Idyllwild Water District (from left to right) General Manager Michael Creighton with directors David Hunt, Steve Kunkle, Dr. Charles Schelly and Peter Szabadi. Director Les Gin is absent.   Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez

The Idyllwild Water District (IWD) board terminated another general manager at its special meeting last week. General Manager Michael Creighton’s probation contract was terminated, leaving the water district without a general manager, yet again. 

This is the district’s second general manager in less than a year, and ninth in a few years.  

After an hour of discussion between four of the five board members — Director Les Gin was absent — a motion was made to terminate Creighton without cause, effective immediately. Creighton was present at the meeting and was excused from the discussion about 25 minutes after the closed session meeting commenced.

Director Peter Szabadi was the only member to abstain from the vote. The other three — directors Charles Schelly, David Hunt and Steve Kunkle — voted in favor of the termination. 

“I would have preferred a longer transition period for new management personnel to take over the management of our district, “Szabadi wrote in an email to the Town Crier when he was asked why he abstained from the vote.  

The newspaper asked Schelly, the board president, for Creighton’s employee agreement the night of the meeting, Sept. 25. Schelly was also asked who was going to take the role of acting general manager. According to the IWD office on Oct. 2, there is no acting general manager, but Schelly is performing any general manager duties that need to be completed.  

According to his employment agreement, Creighton was receiving an annual salary of $104,833. He also had use of a district-owned vehicle and monthly residency incentive pay of $500 in addition to his pay per month “commencing on the first day of the month upon the employee establishing his permanent residence within six (6) miles of the location of the district office for the entire term of his employment as long as such permanent residence is maintained.” 

The board held a special meeting on Aug. 28 to evaluate Creighton — not the first time since he has been with the district. The board held a special meeting on June 26 for the same reason.

At the end of the meeting, Creighton asked if he could come back and get his belongings and return the district vehicle the next morning since the termination was immediate. The board agreed.  

Meeting stipend

The newspaper contacted IWD’s Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman, who was the subject of another employee evaluation at the July 10 special meeting, and asked which directors take a meeting stipend and the amount of the stipend. 

“The meeting stipend for IWD [board] members is $50, and only three members receive a stipend -- Schelly, Szabadi and Gin,” Shouman wrote in an email. 

The next IWD board meeting is Oct. 16, unless there is another special meeting prior to that date.