Northfield is parting ways with its city administrator after a female department head complained he wouldn’t leave her alone when she tried to end an intimate relationship with him.
Nicholas Haggenmiller was placed on paid administrative leave Sept. 15 and will be terminated at the end of the month, according to a separation agreement provided by the city.
City Council members voted 4-3 to approve the agreement, which had also been signed by Haggenmiller, after two closed meetings earlier this month.
Haggenmiller’s separation agreement releases him and the city from any liability and includes a denial of “any form of wrongdoing” by both parties. A positive letter of recommendation will be included in Haggenmiller’s personnel file.
The first formal written complaint was filed Aug. 21 in an e-mail to Northfield’s human resources manager, Michelle Mahowald. The department head’s name was redacted from a copy of the complaint released by the city.
According to the complaint, Haggenmiller refused to leave the woman alone after she tried to terminate the relationship with him. In her e-mail to Mahowald, the woman wrote that she had tried a second time to end the “intimate relationship” between May 18 and 21.
“I asked Nick to leave me alone and talk to his wife if he wanted an emotionally intimate relationship,” the complaint said. “I realized I was stuck in a very bad situation that could permanently damage my career.”
A message left at a phone number listed for Haggenmiller was not immediately returned.
Mayor Dana Graham expressed disappointment Wednesday that news about Haggenmiller’s employment status was overshadowing other city events.
Graham said the three votes against terminating Haggenmiller came from council members who were concerned over possible open meeting law violations or said Haggenmiller’s offense was not worthy of termination.
“I don’t think we followed the law in the way we conducted the proceedings, but I guess it’s been done,” Council Member David Ludescher said.
Graham said the city consulted “no less than eight attorneys” about open meeting rules. State law provides that a public body can close one or more meetings to consider “allegations or charges against an individual subject to its authority.” Haggenmiller had the option to make the meetings open, but chose not to, Graham said.
“People don’t like it and there’s a thirst for all the details out there. I understand that,” Graham said. “But we wanted to make sure we followed all the attorneys.”
Haggenmiller has been Northfield’s city administrator since August 2014 and makes $107,990 per year. He will receive a lump-sum payment upon termination equal to two months’ salary and any unused vacation time. He will also retain insurance coverage until Nov. 30.
Graham said he hopes to recommend an interim city administrator by Oct. 6 and will meet soon with a search firm to begin looking for a full-time replacement.