Stephen Morales, an analyst with the city of Santa Fe’s Finance Department, was at his desk when he saw yet another email from his boss, Bradley Fleutsch, asking which parts of the comprehensive annual financial report Morales was responsible for.
Morales answered and continued with his day. A few weeks later, Fleutsch, the city’s cash and investment manager, stormed into Morales’ cubicle, shouting and cursing at him for not sending a reply. Morales, taken aback and alarmed that Fleutsch, who he describes as an imposing man, was blocking him into his small workspace, checked his email and confirmed that he had sent a list of his responsibilities.
It was September 2018, and it wasn’t the first time Fleutsch had been aggressive toward subordinates, according to interviews with five current and former Finance Department employees and documents obtained by SFR.
And it wouldn’t be the last.
Several current employees who asked not to be named in this story out of fear for their jobs confirmed the incident between Morales and Fleutsch. They shared their own stories of verbal harassment, too, opening a window on a potentially startling situation at City Hall, in the office where Santa Feans’ money is managed.
Chains of command are unclear, according to the employees, and supervisors often don’t grasp basic governmental accounting. Procedures are not clarified. The city’s cash accounts, which should be reconciled daily according to Morales, have been behind for five months as a result of what he and other employees describe as an exodus of staff.
A relatively new crop of managers, including Fleutsch, often lean on finance line workers for guidance on how to run the department, the employees tell SFR. It’s chipped away at workplace culture and threatens the city’s fiscal health.
And then there’s the yelling.
SFR has reviewed multiple hostile work environment complaints submitted to human resources naming Fleutsch, who has served the department since 2016, as the aggressor.
After several complaints from staff members, city officials commissioned an independent investigation to determine whether action was necessary. Many employees were interviewed, and they say that shortly after, Fleutsch changed offices but remained in his position.
“The City of Santa Fe takes employee concerns very seriously,” Kristine Mihelcic, constituent and council services director for the city, writes in an email to SFR. She also confirmed the investigation is ongoing.
The city did not otherwise respond to the SFR’s questions about allegations of verbal abuse by Fleutsch, or specific criticisms of his accounting knowledge, and did not make Fleutsch available for an interview. Mihelcic did point out that he was on the team that found inconsistencies in the city’s books, which led to the publication of the McHard report, a sweeping look into various instances of mismanagement in the city’s finances that was issued in late 2017.
Several employees have left the Finance Department, and among those who remain, many wish they could follow their former colleagues—but struggle to find other jobs.
“Many of us don’t have the option of walking out the door,” one employee says. “It becomes disturbing in the way that it starts affecting our morale, our health, our wellbeing. It makes us sick. It’s made me sick.”
Another employee tells SFR they’ve worked for the city for years, adding: “I’ve never felt threatened until now.”
Employees have begun recording and documenting every encounter with management, particularly Fleutsch, and Morales has requested a union representative be present at many of his meetings with his superiors.
Many of the rank-and-file finance staffers have worked for municipal government all their working lives, but the new crop of managers, despite having a solid background in investments and private-sector work, is still making basic accounting errors over a year after taking the helm, according to the employees.
Morales worries that critical issues raised in the McHard report are going unaddressed.
“We are now going on five months of the city’s cash account not being reconciled in a timely manner, and this is an assured audit finding in the upcoming [comprehensive annual financial report],” Morales wrote in an email to SFR in March. “Moreover, a directive has been given from the Finance Department to have monthly closeouts, this is impossible without correct cash balances.”
“We’re building on an arroyo, a bed of sand,” Morales tells SFR.
One employee recorded an exchange between Fleutsch and another employee in which Fleutsch is loudly criticizing staff.
“Did I get any help from the accountants on this stuff?” Fleutsch can be heard saying. “You guys knew in advance that I didn’t understand 29 and 30,” referring to a specific task the Finance Department was working on.
“Then how do you oversee an accounting department?” an employee says, voice trembling. “How do you oversee it?”
“I just want you to know, Bradley, I will be looking for another job,” says a different employee, who later confirmed to SFR it was her voice on the tape. “I don’t care if it’s in the middle of an audit, because this is bullshit.”
She's working somewhere else now.