TSN.ca broke a story about a lawsuit fired by former Wilkes-Barre Penguins assistant coach Jarred Skalde filed against the Penguins in the United States District Court. It accuses the Penguins of violating Pennsylvania’s whistleblower laws and requested damages for physical and emotional pain, mental suffering and loss of income. A financial amount was not specified.
As TSN reported (warning: in fairly graphic detail), there was an alleged sexual assault in November 2018 involving former WB/S head coach Clark Donatelli and Skalde’s wife, Erin. (Erin told TSN that she supported having her name published and details of her allegations reported).
Jarrod Skalde told his superiors — namely Pittsburgh assistant general manager Bill Guerin, who also served then as the GM of Wilkes-Barre — about the assault in June 2019 at the NHL draft in Vancouver. Shortly afterwards, Donatelli left the team. Officially it was announced as resignation from his position due to “personal reasons”. Per TSN, Skalde indicates that the Pens didn’t want the reason for the dismissal to be public knowledge.
“Guerin later advised Mr. Skalde that the Penguins were terminating Mr. Donatelli’s employment, but instructed [Jarrod] that knowledge of the incident and termination had to be suppressed, cautioning that it ‘has to stay quiet and can’t be let out,’” the lawsuit says.
Skalde remained with Wilkes-Barre for the 2019-20 season, but has cited retaliation incidents leading up to his May 5, 2020 termination — including loss of overseeing the WB/S power play, and not receiving a laptop computer when the rest of the coaching staff was given them by the team.
The Pens’ organization has responded that Skalde’s termination was due to staffing reductions made necessary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Skalde’s lawsuit points out that out of 21 employees with the team’s hockey operations department, Skalde was the only person fired.
Skalde also alleged that the Penguins knew of other inappropriate conduct and actions by Donatelli:
countless other episodes of inappropriate conduct by Mr. Donatelli, sexual and otherwise, which apparently the Penguins were aware of but did little or nothing to stop. Donatelli’s misconduct… was well-known by the Penguins management, but tolerated because he was a successful coach.”
The lawsuit says the Penguins should have been on notice about Donatelli’s conduct, which allegedly included making crude and physical sexual advances on women while working for the organization, and having sexual relations with lower-level staff at Mohegan Sun Arena, where the AHL team plays its home games.
The Penguins have so far released one brief statement about the incident:
Per the Penguins motion to dismiss, Skalde reported the alleged incident on June 21, 2019. The club’s HR leader interviewed Skalde on June 25. On June 27, Donatelli left the organization.— Mike DeFabo (@MikeDeFabo) December 8, 2020
The Penguins have released the following statement. pic.twitter.com/ktKirOOQ08
The Pens have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Per TSN, here’s a statement from one of their lawyers:
“The team investigated and took immediate action in June 2019 when notified of the alleged incident, which Mr. Skalde reported seven months after it allegedly occurred,” Penguins lawyer Lori Armstrong wrote. ”Mr. Skalde continued to coach for the team [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton] for an additional year, when his contract was not renewed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The allegations made against the team have no merit, and we have moved to dismiss the complaint.”
Bill Guerin, who left the Pens’ organization in August 2019 to join the Minnesota Wild organization, has not responded publicly to comment as of yet.