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January 29, 2014
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Amid controversy, IVGID goes with Davis city manager for GM job

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The IVGID board of trustees will offer the general manager job to Steven Pinkerton, a move made after the head of the district’s executive search firm took blame for an oversight that revealed the other finalist was never qualified to apply.

Pinkerton and trustees will negotiate a salary in the coming days, and a contract should be up for board approval at its Feb. 12 meeting, chairman Joe Wolfe said.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully having successful contract negotiations and getting up here and getting started as soon as possible,” Pinkerton said after Wednesday’s board meeting. “It has to be a contract we can all work out … for me to run the district effectively, there needs to be a good contract in place. I’m confident we can do that.”

Pinkerton was hired to manage the city of Davis, Calif., in September 2011 at an annual salary of $188,000. According to IVGID, the salary range for the GM position is between $100,000 and $200,000.

If he accepts, Pinkerton could start as early as this spring — his contract with the city of Davis mandates he give 60 days notice to leave the position.

SEARCH FIRM ‘FAILED’

The board voted 4-1 Wednesday in favor of Pinkerton after tense discussion about how the other finalist — Incline Village resident Eric Severance — was unqualified due to him not holding a bachelor’s degree, one of the job’s requirements.

While Severance was a member of the class of 1975 at Juniata College, he did not graduate with a degree, a spokesperson for the Huntingdon, Pa., school confirmed Monday.

“I never misrepresented anything on my resume, what’s there is exactly as it’s stated,” Severance told the Bonanza Tuesday. “The search firm vetted me and understands all of my background and qualifications. They recommended to put me forward based on my total lifetime accomplishments as the best candidate for the position.”

The 23-year resident made similar points at Wednesday’s board meeting.

“At all times I have been truthful about my qualifications … and have not misrepresented them,” Severance read from a statement. “…I was led to believe all along the way that I was approved to move forward by all parties involved. I have done everything that has been asked of me and have acted in extreme good faith.”

According to the IVGID job description listed last February, an undergraduate bachelor’s degree “is required,” while a master’s is “strongly preferred.” Pinkerton has both, according to his resume.

The board voted last April on a $26,000-max contract with Sacramento-based Peckham & McKenney Executive Search and Consulting to help find a replacement for Bill Horn, who retired a the end of 2013.

On Tuesday, company co-founder Phil McKenney told the Bonanza he discovered several months ago that Severance did not hold a degree, but he failed to properly inform the board.

“This is a first for me. I am here to apologize,” McKenney told the board Wednesday. “I was aware of this information for some time, and it was my duty to bring it back to you. I failed. … Eric has been very up front and very forthright in the process. This is truly my mistake, and I am here to apologize for that.”

CHANGE OF PROCEDURE

Originally, Wednesday’s meeting was to include presentations from the candidates, a tour of several district venues and public interviews of both, ending with a potential vote to choose one or neither.

Considering McKenney’s oversight, Wolfe recommended canceling the day’s events in favor of discussing whether the board should continue pursuing Severance. Wolfe, Bill Devine and Jim Hammerel voted in favor of jumping ahead, with Jim Smith and Bruce Simonian against.

“This saddens me — I blame our executive search firm, they fouled this up, and it really bothers me,” said Smith, adding that he was impressed with both candidates and wished to hear their presentations so he could make the best decision.

Severance similarly asked the board to do “the right thing” by allowing the day’s interviews and tours to continue.

“I hope you allow us to finish what you started,” he said.

He received support from a few community members, including his wife, Dianne.

“We’ve gone through this process believing that the IVGID board had vetted his qualifications,” she said during public comment. “(IVGID) does need a culture shift, and Eric has specific experience …. with government to make that happen. I strongly recommend we continue the process.”

On Tuesday, Wolfe told the Bonanza he didn’t see wiggle room around what the job description says versus what’s represented on Severance’s resume.

“In my opinion, if we now start playing favorites, then we ruled out several people who didn’t have (a degree) either,” he said.

He repeated his position Wednesday as reasoning for his vote, although he took time to apologize to Severance.

“Apologies from this board, sir — you are due more than what we can give you, and I’m truly sorry that this is happening,” he said. “It’s uncalled for and unheard of.”

MOVING FORWARD

Wolfe then recommended the board offer Pinkerton the job in an effort to end a search that began last January, when new trustees Devine, Smith and Hammerel began their tenure.

“We are at the finish line, and we have got a guy who’s qualified, and I believe we need to move forward with this as fast as possible — we’ve wasted a year already, let’s get this done,” Wolfe said.

Simonian, who voted against, said he knew about Severance’s education history before he applied for the position, whereas other trustees said they learned only within the past few days.

“My whole thing was, this whole information was there from day one … I think we should have given him some latitude, given his accomplishments,” Simonian said after the meeting. “Whether we chose him or not, I don’t think that education requirement should have been the disqualification. The aggregate experience that he brought forth was phenomenal.”

As for the search firm’s contract and if it will be paid in full, Wolfe said it “will be discussed.”

“We are currently reviewing internal policies as far as how the written material is presented to a board,” McKenney said after the meeting. “.. Other than that, it falls on me personally; it was a mistake on my part. I could offer excuses, but I’m not going to.”


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 29, 2014 07:17PM Published Feb 2, 2014 01:57PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.