El Dorado Hills Community Services General Manager John Skeel still has a job, for the moment.
CSD Board Vice-president Noelle Mattock opened the July board meeting on Thursday night by reporting that, “Our attorney and John’s attorney are working together amicably to resolve the situation.”
After the meeting Mattock added, “We’re optimistic for a resolution” and, “We have the best interests of the residents at heart.”
But any sense that Skeel might remain on as general manager after abruptly being asked to take a personal leave of absence last month was tempered by the fact that Skeel has removed his personal effects from his office, leaving behind an empty space.
“At the time that (Skeel) was placed on a leave of absence he was hopeful that he could work with the board to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their differences, and he has always wanted simply to return to work and do his job,” states attorney Ellen C. Arabian-Lee, who’s representing Skeel. “However, it has been made clear to him that this is not an option for him.”
The board received several letters in support of Skeel, one of which was read aloud during the meeting.
Board President Guy Gertsch replied in writing to each, reiterating, “It is difficult for employees and community members to form accurate conclusions about the current state of affairs concerning John … since the district is prohibited by law from releasing information publicly concerning personnel matters.”
Gertsch further laments the frustration in the community “since you are left to form opinions and reach conclusions based on only partial information, sometimes inaccurate information and rumors and speculation.”
Skeel’s contract was effective Jan. 31, 2011, and runs for three years.
He earns $126,500 per year. Benefits includes up to $1,775 per month in medical, dental and vision coverage, plus a PERS retirement package that would pay him 2 percent at 60 with an employee contribution of 3.5 percent. He also receives a $375 per month vehicle allowance and a cell phone.
The CSD’s recruitment and hiring expenses include a $9,380 relocation fee to move Skeel’s family from Colorado, plus the cost of several round-trip airfares flying Skeel, other candidates and some district officials to and from El Dorado Hills. In addition, Human Resources Director Manager Lynn Lowry (no relation to former General Manager and current director Wayne Lowery) was given two weeks of paid vacation for her efforts in recruiting Skeel.
Skeel is responsible for the relocation expenses if he resigns or is discharged.
The CSD general manager serves at the pleasure of the board and, according to the contract, may be “discharged for cause” for failure to perform broad responsibilities defined in the contract: job knowledge/skills, quality and quantity of work, initiative and creativity, teamwork/cooperation, communication, ability to adapt to change, decision making and judgment, leadership and supervision/management.
He may also be discharged for failure to meet goals established in his first 30 days on the job.
The contract doesn’t include a probationary period for the general manager position, so he can’t be terminated “at will.” It does, however, include performance reviews at three and six months. Gertsch confirmed that a three-month review was conducted but wouldn’t share the details.
Four of five directors must vote to discharge for cause but, importantly, the contract states that “sufficiency of cause shall be determined solely by the board of directors.” The contract requires that the board provide “written notice of the conduct or deficiencies” prior to initiating discharge for cause. Skeel would get an opportunity to defend himself to the board against the pending action.
Violation of the terms of the contract would leave the board exposed to a lawsuit by Skeel.
“There’s a mountain of information out there, not all of it accurate,” said Gertsch by phone on Friday. “People are trying to fill in the blanks, which they really can’t do yet. We ask that you be patient. This is going to take a while to play out.”