Friday, December 23, 2016

UPDATE: Senior staff at PPACG placed on indefinite leave

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 10:06 AM

PPACG spokesperson Jessica McMullen has provided a list of names of those placed on leave. They are: Rob MacDonald, PPACG executive director; Craig Casper, PPACG transportation director; and Beverly Majewski, PPRTA finance manager.

——- ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 22, 3:07 P.M. ——-
click to enlarge Rob MacDonald, left, and City Councilor Andy Pico, who chairs the PPACG executive committee, at today's meeting. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Rob MacDonald, left, and City Councilor Andy Pico, who chairs the PPACG executive committee, at today's meeting.

The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments executive committee voted unanimously on Thursday to place executive director Rob MacDonald on indefinite administrative leave.

The committee also voted to appoint Rick Sonnenburg as acting executive director, and also voted to place an unspecified number of senior staff on indefinite administrative leave. All of the leaves are paid.

Sonnenburg oversees the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority under the PPACG umbrella.

Committee Chairman Andy Pico, a Colorado Springs city councilor, said issues that led to the leaves will be resolved within a month.

Asked if the loss of multiple managers from the regional planning agency will hobble its mission, he said, “Absolutely not. We’re moving forward.

The actions come amid a board investigation of MacDonald’s oversight of PPACG, which was sharply criticized by employees, one of whom described the work environment as “retired in place,” and other issues.

Elected officials also have expressed a desire for more robust leadership on transportation issues. (“What about Rob?” Oct. 26, 2016)

Hired in 1999, MacDonald reported to a board composed of elected officials from 16 cities, towns and counties in the PPACG service area, which covers El Paso, Teller and Park counties.

PPACG, formed in 1967, provides a forum for local officials to deal with issues that cross boundaries, with primary focus on transportation, air and water quality and the federally funded Area Agency on Aging.

The agency also administers the PPRTA, supported with a 1 percent sales tax in El Paso County, and oversees millions of dollars in state, federal and local funding for roads.

MacDonald came under scrutiny after nearly a third of the agency’s employees left within two years. When reporting the departures to the board and posting the report on the agency’s website, MacDonald disclosed reasons they left. The report drew objections from at least three ex-employees, who called the reasons given by MacDonald as “false,” “wasn’t entirely true” and “blatantly false.”

In addition, one former employee, Dawn Meyer, filled an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against PPACG alleging she was fired after being diagnosed with cancer. (“PPACG employee claims she was fired because of her illness,” Dec. 7, 2016)

Despite receiving bonuses for her outstanding work for years, Meyer described in an interview a hostile work atmosphere in which her supervisor yelled at her, her personal medical and financial information was disseminated to others without her permission, and she was refused accommodation for her illness, despite a doctor’s request on her behalf. She was pushed out in May 2016.

In addition, the agency has not been able to play a role in helping secure funding for widening Interstate 25 from Monument to Castle Rock. While the 17-mile stretch isn’t within the PPACG planning area, it appears little has been done to rally support from neighboring jurisdictions and the state. Only on Dec. 21 did the PPACG issue a release saying that “gap” had been declared the agency’s top priority.

The PPACG executive committee — comprised of Colorado Springs City Councilor Jill Gaebler, El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Green Mountain Falls trustee Tyler Stevens and Pico — took the three actions Thursday in a meeting at City Hall that lasted about five minutes.

Pico said after the meeting the senior staff members’ leaves are pending further performance review, and while MacDonald’s initial job review has taken place, other evaluation is ongoing. Committee member Norm Steen of Teller County did not attend the meeting.

MacDonald was on hand and declined to comment following the actions.

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