Scheming, secrets and sex: HR’s nightmare investigation

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Before top Minneapolis official Rocco Forte left abruptly in 2011, he was lauded across the world for his quick response to a highway bridge collapse. Amongst other accomplishments throughout his 36-year career, he was credited with enticing a more diverse workforce to the city’s fire department. Naturally, questions were raised about his departure, and at the time, the city’s HR director Pamela French would not speak about why they hired an external investigator, except that to say that it was instigated by a complaint.

This month, the truth came out, and as some would say, it’s stranger than fiction.

It turns out Forte had secretly embarked on a sexual relationship with a subordinate employee he called “My Loving Angel”, and together, they schemed against anybody who happened to get in their bad books.

Amongst the pair’s retaliatory tactics was an incident in which Forte took away an employee’s provided cell phone, and proceeded to spread rumors that she was using it to call sex lines. He then had her Photoshopped out of a team photograph, all due to demands via email from his romantic partner. “[S]he tried to prove me wrong. Big mistake on her part!!!” Forte’s “Loving Angel” wrote to him.

The two wrote explicit emails to each other on their work accounts, using code words that the city’s HR department had the task of demystifying throughout the investigation.

Employees testified that he regularly made slurs based on their sexual orientation, and boasted about beating gays. He also wrote in email correspondence that he enjoyed observing the weakness of employees going through family hardships, saying: “I will use (it) against them at some point.”

It was June 2004 when Forte was appointed as director of regulatory services, and in June 2011 he resigned, saying he was unaware of any complaints against him. An investigation had begun in February 2011, and by the end of his tenure, Forte had racked up enough evidence against him for the city to fill four 3-inch-thick binders.

At the time of resignation, he was on a salary of $131,972 excluding benefits, and is now eligible for a $53,800 annual pension. Forte has no relation to the eponymous hotel chain.

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