Tuesday Dec 27 2011
Skeel firing sparks recall talk by El Dorado Hills residents
By: Eric Laughlin, Telegraph Correspondent
District employees believe Skeel’s firing was retaliatory
A group of El Dorado Hills residents have met recently to evaluate an effort to recall one or more directors on the community services district board. According to district employees who spoke on the condition that they remain anonymous to avoid retaliation, the two meetings were citizen-organized and the result of frustrations over the board’s handling of former general manager John Skeel. Some 30 people were reportedly in attendance at both meetings. Skeel was hired to lead the district this past January, but was placed on administrative leave just six months in. After being paid to do nothing for months, he was officially terminated Dec. 8. At least three of these employees have said they believe the board retaliated against Skeel for suggesting the assistant GM position and the human resources director positions be eliminated, based on the district’s relatively small workforce. One said the retaliation took place because members on the board are close personal friends with both the assistant GM and the HR director. Resident Chuck Hammond, who ran for a spot on the board last fall, said he would be willing to get behind a recall effort if it became organized enough. He, like many, said he is frustrated with the board’s handling of Skeel. “He’s an honorable man and I think he should have been given a chance to perform his talents,” Hammond said. Resident Don Clark led an online petition drive to bring Skeel back while his fate as GM was pending. “As a taxpayer, I find it very appalling,” he said. “And they can say it won’t cost us anything, but I don’t believe them. They’ll probably have to get a new attorney because the one they’ve got on retainer will probably have to recuse himself.” Skeel has said that he will likely file suit against the district for breach of contract. He issued a press release recently in response to one issued by the district. In it, he refutes the district’s claim of making a “strong and genuine effort” to resolve issues between the two parties. He writes that he was only invited to three of the 20 meetings held from August to December to discuss his remediation plan. Skeel said that in the meetings he was invited to, he was given the impression that progress was being made, which made his termination all the more sudden. He also said he was reprimanded in the district’s remediation document for his decision to take his proceedings public. Since the matter was personnel-related, it was up to Skeel and his attorneys to discuss the charges privately or in front of residents. Skeel chose the latter. “Your decision to take these matters public complicated the prospect for successful completion of a performance improvement plan, and did not enhance it,” the document states, according to Skeel. Board President Guy Gertsch was reached Thursday, but could not confirm whether or not that statement was made in the remediation document, citing it as a personnel matter. Gertsch also did not wish to comment on the reported recall effort. He did say he expects the district to bring on an interim GM in the coming weeks and have a permanent GM on staff by the middle of next year. “The board also plans to lead an effort to objectively examine management practices, succession planning and other priorities that impact the district,” he wrote in an e-mail Thursday. One of the district employees aware of the recall effort said she expects it to get more organized after the holidays.