The longtime city administrator of Inver Grove Heights has been suspended for three days for making disrespectful and sexually suggestive comments toward a female employee he supervised.
A city-funded investigation by a law firm found that Joe Lynch, who has served as city administrator since 2006, violated the city’s respectful workplace policy twice with the same employee, calling her a “child” and accusing her of acting like “a teenager” last April, and then making a suggestive joke about her dress months later in July.
On Monday, the City Council voted 4-0 in a closed-door meeting to approve a resolution that Lynch had twice violated the city’s workplace policy and that discipline was warranted, including a three-day suspension from work without pay. Lynch may choose the days, though they must occur before Feb. 28.
Other allegations included in the complaint and the investigation report either were unsubstantiated or lacked appropriate evidence, a city memo said.
Lynch did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.
The investigation was conducted by the Rosemount law firm of Everett and VanderWiel and began August 20, a week after the council reviewed the complaint.
The first incident dated back to April 4 after the employee, who was reporting directly to Lynch, wrote a memo to him expressing concerns about a staffing issue involving another worker’s reassignment. After she gave him the memo, he “likened her to a child,” the report said. A day later, the employee recalled, Lynch called her a “teenager” and told her she should grow up, the report said.
The report concluded that the use of those terms was “disrespectful” and “violated the Respectful Workplace Policy’s prohibition against engaging in ‘offensive behavior.’ ” Calling an employee a child or teenager “is an insult — it is belittling because it implies that a person is immature or personally deficient,” the report said.
The investigation determined that Lynch made offensive comments only a few months later about the same employee that again violated city policy. On July 9, Lynch complimented her on her dress and asked if she was going on a date that night. The employee said that she did have a date but that she was going to “take the dress off — meaning, that she planned to change clothes beforehand,” the report said.
Lynch “said something along the lines of, ‘you’re going to take your dress off for your date already?’ ” the report said.
The employee said that wasn’t what she meant. Lynch replied, according to the report, “I know, but that’s what you said.’ ” He repeated the statement about the employee removing her dress for her date to someone else who approached, the report said.
“The comments Lynch made were objectively offensive and the evidence shows that [the employee] found it so. The comments carry the unmistakable implication that [the employee] intended to engage in sexual activities while on her date,” the report said, adding that Lynch should have known that was wrong.
One other complaint had been previously filed against Lynch, according to Timothy Kuntz, Inver Grove Heights’ city attorney. That complaint was filed in May 2014, but the City Council determined that it didn’t warrant discipline.
Lynch, who has served as administrator in several cities including Arden Hills and Long Lake, receives a salary of $153,524. Kuntz said that Lynch’s 2019 salary hasn’t yet been determined.