Johnson, Idaho League Disagree on CEO's Dismissal
Christopher Johnson and the Idaho Credit Union League parted ways four months ago.
Next month, their paths will cross again in an Idaho court room.
Johnson, who was fired in November from the Idaho League after only five months on the job as president/CEO, is suing the league for $4,700 in unreimbursed business expenses, according to a court document filed by Johnson in Idaho Fourth District Court’s small claims department in Boise. The suit’s court date is scheduled for 10 a.m. on April 11.
Johnson, of Reno, Nev., spoke exclusively to CU Times about how he was dismissed from the job, why he thinks he was let go and why he's suing for expenses.
Johnson left the Idaho League on Nov. 22. The league did not make a public announcement, but informed its member credit unions and appointed then league vice president Kathy Thomson interim president/CEO.
“Two members of the board came to my office and told me that the board had reconsidered its decision to hire me and that it no longer wanted me to lead the league,” Johnson told CU Times.
He said board members did not provide him with specific reasons for their decision.
“One of them apologized for the board’s actions, and the other shed more than a few tears,” Johnson said. “They seemed very conflicted about what they were doing. This is speculation, but I believe that the board’s action (was) related to their initial CEO search process and decision.”
Johnson believes some of the board members wanted to hire another candidate for the league’s top job.
“His candidacy must have had strong support among some members of the board, who would have been disappointed at my selection as CEO,” Johnson said. “So I believe that the result of the CEO search may have colored the willingness of some of the board members to support me. There may have been unreconciled differences among aboard members about what they sought in a CEO and the vision that they had for the future of the league.”
Shane Berger, board chair and president/CEO of the $178 million Beehive Credit Union in Rexburg, Idaho, said Johnson’s speculation is off the mark.
“Chris can speculate but his speculation is inaccurate,” Berger said. “I won’t even comment whether he was fired or whether he left. I will just say he doesn’t work for the league anymore and there may be an appropriate time to disclose the reason why he doesn’t work at the Idaho Credit Union League, but today is not that day.”
When asked when he would disclose that information, Berger said he didn’t know, adding that “there may be an appropriate time, there may not be.”
“The board is unified in our perception of Chris’s performance while he was the Idaho Credit Union League CEO,” Berger said. “Now, that doesn’t tell you whether he was fired or whether he left on his own.”
Berger also said Johnson’s departure has nothing to do with the interviewing and hiring process.
He noted that Kathy Thomson was not even a candidate for the league’s president/CEO position when the board was searching for a new president/CEO last year. Thomson was appointed as the league’s new leader on Feb. 11.
Regarding the lawsuit, the Idaho league said it reimbursed Johnson for some business expenses, but it did not reimburse him for other expenses because he did not provide documentation required by league policy.
On Jan. 29, Johnson filed his small claims lawsuit for his unreimbursed business expenses claiming misrepresentation, detrimental reliance and conversion against the Idaho league.
“Those are the legal basis of my claim, which is for unpaid routine and reasonable business (travel) expenses,” said Johnson, who is a lawyer that served as a managing associate general counsel for Freddie Mac prior to working as vice president of state governmental affairs at CUNA from 2006 to 2010.
“The league has converted my money to its own uses, money that I earned,” Johnson said. “I paid the expenses out of my own pocket. It (the league) misrepresented its expense and reimbursement policies, and I relied upon them, which is how the league came to convert my money to its own uses.”
After Johnson left, Berger said the league received and fulfilled several requests for reimbursement of expenses of a substantial amount.
“We reimbursed Chris for all the expenses that were properly documented,” Berger said. “We had some questions and concerns about some expenses that have remained unreimbursed today. We asked for additional documentation prior to reimbursement for those expenses, but we didn’t refuse to reimburse him for anything. We asked for further documentation and none was provided.”
Berger added it is against the league policy to reimburse expenses without proper documentation.