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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Rochester chamber faces scrutiny following Braatz's abrupt departure

Rochester chamber faces scrutiny following Braatz's abrupt departure

An update to this story.

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's board of directors has hired an outside firm to investigate claims made by former membership director Judy Braatz.

The nature of the allegations is unknown at this time. According to acting chamber spokesperson Paul Richardson, the organization's executive board has reviewed a letter submitted by Braatz. The contents of the letter have not been made public. 

Braatz left the organization last week after an apparent falling out with chamber president Rob Miller. Braatz had spent 24 years with the chamber, making her the organization's longest tenured employee.

At the advice of her attorney, Braatz is not speaking publicly about her sudden departure. Miller, who joined the chamber three years ago, has not responded to our request for comment.

In recent days, a string of small businesses have dumped their memberships in response to Braatz’s exit. Some have taken the step of using social media and local news outlets to express their disappointment with the chamber.

As the public face of the organization, Braatz was often the first point of contact for new members. During her tenure, the chamber grew to the largest in Minnesota.

Back in March, speaking on a local podcast, Braatz called her position at the chamber “the best career in Rochester. Everybody wants my job.”

“People have said, ‘Judy, you make feel as important as your biggest member.’ That means everything to me,” she told the Stationary Astronauts podcast.

Her parting ways with the chamber follows two other high-profile departures from the organization. Both Julie Fiesel and Julie Brock left the chamber this past spring.

News of internal strife within the chamber comes as it prepares to host hundreds of regional business leaders for the 2017 Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit on Sept. 7.

Note: Richardson, who previously worked with Miller in Arizona, is the chamber’s vice president of development and operations.

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