Miss Novak: “I guess we fought a lot, but losing a job at a time like this … is something you don’t wish …”
Mr. Kralik: “On your worse enemy.”
– The Shop Around the Corner
In the 1940 classic movie “The Shop Around the Corner,” directed by Ernst Lubitsch, Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) sympathizes with Mr. Kralik, (James Stewart) upon learning the news Mr. Kralik has been fired from his sales position with Matuschek and Company.
Losing a job is painful. Losing a job this close to Christmas is devastating.
In the movie not only does Mr. Kralik get reinstated but he’s promoted to manager. Not so with El Dorado Hills Community Services District General Manager John Skeel. And whether you liked him or not, hearing the recent news of his termination is something most people wouldn’t wish on their worse enemy.
Just two weeks ago John Skeel approached me at a community event at Rolling Hills Middle School. He shared his story of a life in limbo and wanted me to know how much he looked forward to getting back to work. There was a tone of passion in his voice. He left me believing he could really put the ugly matter of his first termination behind him and move El Dorado Hills forward in a positive direction.
Apparently the El Dorado Hills Community Services District Board of Directors believed otherwise. Skeel was placed on paid leave June 20 for what the board said was a lack of knowledge of various policies and functions. This included a lack of participation in community activities, not engaging and eliciting cooperation with other agencies, not understanding the budget process, not attending committee meetings and failure to maintain an open, effective working relationship with the board and senior staff.
Since then both sides were involved with hammering out a “remediation plan.” This was the direction the community was informed the CSD was going because many believed Mr. Skeel was wrongly discharged.
John Skeel may have been weak in some areas of management. He obviously wasn’t aware of the cozy relationship between staff and directors. And for any real change to occur it was going to be painful for some people. This wasn’t the right hire for this board. He had to go.
Only one director supported reinstating him. Director Billy Vandegrift expressed doubts about the strength of the charges against Skeel. We may one day learn if his doubts are substantiated or if the decision by remaining board members holds up in the case for termination.
Meanwhile Director Noelle Mattock has fallen on her sword with a public apology to the Skeel family and the community. Hoping to put this situation behind her she’s appealing for the community’s understanding with a promise she’ll work harder and smarter moving forward. We’ll see.
Everyone now claims this decision took too long. The remediation process (or was it just an exercise for show) didn’t move forward. Why?
My guess is that some board members just couldn’t agree with any remediation plan presented. They couldn’t stomach working with this general manager under any conditions. Everyone put on a good front though. They had him jump through some hoops, draft up a plan, and let him and the community believe the board was seriously considering reinstating him.
Meanwhile, as Skeel was left whistling in the wind for 13 weeks, they calculated their odds of winning a possible lawsuit and decided to roll the dice.
Christmas may seem bleak for the Skeel family this year, now that CSD Board of Directors dropped a big lump of coal in John Skeel’s Christmas stocking. But Christmas is a magical season. And who knows, if a lawsuit is filed the CSD Board of Directors, compliments of El Dorado Hills taxpayers, may end up giving the Skeel family a belated Christmas present.
Perhaps the board should consider opening a Christmas savings account for next year. Because between legal fees and the likely settlement the Skeel family will receive this is going to be one expensive Christmas gift.
Richard Esposito is publisher of Village Life. You can reach him at [email protected].