Peter Callstrom
Peter Callstrom speaks at a press conference in September announcing a $10 million grant to train public-sector employees. Photo courtesy of the workforce partnership

A well-known San Diego nonprofit executive who was ousted over allegations of discrimination said a third-party investigation has cleared him of wrongdoing.

Peter Callstrom, who served for 11 years as CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, was ousted after the filing of a lawsuit alleging discrimination and an anonymous letter accusing him of creating a toxic work environment at the agency.

The partnership is a public benefit corporation that provides regional job training. It is overseen by a public-sector Policy Board made up of elected officials who make funding decisions, and a private-sector Workforce Development Board, which determines the region’s training needs.

Callstrom was placed on paid leave in November and his annual contract was not renewed in March by the public-sector Policy Board.

But two months later in May, Callstrom said, the Los Angeles-based law firm of Adams, Duerk & Kamenstein hired by the Policy Board found the allegations against him to be without merit.

“I am pleased that this investigation found no merit in these unfounded allegations,” Callstrom said. “While responding to baseless claims is unpleasant, I recognize the importance of processes being available to ensure there is a course of redress if and when there are discriminatory behaviors in the workplace.”

Callstrom was not given a copy of the report, but said it was read to him.

Attorneys for both the Policy Board and Workforce Development Board declined to comment on the report, saying it is a private personnel matter.

Callstrom had remained on the organization’s payroll through June, and is now exploring new opportunities in the nonprofit human services field.

He looks back on 2022 as a banner year for the partnership, pointing to a $10 million state grant for training public-sector workers.

“Together with many wonderful coworkers and board members, we transformed the SDWP into being recognized as the best workforce board in the country,” he said. “I leave with great pride in all that we have accomplished, who we have served, and the positive impact in thousands of lives.”

Sammy Totah, an executive at Kaiser Permanente who is the immediate past chair of the private-sector Workforce Development Board, praised Peter as a leader “with high integrity” who significantly improved the partnership’s financial foundation.

“Peter’s efforts to significantly diversify funding greatly empowered SDWP’s ability to innovate and serve our region,” Totah said. “During his tenure, Peter transitioned the SDWP from reliance on 99% federal funding to less than 50% federal funds, which is remarkable.”

Callstrom said that since his departure, the partnership has lost significant funding and numerous staff. “I want to close this chapter and move on with my life,” he said.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.