• Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

City of Fargo Director of Finance fired over serious allegations of ‘toxic work environment’

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – The City of Fargo is looking for a new Finance Director after they fired the previous one over a long list of workplace issues.

City documents say on March 10, 2023, members of the finance team met with the city administrator to go over concerns about Terri Gayhart’s “leadership, professionalism and communication.”

Members of the finance team said the work environment declined and reported the following issues with Director Gayhart:

-Lack of professionalism

-Lack of communication

-Lake of follow through

-Lack of leadership

-Lack of being a resource for the finance department

Following the meeting with the finance team, the city administrator met with other city officials and determined Gayhart should be placed on administrative leave while they investigated claims of a “toxic work environment.” Gayhart was officially placed on leave on March 31, 2023.

Gayhart was hired in May of 2022, and documents show complaints started surfacing about her work within one month of being hired. The summary report shows members of the finance team then started reaching out to city HR and asking for advice on how to communicate with Gayhart. At that time, the report says HR attributed some of the issues to new leadership and adjusting to new dynamics.

In November 2022, an exit interview shows a long-time member of the finance team quit because of Gayhart. A finance manager with the department for 15 years laid out multiple issues with Gayhart and said, “In the end, I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this place to get the experience that I have. I find my experience to be unwelcomed and unappreciated. It was a hard decision but someone like her [Gayhart] does not deserve someone like me (and everyone else in the Finance Office).”

The former finance manager also alleged Gayhart used ableist slurs like “ret****d” several times and would comment about accounting with the phrase “raping the fund.”

The exit interview also alleged Gayhart missed several high-profile meetings with city officials and was often late to other meetings throughout the day and didn’t respond to emails.

In February 2023, the city’s report shows Gayhart had a performance review with the city administrator to go over “concerns that have been relayed by members of the Finance Team as well as a few concerns relayed from outside the department.” Expectations were then laid out for Gayhart including an effort to engage with members of the team, building an environment of respect and trust, attend all meetings as requested, and resolving conflict with members of the team among other areas of concern.

In March, the city started a formal investigation into Gayhart and interviewed several of her colleagues. Many of them brought up serious allegations of dreading work because of Gayhart and also said she had few instances of threatening behavior.

When Gayhart was asked about these allegations, documents show she wouldn’t confirm them and often would say she couldn’t remember the situation being brought up.

City officials tell Valley News Live, after the investigation they decided to terminate Gayhart’s employment on May 17, 2023.

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