by Sarah Squires
Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Manager Tim Terrill left his job abruptly, and district officials are mum about whether he resigned or was let go.
Word came that Terrill was no longer employed with the district following a closed meeting Friday, when the SWCD Board of Supervisors met privately with district attorney Ann Goering for “preliminary consideration of a complaint(s) or charge(s) against an employee(s).”
The departure of the SWCD manager comes during a turbulent time for the district, after the Winona County Board pulled funding for the agency for 2011, citing that the SWCD’s unreserved coffers had swelled to nearly $400,000. Terrill did not attend the County Board meeting to defend the district’s funding request, a move that at least one SWCD Supervisor said should be discussed during the closed meeting held Friday prior to Terrill’s departure.
While SWCD Attorney Goering said in an e-mail Thursday that the district needed more time to release information regarding Terrill’s personnel file, a document released to the media recently suggests that there were management problems in the district.
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) conducted a survey on the SWCD, querying partner agencies on the performance of the SWCD district. While most of the responses were positive, those agencies that provided a more detailed commentary on the district indicated a disconnect between Terrill and his staff, as well as perceived problems with management.
“The district manager does not add value to the district,” wrote one respondent. “His incompetence and lack of support of the other staff is difficult for partner organizations, such as ours.”
“Outwardly, it seems the SWCD is doing the job but other offices and agencies seem to all know the ‘manager’ is [a] problem and is actually making the SWCD get a bad name,” wrote one respondent surveyed. “I have heard that the county staff actually ‘makes fun’ of the manager relative to his competence and knowledge on the issues. The lack of a manager that has his staffs’ respect shows and is adversely affecting staff and their workloads and is causing staff to waste a lot of time fighting over things. It seems like the empowerment to do a better job has been stripped from staff.”
The Winona Post requested all personnel information regarding Terrill’s employment with the district deemed public under Minnesota law. According to Minnesota Statute 13:43, the following information is public: the existence and status of any complaints or charges against the employee, whether or not the complaint or charge resulted in a disciplinary action, the final disposition of any disciplinary action, the specific reasons for the disciplinary action, data documenting the basis of the action, and the terms of any agreement settling any dispute arising out of the employment relationship or a buyout agreement.
The Winona Post made this request on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, Goering, a Minneapolis-based attorney who has been advising the SWCD on personnel and other matters, said that the district needs more time to release the data. She said the SWCD would respond after it has had time to review the files and redact information considered private, such as Terrill’s home address contained within his resume.
Goering did say that there was no settlement agreement made between Terrill and the district regarding his departure.
Terrill could not be reached for a statement on Thursday.
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