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Forte then reassigned the employee off the emergency preparedness team and had her Photoshopped out of a team photograph, according to the summary.
Forte, who is not married, said Friday that the relationship with his subordinate was “95 percent” e-mail based. E-mails reviewed by investigators required a glossary to decipher a sexual code of sorts, including “Rocky - Believed to be Forte’s private parts” and “Twins - Appears throughout to reference [redacted]’s breasts.”
“Rocky has been crazy thinking of [redacted] and the Twins,” Forte wrote to the woman from his work account in 2010. “I hope we can get [redacted] and Rocky together again for some quality time!”
A group of slighted workers obtained access to some of Forte’s e-mails, which scared them to the point that they went to the basement to review them. Discovering the relationship was an “aha” moment, since “they felt [redacted] was getting preferential treatment and special privileges.”
Investigators discovered that “MLA” was code for “my loving angel.” In November 2010, someone e-mailed Forte a list of Minneapolis’ sister cities. “I want to do France!!!” someone, whose name is redacted, wrote to Forte. “I want to do MLA,” Forte responded.
Staff retreat: ‘Gossip/Rumors’
Forte seemed to be aware of conflict within his department, based on a 2008 PowerPoint presentation from an emergency preparedness staff retreat. Under the heading, “Gossip / Rumors” one slide read: “At least one person in this room feels that people come to her with problems, because they are afraid to deal with me personally.”
Most of the employees interviewed during the investigation — with some exceptions — confirmed Forte’s bullying in lengthy interviews with investigators.
One described an unhealthy, disrespectful work environment, saying, “If Forte is not picking on you, you’re glad it’s someone else.” In a 2010 e-mail, Forte responded that he enjoyed watching the weakness of someone — likely a co-worker — who was going through a family crisis. “I will use against them at some point,” he wrote.
Things remained somewhat tumultuous in the department after Forte left. His successor, Greg Stubbs, was accused of discriminating against women and spending work time with his family in Florida. He resigned in 2012. Rybak then transferred many of the department’s core responsibilities.
Forte, who now splits his time between Florida and Minnesota, said he went to counseling and spoke with a priest after leaving the city to understand how someone of his background and training could end up in this situation. He said he was working 12-hour days during this period and “got too close to some people” and admitted to making off-color jokes once in a while. He has since learned how to balance his work and personal life better.
“I had 36 years at the city,” he said. “I’ve got a few regrets, but the biggest one is that I allowed myself to be involved with an employee, and I take full responsibility for that.”
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper