Juneau residents pack a room at the downtown public library for a June 6 meeting of Eaglecrest Ski Area’s board of directors. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

Juneau residents pack a room at the downtown public library for a June 6 meeting of Eaglecrest Ski Area’s board of directors. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)

My Turn: Eaglecrest unplugged

Serving on a board or commission is hard work and that service is typically appreciated, but when your actions are met with global community disapproval it’s time to reevaluate.

The Eaglecrest Board of Directors (EBD) met on April 4 and 25. Their minutes reflect that they were highly congratulatory of General Manager Dave Scanlan and the Eaglecrest staff for another successful ski season. Mr. Scanlan’s efforts were sufficiently appreciated that he and a few other employees earned a year-end bonus. Previous meeting minutes also reflect that interactions between the EBD and Mr. Scanlan were generally collegial and reflective of a solid working relationship.

On May 2 and May 15, the EBD met with the CBJ Human Resources Director in executive session while Mr. Scanlan was on leave. On May 22, the EBD asked Mr. Scanlan for his resignation after seven years of service, despite there being no indication of malfeasance or inappropriate behavior. Human resources records are confidential except in cases of criminal behavior, resulting in a public record, which does not exist. Mr. Scanlan was “shocked,” but submitted his resignation.

The ski community was also shocked. Mr. Scanlan, by many accounts, is the best general manager that Eaglecrest ever had. There is hardly room to list Mr. Scanlan’s many accomplishments, but it includes developing a plan to ensure Eaglecrest could be more financially self-sustaining, guiding the ski area through a pandemic, maximizing snowmaking, improved pre- and post-season grooming and activities, improved winter road maintenance, Nordic trail grooming, managing the construction of two onsite cabins for income generating rentals, resurrecting activities and amenities to draw non-skiers to the mountain, working with an array of ski related partners, successfully securing worker raises and workers through the J-1 Program, and literally putting Eaglecrest again on the map.

The public outrage resulted in a petition signed by over 400 people asking the EBD to explain its actions, as well as cautioning that the next meeting on June 6 would be well attended by an concerned ski community. The EBD secured a space that would hold 30 people and Zoom capability that didn’t work throughout the meeting. Over 50 people showed up, most were asked to leave and the other 50 people on Zoom could not hear the bulk of the meeting. This means that many, if not most, people were unable to testify or even hear the testimony of others.

The majority of those who were able to testify were almost globally in support of Mr. Scanlan and some suggested the board should resign due to incompetence. Throughout, EDB members looked extremely uncomfortable and unable to even make eye contact with speakers. To their credit, Mr. Satre, EBD chair, commented at the beginning of the meeting that the decision to ask for Mr. Scanlan’s resignation was the full responsibility of the board. This was further supported by CBJ Tourism Manager Alex Pearce who commented on her positive interactions with Mr. Scanlan regarding the gondola project. EBD CBJ Assembly Liaison Christine Woll also verified this was not a CBJ-driven event.

The Eaglecrest Board of Directors took full responsibility for asking for Mr. Scanlan’s resignation despite there being no evidence of the board being dissatisfied with his performance or of interventions regarding his decisions. It begs the question if the EBD leaves the CBJ open to a lawsuit for inappropriate firing without the standard mitigation strategies to guide an employee.

It is evident there is a backstory that most will never know but it appears that the Eaglecrest Board of Directors handled the situation poorly, irresponsibly and seemingly with little forethought of impacts or next steps. These actions leave Eaglecrest in a challenging and unplanned transition in the middle of multiple projects, at the time when most ski areas are already preparing for the next season, and without the services of the most popular, successful and hardworking general managers in recent history.

Many people came away from the June 6 EBD meeting wondering how this board was going to manage a ski area if it could not even facilitate a functional public meeting. It also begged the question — who would be easier to replace? A dysfunctional board or a high-functioning general manager?

• Brian Goettler has been a resident of Juneau for 27 years and an Eaglecrest patron/season pass holder for 26.

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