The organizational chart prior to former General Manager Darren Milner’s restructuring. Document courtesy of the Idyllwild Water District
The organizational chart presented by former General Manager Darren Milner. Milner resigned from his position days after the organizational chart was pulled from the November 2019 board agenda/packet, according to an internal district email. Document courtesy of the Idyllwild Water District

The newspaper received some of the documents it requested from the Idyllwild Water District (IWD) pertaining to the lawsuit filed by former General Manager Michael Creighton. An email included in the documents received may reveal at least one of the reasons former General Manager Darren Milner abruptly resigned.  

The documents were received via email from the district’s new General Manager Leo Havener at 11:02 a.m. the morning after the newspaper went to press (May 13), revealing that documents had not been produced well after the time to produce them had lapsed (as outlined by the California Public Records Act). The documents were requested in March. 

However, there are requested documents the newspaper has not received as of press time. Those are listed at the end of the story. 

Creighton alleges in the lawsuit that the IWD board of directors unlawfully terminated him from his general manager position in retaliation for disciplinary actions he took in response to the Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman’s reported harassment of female coworkers. The lawsuit also alleges that some of the district’s board members violated the Brown Act.

The general manager between Creighton (fired Sept. 25) and Havener (hired March 4 during a special meeting) was Milner. His first day with the district was Oct. 21. 

He abruptly resigned from the district on Nov. 17, a Sunday. In his resignation letter Milner wrote that he was “experiencing an unhealthy culture and difficult work environment at the district due to poor communication.”

In the first set of documents received by the newspaper is an email sent by the IWD office email address on Dec. 18 to IWD board Vice President Peter Szabadi informing him about a decision made by board President Dr. Charles Schelly. 

“For your information — the attached was removed from the Nov. 20 board packet via Dr. Schelly on Nov. 13. Darren [Milner] never returned to work.

“Please take this into consideration as you discuss item number five [board’s review and approval of organizational chart] on tonight’s agenda.” 

The attached document referenced in the email is an organizational chart and memo (documents included with this story). 

The memo reads: “Additions/Changes: 1. Remove Michael Creighton from General Manager position and replace with Darren Milner to fill general manager position. 2. Add Mitch Freeman to fill vacant field supervisor position, formerly Chief Operations Officer position. 3. Remove Jeannine Copelin [Olsen], administrative assistant/board secretary, and Amy Hawley, office assistant, to report directly to Darren Milner, general manager. Hosny Shouman, chief financial officer, will continue to report directly to the general manager (Darren Milner) but will have no direct report.” Copelin [Olsen] and Hawley reported to Shouman in the prior organizational chart. 

Milner wrote the following regarding background: “Due to the employee turnover and new employee additions, there have been several different organizational charts created, modified, revised and updated at the district.” 

The memo presented with item 5 on the Dec. 18 agenda, about a month after Milner’s resignation, reads: “With the recent addition of the position of field supervisor, as well as the decision of an acting general manager, there is a need to establish a clear and easily understood chain of command within the organization.” Freeman became the district’s acting general manager on Nov. 27 during a special board meeting. This chart has Copelin [Olsen] and Hawley reporting to Shouman, the chief financial officer. 

Hawley no longer works for the district and it is unclear if Copelin [Olsen] is still employed by IWD. 

The newspaper asked Schelly in an email on May 29 regarding the removal of the organizational chart from the November 2019 board meeting. 

The newspaper did not receive a response by press time. 

The newspaper still has not received the following documents:  

• A log of any and all payments made to every employee and board member for the last three years. 

• A list of all current employees and interns for the district and their salary.