Former Idyllwild Water Department (IWD) intern Natalie Vidales wrote a letter to the district dated Sept. 17, 2019 addressing an incident that occurred in the office on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
In her letter she writes, “On Monday, Sept. 16, 2019 at approximately 4:30 p.m. there was an incident in the front office of IWD. Someone aggressively knocked on the back door and tried to enter. When I looked outside the back window, I saw Board Member Steve Kunkle’s car in the parking lot.
“The chain on the back door prevented said person from entering so Amy [Hawley] got up and went to open the door. At this point, she did not know it was Steve Kunkle. When she got to the door, she let him in after he made a snarky remark about ‘needing a password to enter the office now.’ Before she realized who was entering, Board Member Steve Kunkle stepped in and invited in [IWD Chief Financial Officer] Mr. Hosny Shouman, who is under direct order by the General Manager Michael Creighton to maintain adequate distance between himself and the front office staff, Amy and Jeannine [Olsen]. At this point, Jeannine had left work early (2:30 p.m.) as she was feeling sick.”
Vidales further explains that after Kunkle and Shouman entered the building they searched the front office for Kunkle’s old confidential employee file. Olsen is the office staff with access and so neither Vidales nor Hawley could assist them. Vidales writes that she came out of her office to meet Kunkle because she had not met him.
Kunkle, according to the letter, asks Vidales “Why are you standing there? Are you watching me? Am I not allowed to be in the office?” Vidales explains that she was speechless and didn’t understand his reaction.
Hawley explains that Shouman’s presence made them uncomfortable and that some warning would have been appreciated. Kunkle replies that Shouman was with him. Hawley then tried to explain to Kunkle that Shouman is not allowed there under Creighton’s orders.
Kunkle leaves the office with Olsen’s contact number by 4:35 p.m.
Vidales submitted a resignation letter Sept. 26 — the day after former General Manager Michael Creighton was fired from the district during a special meeting on Sept. 25 — stating her last day with the district would be Oct. 16. Her first day with the district was May 13, 2019.
She graduated in 2017 from University of California, Merced with a degree in environmental engineering. Her role was to write a report regarding the district’s ground water and lake levels.
Before his firing, Creighton wrote two letters, a week apart, regarding Shouman’s actions. One was a letter of unacceptable performance dated Sept. 25 for providing incorrect information to an employee regarding paid time off. The other was a letter of reprimand dated Sept. 17 regarding an investigation by Aarvig and Associates. Creighton explains in the Sept. 17 letter that 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.”
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 co-workers.
The lawsuit also alleges that some of the district’s board members violated the Brown Act.
The court vacated the trial settlement conference in the Creighton lawsuit and 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 IWD.