Staying or Going Is Expensive

by Lou Binninger

Sutter County Community Services Director Danelle Stylos was fired by Supervisors effective May 23, 2017. Supervisors Flores, Munger and Conant voted in favor of termination. Supervisors Whiteaker and Sullenger voted no.

Stylos was placed on administrative leave by Supervisors after being arrested by District Attorney (DA) Investigators on February 1, 2017. She was accused of making false statements, providing false information, perjury and voter fraud. She was booked into Sutter County jail and released on $25,000 bail.

Some supervisors and department heads were angered by the arrest inferring that the DA’s charges were political and petty. They protested her arrest while aware she was violating her employment agreement with Sutter County. Stylos stated she lived at the residence of a former Sutter County Fire Chief though she actually resided in Sacramento.

Her job responsibilities required her to dwell in Sutter County. She used her fictitious Sutter County address on various legal documents.

Stylos was afforded two week’s severance pay in addition to being paid while on administrative leave. According to Transparent California, Stylos received pay and benefits of $192,015.92 in 2016. Stylos collected approximately $64,005.31 during her absence prior to dismissal.

The case against Stylos is proceeding through court. However, Sutter County officials maintain their terminating of Stylos had nothing to do with the legal charges, but was based solely on an internal investigation performed by outside professional services.

The investigation reviewed her work and regard among fellow administrators and those she managed in her department. Though personnel details are confidential, her firing speaks loudly about her performance knowing it is nearly impossible to dismiss a government employee even when they serve ‘at will.’

Stylos is the second key Sutter County employee to lose their job in less than two years.

In October 2015, Supervisors declined to renew former County Administrative Officer Jim Arkens’ (CAO) contract and placed him on leave with a salary and benefits of $267,598.95. The Supervisors’ decision occurred just months after they defended Arkens’ handling of county affairs in a letter to the Territorial Dispatch.

An outside audit by Gallina LLP revealed that CAO Arkens and Sutter County Supervisors violated accepted government accounting practices by keeping a second set of books on the county’s $10.5 million Chevron Energy Project financing, avoiding Auditor – Controller Robert Stark’s oversight. Supervisors stated they supported the CAO’s handling of the project.

The Supervisors had a habit of circumventing the view of independently elected Auditor-Controller Stark. The solar project started during the term of Stark but the outside audit revealed the financial miscue to newly elected Auditor-Controller Nathan Black.

The lesson of the two dismissals is that staying or going, poorly performing public employees are very expensive.

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