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   These are a few of the stories you will find in this week's printed newspaper:
  • Ebola preparedness: Could a deadly virus with its roots in West Africa find its way to Plumas County? The county’s three hospitals are preparing, just in case.
  • Candidates speak: With elections just days away, candidates for local public offices took part in forums and submitted answers to questions from the newspaper.
  • Remembering Grace: The family of an FRC student who died earlier this month said they were overwhelmed by the community’s support after the college held a vigil to remember their daughter.

Hall says CAO’s treatment prompted her resignation

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
3/28/2012

Hall
Public Health Director Mimi Hall

Public Health Director Mimi Hall said she was extremely dedicated to her job and didn’t want to leave.

The man she blamed for creating a “toxic culture” for county workers, county Chief Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad, said he didn’t want her to go.

Three days after Hall read an emotional resignation letter to the Board of Supervisors, the two separately shared their feelings of frustration.

“I fell apart when I left the room,” Hall said, recalling the moments after she read her resignation letter before an overflow crowd in the supervisors’ chambers. She received a one-minute standing ovation that left some people in tears.

Hall said she was on the verge of tears herself. “I never went to bed that night,” she said. “It was very emotional.”

Hall, who was considered nothing short of a savior by the county for trying to revive the badly needed alcohol and drug program, said her decision to leave may have caught people by surprise. But she said it wasn’t an overnight decision.

“It was based on a lot of years of what I think was not appropriate treatment,” Hall said, pointing to a journal she has kept since 2008 that contained emails from Ingstad and her personal notes about his treatment.

“And what’s important for me to let you know is … I’m not alone,” Hall said. “Everything that I went through, there are a dozen other department heads who have gone through the same thing.”

Hall said the toxic culture created by Ingstad has left county workers feeling unappreciated and fearing for their jobs.

But Hall said she could have endured Ingstad’s harsh treatment “for another 20 years.”

“I could have had the fortitude to deal with this, even though it’s a big pain in the butt,” Hall said. “But I spent the last year really thinking about things other than just the actual work and the actual barriers. It was more about the principle of things.”

She said there were three significant events that led to her decision.

The first event was a bad job review from Ingstad in late 2010. Hall said the poor performance review left her wondering how secure her job was.

“It wasn’t a good review,” Hall said. “(Ingstad) berated me for about 45 minutes about why I can’t get along with anyone.

“I was marked as ‘needs improvement’ and ‘does not meet the basic requirements of the position’ in several areas,” Hall said. “And then I was told to put together a three-month improvement plan, which would be brought before the full board. And if I didn’t meet that improvement plan, I would get my termination notice.”

She said the second big event happened when she agreed to take over the alcohol and drug department. It would mean she essentially would be in charge of two departments.

Hall said that because the previous 13 A&D administrators had either been fired or pushed out, she wanted a six-month severance clause added to her contract.

She said she didn’t want a pay raise or a stipend to take on the high profile and traditionally risky job. Just job security.

Hall said other county department heads, including Mental Health Director John Sebold, advised her to get a severance clause.

“People told me, ‘If you do this (administrate A&D) it will be a career killer,’” Hall said. “They said, at the first roadblock that created some kind of public outcry, I would be gone.

“They said, ‘If you are going to do this, you need some kind of assurance.’”

Hall said she had a meeting to request a severance addendum with supervisors Lori Simpson and Robert Meacher, county counsel Craig Settlemire and Ingstad.

“Jack wasn’t happy about it. He gave all of his reasons why I shouldn’t have it,” Hall said. “But we walked away with an agreement. Lori as board chair asked Craig to draw up the contract addendum. She said ‘We’ll put it on the next earliest board agenda.’

“I waited. Nothing ever happened. And what I had heard was that Jack had sent some emails back and forth to some of the supervisors. And he was very unhappy about it.”

Ingstad said last week he wasn’t opposed to Hall’s severance request and he didn’t try to stop it.

“I thought it was a done deal,” he said. “I don’t know what happened.”

But Hall said she never got the severance clause.

She said the third major event, which she called “the final straw,” was an email Ingstad sent to department heads regarding amendment of their employment contracts.

The email, composed by Settlemire and forwarded by Ingstad, stated “If a department head declines the Amendment, the Board will need to give notice of termination to the employee.”

Hall said that email was “flippant” and indicative of the treatment she has received from Ingstad.

“Things like this were just constant,” Hall said. “Something like this has happened every month of every year since 2008.”

Hall said she and the other department heads know they need to take pay cuts. “And we were all fine with that,” she said. “It’s just the indignant manner in which it was handled.

“And I knew that as long as we had (Ingstad) advising our board and advising how these matters are implemented, that it would continue to be this way.”

Ingstad said he didn’t read the email and regretted having sent it.

He said he was “saddened” by Hall’s accusations against him. He insisted many of them were “simply not true.”

“But I’m not perfect,” he said. “I’m a human being.”

In the wake of Hall’s resignation, Ingstad said he too was prepared to resign.

The Board of Supervisors is reportedly scheduled to discuss Ingstad’s job performance during a closed session after their meeting Tuesday, April 3.

“Maybe it’s time for a new CAO here,” Ingstad said. “I’m going to make it easy for the board. I’m offering to leave if that is what they would like me to do.”

Ingstad said that if he stays, he probably needs to change the way he operates.

“Obviously I need to change if I stay. Or some perception of me needs to change,” Ingstad said. “Because I’m not going to be like the (Plumas Unified School District) superintendent’s office and act like everything’s OK. Everything’s not OK.”

Despite her criticism of Ingstad, Hall said she doesn’t want to see him lose his job. But she hoped her resignation would make the county think about how it treats its employees.

“My goal was not to get rid of somebody,” Hall said. “My hope is just that things will change.

“I didn’t do this to point a finger at someone. I did this because I wanted our board and the county to just wake up and see this is not the appropriate climate. Is this who we want to be?

“And I don’t know what change they will make. But I would hope they make a really intelligent, strategic and thoughtful change.”

The supervisors haven’t accepted her resignation. And Ingstad said he hoped Hall would reconsider.

“We have been extremely happy with Mimi. She is one of our best employees, and I’ve said that,” Ingstad said. “I really thought our relationship was good. And that bothers me, because I must not be quite as intuitive as I thought.

“I almost made a call to her to ask her to stay. But I thought she was leaving for a better job.”

Hall said she isn’t leaving for a better job. It’s just a different job. She has accepted a job in the health industry with a nonprofit company in Reno. She, her husband, Thom, and their three children plan to remain in Quincy.

“I made a commitment to accept the new job and I won’t back out of that commitment,” Hall said.

She also said she had “no hard feelings” against Settlemire for the email that led to her decision to resign.

“Craig said that email wasn’t intended for everyone and I believe that,” Hall said. “He takes direction from the CAO.”

 


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