Employees’ complaints hint at turmoil in Templeton district

Community services district board president says agency looked into issues regarding the general manager, adding that the leader ‘didn’t threaten or hit’

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJuly 19, 2012 

Valerie McArthur, an office assistant at the Templeton Community Services District, stood up at a meeting of the district’s board of directors June 12 to question her boss’s management practices.

Specifically, she asked Templeton district leaders to open an investigation into General Manager Jeff Hodge.

McArthur declined to comment to The Tribune on her request, published in a draft of the district board’s June 12 meeting minutes released last week.

Two others mirrored her complaints at the meeting.

Board President John Gannon told The Tribune this week that the issues regarding the agency’s top administrator were looked into, but he wouldn’t confirm if an investigation took place.

The specifics of the allegations are unclear.

“He didn’t threaten or hit. It was checked out. That’s all I can say … and there was no time off or termination — no nothing,” Gannon told The Tribune in regards to McArthur’s and other comments that day.

Hodge couldn’t give specifics on the issue because it’s a personnel matter, but he said, “It’s a change in management and style. I’m going out there getting things done.”

The three individuals spoke before a closed session was held on the discipline/dismissal of an unnamed employee.

When asked if that session resulted in any actions from the district’s five-member board, Hodge said “nothing reportable” occurred.

Those who spoke prior to the closed-door session hinted at turmoil inside the district office. Among the three public speakers was Nanette Fisher, editor and publisher of the community’s Soaring Eagle Press news organization.

“The issue at hand is a crisis of leadership,” Fisher said at the meeting. She’s noticed “stress levels going up and attitudes going downhill” at the district office, according to the minutes.

Fisher, who also declined to comment to The Tribune, then asked the board to hire a new general manager, the record shows. Although Fisher isn’t a district employee, she said at the meeting that she’s been tapped into the office’s happenings over the years and noticed differences in recent months.

Accounting Specialist Tracy Cook, who didn’t return calls for comment, said during the meeting that “she was disappointed” in the district, the minutes show.

Only two of the five board members could be reached for comment. Board member Bob Bergman told The Tribune that he has “full confidence” in Hodge as a leader.

Hodge, 41, began leading the district in 2009 after serving as community services district general manager in Estes Park, Colo.

In Templeton, he oversees about 22 full-time employees and an approximately $4.2 million annual budget. There are about 50 employees when accounting for part-time staff, sports referees and the community’s volunteer firefighters, he said.

When asked whether any complaints or grievances have been filed within the district, Hodge said, “Nothing was filed but (it’s) more like, ‘Let’s talk about this and talk about that.’ It’s personnel issues we can’t speak about.”

The Tribune has submitted a request to see whether any such documents exist. Cal/OSHA has no current claims from district employees, according to state records.

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