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Wausau's Finance Director gets apparent wrist slap after harassment and intimidation investigation

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau’s City Finance Director is being punished for workplace harassment and violating city policies, but it may not seem like much of a punishment. 

Maryanne Groat was investigated for several months after a complaint was filed by City Attorney Anne Jacobson. Investigators found a pattern of intimidation and disrespecting other employees. Not only was the investigation critical of Groat, it also points the finger at Mayor James Tipple for being complicit and allowing the situation to become out of hand. Wausau’s Finance Director answers directly to the Mayor.

Several documents were released to multiple media outlets after open records requests were filed. The disciplinary agreement was nearly 50% blacked out for alleged personnel reasons. The only part of the punishment the city allowed the public to see was a 10 day suspension without pay that must be taken before the end of the year, at Groat’s convenience and that she will have more performance reviews.

The internally prepared report showed how Groat challenged City Attorney Anne Jacobson’s legal opinions, and even tried to have her minimized or removed as the city’s attorney. Groat was often involved in city business including attempts to lower the valuation of Wausau Center Mall, and seeking separate legal opinions on the Thomas Street project.  The investigation uncovered one request where Groat asked the city's assessor to do something Assessor Nan Giese called, "illegal and unethical" concerning the mall.

The report says, “lt was abundantly apparent that Groat exercises more authority than set forth in her job description. Some described it as simply filling a void in the absence of other management. Some described it as a reach for power.” It goes on to say that “They could not explain why so many were in absolute fear of Ms. Groat.”

Mayor Tipple reportedly has the only unredacted copy of the discipline document, and city council members might not be able to access it.

It's not clear when Groat will take her required leave of absense.  What is clear is the City of Wausau is keeping a $106,000 per year employee that now has several unflattering entries in her personnel file, and has multiple city staff members that are uncomfortable working with her.

 

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