More CSD woes: Former department manager sues
A former El Dorado Hills Community Services District department manager went public last week accusing the already battered district of wrongful termination and a basket full of inappropriate and illegal acts.
Former public information officer and Support Services manager Deborah, “Debbie,” Kiley filed suit in El Dorado County Superior Court on July 29, alleging that employees of the district retaliated against her for speaking up about alleged drug use among lifeguards last summer and also discriminated against her due to her age; she was 57 when she was laid off in 2010.
The suit names the district, former General Manager Wayne Lowery (now on the CSD board), Assistant GM Sandi Kukkola and Human Resources Manager Tracy Lynn Lowry (no relation to Lowery) as co-defendants. The individuals are named as district employees and as individuals.
Kiley also alleges the board discussed her in closed session without notifying her and committed numerous meeting notice and Brown Act violations, including failing to report out of closed session.
Kiley e-mailed the lawsuit to Village Life, but would not speak to us or respond to e-mailed questions.
Board president Guy Gertsch told Village Life on Friday afternoon that the district had yet to receive the suit and therefore couldn’t comment.
Kiley graduated from McGeorge School of Law and became licensed to practice law in 1999. She has an active practice in El Dorado Hills, according to the State Bar of California.
She started working at the CSD as a part-time administrative assistant in June 2006. By March 2009 she was full time, working as an administrative assistant II and the district’s public information officer.
In June 2009 Lowry and Kukkola recruited Kiley for the newly formed Support Services supervisor position, managing a shared pool of district clerical and administrative staff.
In her lawsuit Kiley states that her professional background included similar roles in both the public and private sector and she was comfortable accepting the promotion, and continued to perform information officer responsibilities.
Friction began immediately, according to the lawsuit. Kiley states that beginning in August 2009 Kukkola and Lowry repeatedly accused her of “badgering” a co-worker. Kiley flatly denies the accusations.
In October 2009 Lowry called a meeting and “inappropriately rebuked” Kiley in the presence of the co-worker and Kukkola, the lawsuit states. Kiley later obtained copies of her personnel file and states in the suit that it contains no documented performance or discipline problems, but she was nonetheless shunned.
In November 2009 Kiley states her performance was being closely monitored and she was excluded from meetings.
In February 2010 the suit states that Kukkola informed Kiley she “just wasn’t working out,” but offered no substantive evidence of any performance shortfall.
The suit also alleges that Lowry encouraged Kiley to abandon the Support Services manager position in May 2010 for an information officer/grant writer position. The suit doesn’t state Kiley’s response or what came of the new position.
The matter heated up in June 2010 when Kiley reported to Lowry that three lifeguards, all district employees, were overheard worrying about passing the district’s mandatory drug test and planning to buy a product to help them beat the test.
Eight days later Kiley was notified by GM Lowery of her impending layoff due to budgetary cutbacks. Her last day would be June 30, 2010.
At the June 2010 board meeting the 2010-11 budget was approved with both the support supervisor and information officer positions in it, according to the suit.
In a June 15, 2010, meeting that Kiley maintains she wasn’t invited to, Kukkola and Lowry explained the layoffs to staff as board-initiated cost cutting measures. Kiley states in the lawsuit that she didn’t know at the time that she was the only one being laid off.
Also at that meeting, which Kiley says she attended despite not being invited, lifeguard supervisor Teri Gotro, 15 years younger than Kiley, was promoted to Kiley’s support services supervisor position, according to the lawsuit.
During her last two weeks Kiley claims she repeatedly told Kukkola she was willing to stay on in a lesser position, even part-time without benefits. She specifically requested an open, part-time CC&R compliance position. It was ultimately filled by a person outside the district.
Kiley requested severance pay and a letter of recommendation during her exit interview on June 30, 2010, but got neither, according to the lawsuit.
The CSD employees’ union filed a grievance on Kiley’s behalf in late July 2010. Union leadership, Kiley, Kukkola and district legal counsel Lindsey Moore met in August 2010.
Moore reiterated the district’s position: Kiley was laid off for budgetary reasons, not “for cause.”
The lawsuit spends several pages describing a sequence of allegedly improper board meeting protocols and decisions surrounding Kiley, which she alleges violated her right to due process.
Specifically, she claims the board had not approved a necessary resolution to lay her off. The board admitted its mistakes, she contends, by holding a special meeting to ratify the general manager’s termination of Kiley a full month after her last day.
In August 2010 the union requested a full evidentiary hearing. In October 2010 they upped the ante, asking for an arbitrator, which is allowed under the current union memorandum of understanding, according to the suit.
The suit claims the district has ignored the union’s requests on Kiley’s behalf.
Kiley has filed both a Department of Fair Employment and Housing charge of age discrimination and a “government tort claim” against the district in preparation to sue the district.