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September 19, 2013
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ERC announces Trent out as executive director

The Nevada County Economic Resource Council elected to part ways with Robert Trent, its executive director, approximately seven months after hiring him.

Robert Bergman, chairman of the ERC Executive Committee, issued a press release Thursday morning announcing Trent would not continue as the director but declined to provide the rationale for the decision.

“I’m not going to elaborate beyond the press release,” Bergman said.

The ERC, which is charged with spurring economic development in western Nevada County, managing the county’s $240,000 tourism enhancement contract as well as acting as a resource for existing and prospective businesses, will soon begin the search for its fourth executive director since January 2012 and fifth in the past three years.

Bergman downplayed the impact of the frequent turnover at ERC’s leadership position.

“No, au contraire,” Bergman responded when asked if the turnover impairs the organization’s mission. “I think that it has strengthened it. It started at the time that (former executive director Jon Blinder) elected to go … It required more of us. The whole team has to step up for us to do as well or better.”

Nevertheless, Bergman conceded constant turnover carries a cost to any organization.

“There is a transitional cost,” he said. “You have people learning on the job.”

Trent, who helped host a large community event for Sierra Commons Thursday night, said he preferred to move forward but did say he was proud of his accomplishments during his stint.

“When I was hired as executive director, I was chosen from a large pool of candidates. I know that who I am and what I do and my qualifications are no secret,” Trent said. “I have been public about what I believe.”

Trent asserted he met every single stipulation of the independent contracting agreement he signed with the ERC.

“I believe I have (met the requirements) in flying colors, and I am proud of my accomplishments at the ERC,” Trent said, adding that he was hired on a four-and-a-half-month contract and received a three-month extension subsequent to being hired.

“I completed the scope of the work that was required and moved the organization forward significantly,” he said.

In the Thursday press release, Bergman appeared to agree with Trent’s self-assessment.

“Robert Trent assisted the ERC in important ways,” Bergman stated in the release. “The tasks Robert took on and the challenges he met along the way were not easy ones to address, and we all appreciate the energy and focus he put into his work.”

Trent was hired in February, after Jon Blinder resigned amid charges that he committed felony fraud in connection with the Phil Lester case. Charges against Blinder were dropped by the state Attorney General’s office in March.

In July, Nevada County staff acknowledged the continual turnover at the ERC was hindering the organization’s ability to implement the county’s tourism enhancement efforts.

“The past changes in leadership at the helm were unforeseen, disrupted progress and created some inconsistency in the work flow,” states a June 24 staff report authored by Eve Diamond.

Despite “suffering a number of setbacks resulting in ERC having four executive directors over the last two years,” county staff recommended extending the historically annual contract to a two-year contract to give the organization “momentum.”

The board of supervisors approved the contract.

Despite yet another change at the leadership position, the county reasserted its confidence in the ERC Thursday.

“The county will not micromanage the administrative affairs of that nonprofit,” said County Executive Officer Rick Haffey. “The county is confident that the executive committee and the board of directors of the ERC will fulfill the requirements of its two-year contract with the county of Nevada.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or 530-477-4239.

“I believe I have (met the requirements) in flying colors and I am proud of my accomplishments at the ERC,”
Robert Trent
on his tenure as ERC executive director


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The Union Updated Sep 27, 2013 05:47PM Published Sep 20, 2013 09:33PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.