Idyllwild Water District (IWD) Chief Financial Officer Hosny Shouman was written up twice, a week apart, by General Manager Michael Creighton. But soon after, the board voted to terminate Creighton in a special meeting on Sept. 25, 2019, who filed a lawsuit against the district earlier this year.
The trial settlement conference in the Creighton lawsuit was vacated by the court and it set a trial readiness conference for Dec. 16. The district is denying all of the allegations made in the complaint. Creighton’s lawsuit seeks $578,476 in damages from Idyllwild Water District.
The letters of written reprimand and unacceptable performance, dated Sept. 17 and 25, 2019, related to “granting an employee’s ‘Supplemental Pay Authorization’ without having the authority to do so” and an “investigation concluded that the charges of violating district policy related to conduct in the workplace, described herein, were sustained, and you [Shouman] are receiving a written reprimand with ordered anti-bullying/anti-harassment training or management coaching, at the district’s option.”
The newspaper previously reported on an $8,800 payment made by the district in September 2019 to consulting firm Aarvig and Associates. The consulting firm conducted “an independent investigation of workplace complaints made by Jeannine Olsen and Amy Miller” concerning Shouman.
An additional $3,500 payment was made to Aarvig and Associates on March 18, 2020. The board, individually, was asked in a California Public Records Act request for any and all correspondence or communications mentioning or discussing both or either of the documents mentioned above.
The district’s legal counsel determined that the documents were exempt from disclosure. The only board member to respond was Dave Hunt who wrote that he searched his email and was unable to locate anything.
In the Sept. 17 letter Creighton writes, “They [Miller and Olsen] complained you [Shouman] shouted, ‘I’m the boss’ repeatedly in a loud and threatening manner. They assert that you screamed at them, stood over them in their personal space and placed them in fear of physical harm. They assert you made demeaning and insulting remarks, as well as comments about their personal appearance which made them feel uncomfortable.”
Creighton points out that Shouman violated the following:
“Employee manual section 9(G)(i) – discourteous or disrespectful treatment of any member of the public or any co-worker … section 9(G)(xi) – conduct that is unbecoming a district employee which tends to discredit the district, whether on duty, off-duty in uniform or on district property … Section 9(G) (xiii) – threatening, intimidating or coercing co-workers while on duty and section 9(D)(vii).” According to the letter, Shouman lost his temper over a technical problem and stands over co-workers desks, invading personal space and using expressions such as ‘I’m going to shoot myself’ and ‘I’m going to kill you.’” In addition, section 9(G)(xx) was violated - formenting (sic.) discord.
Creighton wrote “During the investigator’s interview with you [Shouman], you admitted to having had a confrontation with the complainants on June 24, 2019. However, you minimized what occurred.”
Creighton wrote in the letter, “The violations found are serious. However, given that your personnel file did not contain prior discipline, I determined that you should receive a letter of reprimand with ordered training in lieu of an unpaid suspension or termination. However, should the prohibited behavior reoccur, more serious discipline may be imposed, up to and including termination.”
Shouman was required, per the reprimand, to attend anti-harassment/anti-bullying training or management coaching.
The Sept. 25 letter included the following additional transgressions: “Granting an employee’s ‘Supplemental Pay Authorization’ without having the authority to do so” and “Giving employees incorrect information/advice about how to utilize their paid time off [PTO].”
Creighton wrote that both the PTO and Pay-Advance Request Policies “are very clearly written and not up for your interpretation.” Creighton further wrote that Shouman “must refrain from speaking to employees with authority regarding our [IWD] rules and regulations when you are unclear on district policy.”
Creighton was fired by the board later on that same day.
The newspaper previously reported that Creighton filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against IWD on Jan. 31 based on alleged violations of the California Government Code’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Labor Code. The complaint sets forth two causes of action, each alleging that the IWD board of directors unlawfully terminated him from his general manager position in retaliation for actions he took in opposition to harassment of female coworkers.
The lawsuit also alleges that some of the district’s board members violated the Brown Act.
Darren Milner, who replaced Creighton as general manager but only stayed with the district for a month, cited in his Nov. 17, 2019, resignation letter that he was “experiencing an unhealthy culture and difficult work environment at the district due to poor communication.”