Peter Callstrom out as CEO of San Diego Workforce Partnership
Peter Callstrom, the longtime CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, was fired last week by the organization's governing board after claims of race- and sex-based harassment and discrimination mounted, KPBS has learned.
The Workforce Partnership is a quasi-governmental nonprofit that receives millions in taxpayer dollars to administer job training and placement programs. It is overseen by a policy board chaired by San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe.
"The Policy Board elected not to renew Peter Callstrom’s contract, which expires on June 30," said Montgomery Steppe's spokesperson, Ariel Gibbs. The board also includes City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer and Nancy Sasaki, CEO of United Way of San Diego County.
Callstrom's attorney, Joseph Peacock, confirmed the board's decision not to renew his client's contract and said Callstrom was still on the organization's payroll.
Adding to the turmoil at the Workforce Partnership this week was the announcement that interim CEO Shannon Moran was resigning.
Callstrom has been on leave since November, when a dozen employees at the organization sent board members an anonymous letter claiming that he had fostered "a toxic work environment" that "ventured into race-based and sex-based discrimination against employees."
The letter also alleged Callstrom had used taxpayer dollars to buy the silence of outgoing employees who had confronted him about his behavior, and that Callstrom's "mismanagement" led to a supervisor sexually assaulting an employee.
Callstrom, speaking through an attorney, denied the letter's allegations in a statement to KPBS in December. "Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging have been central to his more than 10 years as SDWP’s CEO," the statement said.
Scrutiny of Callstrom's behavior intensified in December, when Tabatha Gaines, a former HR employee at the organization, sued both Callstrom and the Workforce Partnership for race- and gender-based harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. The lawsuit claims Callstrom routinely showed favoritism to white male employees while targeting women and people of color with "extreme micromanagement and harassment."
Gaines' lawsuit is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 19.
Workforce Partnership spokesperson Desiree Roughton declined to comment on Callstrom's termination, but sent KPBS a statement.
"We have real work to do internally to foster a workplace where everyone is heard, valued and empowered. It’s why our executive team is now intently listening, having hard conversations and taking action to build and repair relationships with our staff, stakeholders, customers and partners,” the statement said.
“The well-being of our employees is our top priority as we create a new, genuine internal culture of belonging and respect that will carry our work far beyond the closure of this current chapter."