UPDATED: Explore Elk Grove's executive director resigns amidst sexual harassment suit; City official says agency in 'crisis'

Elk Grove's economic development director Darrell Doan pitches the seven-member Explore Elk Grove board of directors. | 

UPDATED July 24, 2:30 p.m.

The executive director of Explore Elk Grove, the City of Elk Grove's sanctioned tourism agency has resigned his position. Although the date was not announced, the departure of John "J.T." Thomspon was made evident at today's Explore Elk Grove's monthly board of directors meeting.

Thompson, hired in February 2018, is the agency's second executive director, left amidst a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him and the agency. The lawsuit was filed after marketing consultant Kristen Berkery filed in Sacrament Superior Court in May.

A statement issued by the released on Tuesday, July 24 said "Visit Elk Grove and Executive Director John Thompson have elected to end their employment relationship. Mr. Thompson’s last day of employment will be August 15, 2019. All inquiries regarding on-going Visit Elk Grove business should be directed to Rachael Brown, Board Chair, effective immediately. The Board will have no further comment on this or any other personnel matter." 

In her suit, Berkery claims her contract was terminated after she expressed concern to Rachel Brown, a City of Elk Grove economic development employee. Berkery said she told Brown, who is also named in the suit and one of seven board directors of Explore Elk Grove, about her concerns she had that Thompson was pressuring her to start a relationship that she wanted to avoid. 

After informing Brown of her concerns, Berkery said her contract was terminated. At the time of the suit, Thompson could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit was discussed by the board during their closed session. Also, comments by Brown's supervisor at the City of Elk Grove, economic development director Darrell Doan, made it clear Thompson was no longer employed.

Speaking to the board during public comment, Doan offered almost 20 minutes of commentary on the recent developments and prospects for the tourism agency. Doan stressed the city would continue to support the mission of bringing tourist but added they are facing challenges.

"Now you find yourself in the situation where Mr. Thompson has tendered his resignation," Doan told the directors. "Regardless of the reasons why, you're in another spot, another predicament."

Doan went on to say, "you have a crisis on your hands that wasn't of your making." He said that regardless of Thompson's exit, there was still work that needs to be done.

He noted that the agency will sunset in March of 2020 and that if the innkeepers who are member want to renew the agency, they will need to get another authorization by the Elk Grove City Council.

"Where you go next I think is a big question," Doan told the directors.

While Doan said the directors could conduct another recruitment for a new director, he noted that might not be constructive. Doan suggested they appoint Brown as the interim executive director.

"I was thinking about the definition of insanity, some people say 'that is to do the same thing and expect a different result,'" he said. "You could certainly go out to the marketplace and try to hire a third executive director and hope for better results; I don't know that you would get that, it is certainly debatable."

In response to Thompson's release from Explore Elk Grove, Kristne Berkery, the plaintiff in the lawsuit issued a statement on the development.

"I feel that Elk Grove has a lot of fun things to see and do, and the city deserves recognition throughout the Sacramento region. That's why I took the job of marketing contractor for Explore Elk Grove - I wanted to promote the city and help local businesses. I'm hoping the next executive director will know how to promote Elk Grove tourism effectively and manage business partnerships in a professional manner. Elk Grove deserves it."

Doan told the directors that the city feels that offering Brown and other city staff members to assist on an interim, part-time basis would be the best solution. During a brief discussion, the board members agreed to have the city offer a proposal. 

Should the board accept the offer, it would need city council approval to enact. Explore Elk Grove's funding comes from transient taxes levied on six hotels in and nearby Elk Grove.

This story was updated to include Berkery's statement and the formal statement from Explore Elk Grove on Thompson's departure. 

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.


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Eye on Elk Grove said...

The city of Elk Grove's Economic Development Director Darrell Doan is offering commentary on the definition of insanity. That is rich!

And Doan talked for 20 minutes? No doubt there was a room full of eyes glazed over about minute 10 – just like when Doan is speaking ad nauseam before the Elk Grove City Council bragging about his accomplishments.

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