Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is encouraging all city employees to speak up if they witness or experience bullying, discrimination or retaliation in the workplace.
Hodges sent an email to all city employees Monday morning, following revelations first reported by MPR News about Rocco Forte, the city's former emergency management director, who resigned in 2011 amid an investigation into his conduct.
Investigators found Forte and another employee carried on a romantic relationship and engaged in "deliberate and malicious personal attacks" against co-workers they viewed as enemies. Nine people told investigators Forte also made disparaging comment about employees' sexual orientations.
"I am sorry that any employee of this City would be placed in an environment where such conduct exists," Hodges wrote. "I also want to thank those employees who came forward and cooperated in the investigation of Mr. Forte. It is because of your courageous actions in bringing forward the complaints that the City was able to conduct its investigation."
Hodges offered employees ways to report allegations of inappropriate behavior, including an anonymous ethics hotline. She said city workers could even contact her directly.
"My door is always open," she wrote.
Hodges was a member of the city council during the time of Forte's alleged misconduct. She became mayor in January.
Forte has not responded to repeated phone call and email requests from MPR News seeking comment. In an interview with the Star Tribune published Sunday, Forte expressed remorse about his relationship with the employee but denied retaliating against people who crossed him. He acknowledged making off-color jokes, but denied any bigotry.
"Nobody has promoted, nobody has hired more women, people of color or gays than I have," he told the newspaper.
Here is Hodges' email to staff this morning:
Subject: Message from the Mayor re: Rocco Forte investigation
To all City employees,
This weekend, the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio published news stories after requesting and receiving information related to the internal City investigation conducted in 2011 into a complaint relating to Rocco Forte, the former director of Regulatory Services. The newspaper and radio stories tell a very disturbing tale of bullying, retribution and retaliation, in addition to an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship.
I am sorry that any employee of this City would be placed in an environment where such conduct exists.
I also want to thank those employees who came forward and cooperated in the investigation of Mr. Forte. It is because of your courageous actions in bringing forward the complaints that the City was able to conduct its investigation.
Because Mr. Forte resigned his position before this extremely thorough investigation was complete, the investigation was closed before decisions about disciplinary consequences could be made. While there was no final conclusion to the investigation, what we learned through the process was very troubling. We hold our City leaders to the highest standards. It is clear from the investigation that our expectations for a department head were not met here.
As the Mayor of this City, I want to reassure all employees that we are 100% committed to providing a respectful, positive work environment for everyone. Moreover, all employees must feel safe that they can come forward with concerns and issues without fear of retaliation. That is the policy of this City and that policy will be enforced.
As set out in the City's Anti-Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation policy, City leaders are to be held to the very highest standards of conduct. That is not only my expectation, but my requirement for all department heads and leaders. You are entitled to no less.
It is all of our responsibility to make sure that workplace concerns are brought forward so that our commitment to a respectful, positive work environment can be achieved.
To read more about the City's Anti-Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation policy, please visit: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/policies/anti-discrim-harass-retaliate.
The policy includes a number of alternate ways for employees to report workplace concerns, including the following:
b. Department Head
c. Human Resources Generalist
d. Human Resources Director: (612)673-2139 or firstname.lastname@example.org
e. Director, Employee Services, Human Resources
f. The Investigative Unit of the Human Resources Department or
g. The City of Minneapolis Ethics Report Line or "hotline."
The City of Minneapolis Ethics Report Line can be reached by calling 1-877-563-1075 or online at https://www.reportlineweb.com/Welcome.aspx?Client=Minneapolis
Ethics hotline reports can be made anonymously.
You can also email me directly at email@example.com. My door is always open.
Thank you for the hard work you do every day on behalf of the people of Minneapolis, and for being our partners in ensuring that we all act with honesty, integrity and respect.
Sincerely, Betsy Hodges Mayor of Minneapolis