April 25, 2013 | Vol. 111, No. 17

Nicholls offered Tyee GM position, retires as foreman

Michael J. Nicholls, who oversees the operation and maintenance of the Tyee Hydroelectric Project as the site’s foreman was offered the position of Thomas Bay Power Authority General Manager on Monday, April 15 – an offer Nicholls initially declined, then sending a counteroffer of his own.

Michael Nicholls

“The TBPA board finally made me an offer on Monday, April 15 which was so ludicrous it insulted me,” Nicholls wrote in an email to the Sentinel. “The offer would require me to take a 15-percent cut in pay, lose my vacation rights in order to accept a six-month probationary job to be renegotiated at the end of six months … I have today tendered my resignation effective the end of business on May 2, 2013.”

Nicholls’ resignation was further confirmed in an email to interim TBPA GM Paul Southland.

“I am writing to inform you I am tendering my resignation effective the end of business day on May 2, 2013,” Nicholls wrote to Southland. “Pursuant to the TBPA personnel manual and the IBEW Local 1547 contract, I request my (paid time off) accrual be paid out with my final paycheck, my belongings be transported to Wrangell as soon as practicable, and I further request the $1,000 applicable moving expense reimbursement.”

The original offer made by the commission was for a contract term of one year with an annual salary of $85,000, a six-month probationary period and no severance package.

“Over a year ago, the commission voted unanimously to remove the severance package from any general manager contract,” TBPA Secretary Rhonda Christian said.

Nicholls countered with a proposal of an annual salary of $95,000, a two-year contract term, no probationary period and a six-month severance package upon termination.

“The offer is woefully lacking,” Nicholls said of the original offer. “If accepted, I would take a 15 percent cut in wages to get a six month probationary position. This is totally unacceptable.”

After this counteroffer was presented to the commission, Nicholls submitted his letter of resignation as foreman of the Tyee Hydroelectric Project.

TBPA Commission President John Jensen stated that Nicholls quoted commission bylaws as to the reason for his resignation from his current position.

Discussion ensued among the commission members regarding salary, term and the way in which his resignation was tendered.

“I have a problem with a two-year contract and severance should be three months and certainly not without a probationary period,” Commission member Dave Galla stated. “I do have a problem with the way he sent out his resignation to the newspaper, I don't know why he would do that or what his motivation was behind it.”

Interim TBPA General Manager Paul Southland explained that TBPA Commission bylaws state that a resignation should come through the general manager first.

“I was taken aback by a call from the Wrangell Sentinel asking me about his resignation,” Southland stated. “He sent his resignation to the newspaper, then he sent it to me. If he is quoting from our commission policies he was a little bit remiss in that process.”

After a phone call to Nicholls to answer that motive, Nicholls relayed that he did send his resignation to the general manager and the commission before speaking with the press.

A counter offer was determined by the commission to be sent to Nicholls on Monday for an annual salary of $90,000 for a six-month probationary period. The salary would then be bumped up to $95,000, with a three-month severance package added.

The commission, with a 5-1 vote, approved this offer with Galla opposed.

In an email to the TBPA office, Nicholls appeared to accept some, but not all, of the offer.

“Please inform the Commission the (offer) would be acceptable but for the following: Section IV: SALARY - Probationary period - 3 months; Section V: BENEFITS - Include PTO - 34 days per year with either payout or carryover of existing accrued PTO and payment of unused accrued PTO upon termination; and include moving expenses from Tyee,” Nicholls wrote.

When contacted at the Tyee plant for further comment, Nicholls said he was waiting to see what the commission had to say about his offer.

“We’re still negotiating,” Nicholls said.

The TBPA commission will hold a special meeting this Friday to discuss the offer.

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