Lawsuit: Minneapolis city official harrassed co-worker for years
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn - From fire chief to director of emergency preparedness, Rocco Forte was once one of the most powerful city officials in Minneapolis. However, his fall from grace has been riddled with allegations of sexual harassment, retaliation, and inappropriate relationships.
The latest bombshell dropped this week was in the form of a lawsuit in which a former employee describes almost daily un-wanted touching and verbally abusive behavior.
The complaint details a pattern of abuse that alleges Forte ordered the woman to sit next to him in meetings, where he would rub her legs, asking her if she would have a ménage a trios with him and his girlfriend, constantly telling her about his sexual prowess, and forcing her to work from her infant son’s hospital room while she was on family medical leave.
Clay Halunen has litigated some of the most recognized discrimination suits in Minnesota, and though he isn't associated with this case, he says this isn't new territory for the city.
"They have staff and that's all they do is defend lawsuits. It's not like they have to hire a law firm and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars," Haulen said.
The suit also claims Forte would go through the plaintiff's phone records, and at one point, had someone follow her.
Added to all of that, the plaintiff’s attorney claims Forte's girlfriend at the time was the head of human resources so his client had nowhere in the department to go for help.
"If that were the case and she conspired or was part of this, I think the city would have a big problem on their hands," Haulen said. "No one can be expected to work in a workplace where they have to submit to that demeaning treatment."
Halunen said this lawsuit could have a snowball effect as this suit could give other victims the strength they need to come forward.
Forte resigned from his position with the city in 2011 amidst an investigation into his behavior.
The plaintiff left her job with the city not long after that.