Ousted North Tahoe PUD leader: ‘I didn’t see it coming’
KINGS BEACH, Calif. — The North Tahoe Public Utility District’s recent dealings with California State Parks and Placer County played no role in the firing of its leader last week, board members said.
Monday was Paul Schultz’s last day as general manager/CEO of the district, with CFO Larry Marple now serving as interim GM.
The board of directors is seeking a leader who will more frequently engage the community and notify district residents of goings-on within the PUD, director Tim Ferrell said Monday.
“We just felt there was a disconnect between us and the public, and (Schultz) is supposed to be that connection, and that hasn’t happened,” he said.
The district announced the move on Wednesday, Nov. 26. According to a statement, “action was taken” by the board on Nov. 25 during a special meeting where Schultz’s performance was reviewed in closed session.
“I was shocked and disappointed,” Schultz said in a Monday phone interview. “I didn’t see it coming.”
Schultz attended the special meeting. He said that after the board deliberated for about an hour in closed session, he was called back in and notified of the board’s decision.
When asked Tuesday what reasons were given for his firing, Schultz said none were provided.
READ MORE: The NTPUD board unanimously voted to look for a new general manager during its special meeting last week.
Email and phone messages for NTPUD Board President Lane Lewis were not returned for this story.
‘WE FELT WE COULD DO BETTER’
It’s been a rocky few months for the North Tahoe PUD. In May, California State Parks took over managing day-to-day operations for the Kings Beach State Recreation Area, which the NTPUD had done since 1978.
Other areas taken over by state parks this summer include North Tahoe Beach, Moon Dune Beach, Kings Beach Plaza, Coon Street Corner, Secline Beach, Sandy Beach and Steamers Beach — all properties the NTPUD had operated on the California Tahoe Conservancy’s behalf since the early 1990s.
The transition was part of an agreement by the California Natural Resources Agency, state parks, and the conservancy to exchange and consolidate state-owned parkland in the Tahoe Basin.
Further, recent negotiations between the PUD and Placer County include potentially transferring ownership of the 85-acre Firestone property from the district — which has owned the property just east of Tahoe City since 1990 — to the county for the purpose of constructing the Dollar Creek Shared-Use Trail.
This fall, the Conservancy advised the PUD and county to work on an agreement that complies with the Conservancy’s original 1988 grant conditions to construct the trail. The PUD had used that grant to purchase the property two years later.
When asked Monday if those incidents led to terminating Schultz, director Sue Daniels and Ferrell said no.
“We didn’t have any specific reasons why we were looking for a new general manager,” Daniels said. “… I guess we felt we could do better.”
‘NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT’
Schultz — who was hired as manager of planning and engineering by then-NTPUD General Manager Curtis Aaron in April 2010, and appointed to replace Aaron in April 2011 — is an at-will employee, Ferrell said.
According to California’s labor code, the employer may terminate an at-will employee at any time, with or without cause.
Schultz’s contract reflects those terms: “This contract may be terminated by a majority vote of the board, at anytime, for any reason whatsoever, or for no reason at all.”
The PUD’s personnel committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday, when Schultz’s general manager/CEO contract was expected to be terminated and a new one created, in which he will work for the district, as directed, on special projects until May 14, 2015.
For the next six months, Schultz will work on an on-call basis, said Ferrell, who serves on the personnel committee. Schultz could potentially work on reviewing and updating PUD laws to current standards or help support the new general manager.
After May 14, it’s planned for Schultz’s employment with the district to cease, Ferrell said.
When asked Monday if he will take any action to challenge the board’s decision, Schultz said he won’t.
“I’m not going to force the issue,” he said. “I’m not happy about it, but will move on.”
RE-CREATING THE DISTRICT
Schultz’s current base salary is $162,357. The district will continue to pay Schultz’s salary up to May 14, Ferrell said, but on a monthly basis at a rate of roughly $13,000. His health insurance will also continue the next six months.
Schultz will receive no severance.
In 2013, Schultz received a $10,000 performance bonus, according to the district.
When asked about the bonus, Ferrell said it was to motivate Schultz to get out in the community more often, a request made by the board at his 2013 performance review.
“He was not closer to the community than he is today,” Ferrell said Tuesday.
Daniels said she anticipates it taking several months between advertising the position and conducting interviews for the district to hire a new general manager.
Ferrell said the district hopes to announce a new general manager in either February or March.
“I think we are looking forward to what lies ahead and re-creating the North Tahoe Utility District in a better light,” Ferrell said.