Skeel, CSD board ‘put down the weapons’
Suspended El Dorado Hills Community Services District General Manager John Skeel’s return appears imminent, based on comments coming out of the closed session meeting between Skeel and the SD Board of Directors last week.
Skeel and board President Guy Gertsch characterized recent discussions as positive and productive. Neither would divulge the terms of the proposed remediation, but both agreed that the matter could be resolved as soon as this week.
The board placed Skeel on paid leave June 20, less than six months after he took the reins as general manager of the special district, which has 37 full time employees, 50 year-round part timers and another 150 part timers in the summer. The suspension was the first step in a dismissal process that seemingly derailed as details of the charges against Skeel, and his responses to them, became public in a boisterous open meeting on Aug. 23.
One of several areas of contention between the GM and the board was a 90-day evaluation in Skeel’s personnel file that Skeel’s attorney claimed was not the document used to in an April performance review. Skeel wasn’t given a copy at the time, and the document produced by the board wasn’t signed or dated.
Gertsch called the disputed document a “moot point,” since the evaluation was informal. Skeel indicated that it hasn’t come up in the remediation discussions.
On Sept. 2, the board voted unanimously to defer the decision to terminate Skeel “contingent upon implementing a detailed remediation plan to allow the general manager to correct performance deficiencies and overcome the basis to terminate his contract and return to duty,” according to a press release authored by CSD legal counsel Bob Thurbon.
The press release got the remediation discussions off on a less-than-amicable note, stating that Skeel had “serious performance issues” and had engaged in “conduct that is inconsistent with the standards of conduct required of all district employees, especially our top manager.”
Skeel said Thurbon’s tough words didn’t deter him from working with the board to get reinstated. “I think that was more him (Thurbon) than the board,” he said. “I figure if the board was willing to work with me then I would work with them.”
Since then, a subcommittee consisting of Gertsch and Director Tony Rogozinski has met with Skeel several times to hammer out the plan. Both sides softened their rhetoric along the way.
The recent meetings have included the full board. After Tuesday’s meeting Gertsch reported by phone “We’re getting it dialed in,” but warned Village Life not to expect many details. “It will be a private document, kept in his employee file.”
The plan will contain “goals and objectives, certainly,” he said, “but there are multiple elements of the plan.”
Gertsch confirmed that neither side’s lawyers are attending the remediation meetings, which have become quite amicable. “We’re in lock step with John, and making strong progress.”
After the terms of the remediation are agreed upon, Skeel and the board will jointly conduct a series of employee meetings, after which Skeel will return to work, said Gertsch. The next meeting with Skeel is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m.
Might the plan get approved at that time?
Skeel gave it a 50-50 chance, “at least.”
Gertsch would only say, “We’re all working towards getting John back to work.”
“Guy keeps saying ‘let’s put down the weapons’ and that’s worked fine,” said Skeel. “I’m trusting that that’s their intent. It’s certainly mine. So let’s work together to get me back to work. It’s been too long.”
Gertsch subsequently credited board member Tony Rogozinski for the disarmament quote.