr. Finn’s head did cause him a great deal of stress and he chose to resign."

City officials would not discuss the specifics of the complaint or what issues of concern with Finn were raised in the report because it is a personnel matter and they don't want to deter future city employees from coming forward with complaints. But City Councilor Ryan Henry-Wilkinson did say that everyone involved has accepted the outcome.

"You know it's most likely in the best interest of the city that he decided this was a good time to resign," Henry-Wilkinson said.

Henry-Wilkinson was on the city council when Finn was hired in 2018. During their search they discovered that Finn, who had been a city manager in five other municipalities, resigned from several jobs amid complaints about his management stylethat had been described by some as bullying and intimidating. But Henry-Wilkinson said he doesn't think the council made a mistake in hiring Finn, whom he described as well-qualified to lead the city at the time.

"We knew going into it that that might be an issue, his past, but we felt comfortable having spoken with people from some of those other communities that some of the complaints were unfounded or being completely blown out of proportion," Henry-Wilkinson said. "At the time back in 2018, we thought that Mr. Finn was going to come to the city of Watertown and help us a great deal with our Downtown Revitalization Initiative based on his resume and his qualifications, and during the interview process we really thought that he was going to be the guy to help us. So, we had high hopes for him." 

Finn did not return a request for comment.

Kenneth Mix, who previously served as Watertown's planning and community development coordinator, has been appointed interim city manager. Smith says the city will begin a search for a permanent replacement soon.

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.