Updated 6:49 p.m. | Posted 2:50 p.m.
Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Rob Miller resigned his post effective immediately on Wednesday after a key chamber executive went public with allegations Miller had bullied her and was trying to push her out.
Earlier in the day, the Rochester Post-Bulletin published a letter from membership director Judy Braatz, who said Miller had belittled and defamed her. MPR News confirmed the letter's authenticity.
An outside law firm has been hired to investigate.
But even before the investigation was complete, Miller said the small but powerful media storm around Braatz's departure prompted his resignation. Miller characterized Braatz's allegations as an attack on him, and one he worried would affect his staff and family.
"I've never in my life seen anything like this or gone through anything like this and I felt like it was time to let the healing begin," Miller said in an interview. "The damage to my team, the damage to the volunteers, and the damage to my family is already done. We can't put that genie back in the bottle."
Miller added that he urged the investigation of her complaints, which he said he was confident would clear his name.
In her letter, Braatz alleged Miller has "significant difficulty working with women. It is no secret that other strong women in the organization have left because of how Mr. Miller has treated them."
Among the other accusations:
• Miller would often comment on how expensive she was to employ, specifically the cost of her health insurance.
• Miller badgered her for a retirement date, which she refused to give.
• Miller defamed her in public, suggesting that she has a drinking problem, which she denies.
Braatz did not return MPR News' repeated phone calls.
Chamber Board Chair Lisa Clarke praised Miller as she announced his exit. In a statement, she did not mention the allegations by Braatz.
"Rob is a visionary leader who brought great energy, business acumen and an entrepreneurial vantage point to our chamber ... We know there are great things in store for Rob in the future," Clarke said in her statement.
The chamber board, she added, will meet immediately to begin a search for Miller's full-time replacement.
The Rochester chamber is big and gaining prominence.
One ranking has it as the largest in Minnesota after the state-wide Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
The Rochester group's profile is on the rise along with the Destination Medical Center economic development effort. A big component of DMC is growing the Rochester economy and attracting new businesses to the area. The Chamber plays a key role in cultivating and supporting the city's business community.
The two are joined at the top. DMC CEO Lisa Clarke also chairs the Chamber's board.