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Skeel and CSD board face off

Skeel and legal team
FIGHTING FOR HIS JOB - El Dorado Hills Community Services District General Manager John Skeel, center, and his legal team, Ellen Arabian-Lee, left, and David Daniels countered charges that Skeel violated the terms of his contract. The CSD board of directors trying to terminate Skeel.

Embattled El Dorado Hills Community Services District General Manager John Skeel and his two lawyers appeared in the CSD gym last week to answer charges that he violated whistleblower statutes, tried to lay off his human resources manager and his assistant general manager without board approval, attempted to “sneak” a raise and hours increase for two part-time employees, and was generally secretive and ineffective in his first five months on the job.

The board placed Skeel on paid leave June 20, the first step in a dismissal process that the public got a rare glimpse of last Tuesday night.

The board delivered the charges against Skeel in a formal “Statement of cause for termination of employment contract” on Aug. 5, identifying failures in broad areas of responsibility, including a lack of knowledge of various district policies and functions, an unwillingness to accept responsibility for those functions, 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 open, effective working relationships with the board and senior staff.

To view the CSD’s statement for cause of termination click here.

To view Skeel’s response click here.

Skeel and his attorneys denied all charges, turning many of the accusations back on either the board or CSD human resources manager Tracy Lynn Lowry to the delight of approximately 150 meeting attendees who clapped and hollered their support for Skeel at every opportunity.

The board retired to closed session just past the four-hour mark. CSD legal counsel Bob Thurbon reappeared later to tell those still present that the board needed more information on Skeel’s responses.

Thurbon released a preliminary reaction to Skeel’s response the next day, see corresponding story “CSD Board qustions Skeel’s ‘honesty and trustworthiness.”

The final decision on Skeel will be annonced in an as-yet unscheduled public meeting.

The mood among the lingering night owls was that Skeel and his legal team — Ellen Arabian-Lee and David Daniels of Gurnee and Daniels — defended the GM well, and that the human resources manager was a larger problem than the general manager.

Neither Lowry or Assistant General Manager Sandi Kukkola attended.

The possibility of an expensive lawsuit hung in the air through the proceedings. The board has since indicated that it is considering an independent third-party review.

Afterward, an exhausted Skeel said he was surprised and relieved at the support he got. He said he went public to try to improve the district “for all the employees, past and present,” adding. “All I ever wanted was to come back to work.”

Attorney Thurbon played emcee and district spokesperson, warning the audience that their comments were welcome but said, “This is John’s meeting.”

Board President Guy Gertsch later clarified the ground rules: The board “wasn’t defending anything” or rebutting Skeel or his attorneys, simply hearing Skeel’s responses to the charges.

Throughout the proceeding Skeel’s attorneys repeatedly objected to not being allowed to interview any district employees in preparation of their response to the cause for termination, and complained that much of the testimony heard Tuesday night was new to them.

Last Wednesday the board launched an investigation of Skeel’s responses.

Whistleblower retaliation
The first charge alleges that Skeel attempted to discharge Lowry as retaliation for her disclosure of potential time card abuses by employees of the Parks Department, a practice called “buddy punching” in which an employee or supervisor punches a friend’s time card.

Skeel contends that Lowry provided no concrete instances of time card misuse, no specific employees, times or dates, but he nonetheless investigated and found that no such infractions had occurred.

Both sides agree that Skeel and Lowry subsequently argued vociferously over Skeel’s refusal to pursue the matter further.

The charges indicate that Skeel subsequently asked Kukkola to initiate disciplinary action against Lowry for insubordination. That act, according to district legal counsel Bob Thurbon, constitutes retaliation against a whistleblower.

Kukkola put a summary of the altercation rather than a reprimand into Lowry’s personnel record, frustrating Skeel, who stopped attending human resources meetings with Kukkola and Lowry, and revoked Lowry’s previously approved vacation days, according to the charges.

Arabian-Lee’s version includes the board requesting a reorganization plan to shave $100,000 of salary off the 2011-12 budget. “He looked at outsourcing HR,” she said. “It was just common sense in an organization with just 31 employees.”

Outsourcing the HR position would save an estimated $84,000, she added.

The charges further allege that Skeel contacted Thurbon to initiate a lay-off of both Lowry and Kukkola without obtaining board permission. Thurbon said Skeel insisted the terminations were strictly cost-cutting measures, “but he didn’t have answers as to how the services would be provided, so it seemed retaliatory.”

Thurbon then explained on Tuesday night that he was obligated to inform the board about his conversation with Skeel.

Skeel expected confidentiality from Thurbon but didn’t get it, said Arabian-Lee. “What happened next was a closed board meeting without John. After that (Director) Noelle (Mattock) and Tracy Lynn no longer spoke to him.”

Arabian-Lee also said interim Finance Manager Sherry Shannon, who researched Paychex as a source for HR services at Skeel’s behest, would confirm that Skeel’s motivation was cost cutting, rather than retaliation.

In Skeel’s telling, he shared his plan with Thurbon, along with concern that his already strained relations with the board might hinder their acceptance of his proposal. The board did flatly reject his reorganization plan.

In written responses to the charges, made available before the meeting, Arabian-Lee points out that in order to prove retaliation against a whistleblower, Thurbon must prove that Skeel didn’t care that employees might be “buddy punching” and that Lowry’s reaction so enraged Skeel he sought to retaliate by eliminating her position. “The logic in this argument defies common sense,” she states.

Attorney Daniels directed his closing comments on the retaliation charge at Thurbon. “You keep using the word ‘action,’ like John was going to take action against Tracy and Sandi,” he said. “The only action he took was going to you, his lawyer, and asking for advice on how to present this proposal. It was the board’s decision whether or not to terminate, not John’s.”

Last Tuesday night two admitted “buddy punchers” came forward. Park maintenance workers Terry Halverson and Gilbert Castellanos told the board that for the last year they’ve participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program once a week for 45 minutes at Brooks School near the CSD. Since they get only 30 minutes for lunch they were previously skipping their breaks on those days.

Halverson said he now understands that break skipping is also against district policies, and promised to work extra hours to make up the time. He plans to stay in the program.

Halverson said his largest frustration was reading about the incident in the charges against Skeel and never being told he was doing anything inappropriate. “The district brought the Big Brothers program in,” he said. “Gilbert and I did this in the open at their encouragement.”

Castellanos, whose family has grave health problems that consume his after-work time, told the board that he’ll be saying goodbye to his Little Brother this week. “I can’t lose my job over this.”

Invalid increases
The board also alleges that Skeel tried to increase hours for recreation coordinator Jill Thomas and raise Parks Department Project Engineer Darrah Ramsbotham’s pay in defiance of a board-mandated freeze on discretionary increases.

The board contends that Skeel promised the increases and tried to “sneak” them into the 2011-12 budget without their knowledge.

Arabian-Lee countered that Skeel was unaware of a freeze. Both women subsequently confirmed that Skeel never promised them increases, but said he’d try.

Thomas later addressed the board, explaining that she’d been working the extra hours for free. “Frank (Sianez) and I have worked for two years to get me extra hours, not because I need them but because the job and the district needs those hours. I supervise 14 people and we have no director.”

Skeel denied hiding the increases from the board, and said he removed them at the board’s direction before the budget was finalized.

Benefits
The board also alleges that Skeel attempted to renegotiate his health and retirement benefits.

Arabian-Lee questioned the wisdom of assigning Lowry, a subordinate of Skeel, to negotiate and implement his employment contract, and the result was bad blood between Skeel, Lowry and Mattock during Skeel’s first two weeks on the job.

She claims the contract contained multiple errors, including benefits changes that neither CalPERS nor the union had approved.

Skeel started on Jan. 4, 2011, and learned three days later that Mattock had directed Lowry to make the effective date of his health insurance Feb. 1, according to the response.

Arabian-Lee produced an October e-mail from Lowry stating that Skeel was eligible for health benefits on Jan. 1.

Thurbon pointed to the employment contract Skeel signed, which states that benefits begin the month after work begins. He called Lowry’s October e-mail as an “inadvertent error.”

Gertsch instructed Skeel to bring the matter up at a closed session prior to the regular board meeting on Jan. 13, which “enraged” Mattock, according to Arabian-Lee, making Skeel’s first board meeting “a disaster.”

“Ms. Lowry made sure that Mr. Skeel was not going to succeed,” said Arabian-Lee, who followed with an understated staccato that balanced her partner Daniels’ flamboyance. “He had an e-mail offering coverage as of Jan 1. He’s a cancer survivor. He depends on regular checkups. His family was sick when he arrived. He asked for Cobra coverage. He was declined. He stepped on the wrong toes.”

Arabian-Lee further accused Lowry of having a history of retaliating against employees who challenged her, and states that Skeel had no idea the hornet’s nest he’d stepped into, including the close personal relationship between Lowry and Mattock.

She alleged that Lowry’s allegations against Skeel were filed in retaliation for his attempt to obtain health insurance for his family, and that Skeel’s treatment is a better example of retaliation than anything he’s accused of.

She states in the response “[Lowry’s] unlawful employment practices have already exposed the CSD … to substantial expense and liability in the lawsuit brought by a well-respected former CSD employee of four years, Deborah Kiley.”

Vehicle use
Arabian-Lee dismissed the accusation that Skeel “routinely used” district vehicles, despite receiving a car allowance, stating that Skeel only used district vehicles “five or six times, always on district business.”

Meetings
The board also accused Skeel of failing to attend CSD committee meetings and meetings of other agencies, deferring to Kukkola whenever possible. Skeel admitted that he delegated meetings to Kukkola because there was so much to do, but filled in when she couldn’t make it.

Secretive
“This board feels like you intentionally tried to conceal information from them,” said Thurbon. “You wouldn’t even share information with your management staff.”

“I didn’t hide anything,” said Skeel, who said he spoke with his primary board contact, Gertsch, often. Skeel admitted that he tried to keep the reorganization plan confidential until the board approved it, since senior staff members were affected.

Daniels bristled at the depiction of his client as secretive, citing the employment contract, which grants the general manager “full charge of the business of the district on behalf of the board of directors.”

“It’s an enumerated duty, one John tried to follow, yet when he sought legal advice from the district’s attorney they had a closed session without him,” Daniels said. “I have to ask, ‘Where’s the concealment?’”

Parks staff
The charges also allege that Skeel directed an inordinate amount of attention to the staff of the Parks Department, which maintains district facilities, and where his office was located.

Skeel said he worked hard to build relationships with staff. “There was a huge morale issue, specifically with the parks staff, when I arrived,” he said. “I guess I was guilty of building morale. I treated parks staff the same way I treated all the staff; I gave them the trust they deserve.”

Goals
Nowhere is the breakdown in communications between Skeel and his board more evident that in the failure to agree on goals and objectives. The board contends Skeel was “elusive on creating measurable goals and objectives,” said Thurbon.

Complicating matters, the board enlisted a consultant to help create “pay-for-performance” goals beyond Skeel’s basic job responsibilities.

Skeel replied, “Within the first 30 days I provided an extensive packet of information to this board. I laid out ideas for how goals and objectives could be reached. None of it was acted on. The … consultant … used the goals and objectives I came up with in my first 30 days as a basis for pay-for-performance.”

Skeel contends that when the process was nearly complete, Mattock turned some of the pay-for-performance goals into regular goals. “Some were impossible to meet in six months, and some required reopening the union MOU,” said Skeel.

Gertsch later said he recieved some information from Skeel, but not the packet of information Skeel referred to, and said he recieved no goals from Skeel.

Skeel described his three-month evaluation as “a brief closed session where vague matters were raised.” He said he received a short written document that was circulated then collected.

The board had to create the goals used in Skeel’s three-month evaluation, said Gertsch. “It included different categories … including a lot of things that needed to happen as far as improvements. It was a review, and we placed it in his file.”

Gertsch later confirmed that Skeel didn’t sign the document, and “handed back his copy.”

Skeel’s attorneys claim Skeel’s personnel file contains a multi-page evaluation of Skeel that is not the abbreviated review that Skeel recalls.

Click here to view the 90-day evaluation that was in Skeel’s file

A visibly angry Skeel called out Gertsch on Tuesday night: “You sit here tonight and claim that I was given that document … That’s a complete lie. At that meeting …. what I got were a few bullet points related to e-mails. We spent maybe 20 minutes on that document, after which you collected them and said they’d be destroyed. The one thing that is in my file is something I’ve never seen before, and has a lot more categories than what we discussed that night.”

The audience roared its support of Skeel. When they quieted down, Gertsch calmly told Skeel that integrity is very important to him. “I’m not going to sit here and allow you to call me a liar. I have four board members sitting here that were in the same meeting. We provided feedback to you. You tossed the document back at us. You didn’t want to see it.”

The board’s subsequent investigation concluded that the evaluation in the file is what was used in Skeel’s evaluation. Village Life has asked for a copy.

Lowry
As the meeting rolled into its fourth hour, the role of Lowry and her friendship with Mattock came under scrutiny by staff, their family, and the public.

Arabian-Lee pointing out that despite the fact that she was a full-time employee, Lowry also worked for the Cameron Park CSD and recruited General Manager Fred Smith, who was fired last March.

Several former district employees came forward with stories about Lowry. “They’re all similar,” said Arabian-Lee. “They crossed Tracy Lynn; they were retaliated against and they were eventually fired.”

The response to charges includes testimony from longtime CSD employee Janice McGrath, who Arabian-Lee called “a genuine whistleblower who was terminated by Tracy Lynn Lowry.”

Daniels cited a “cult of secrecy” at the district, and read the results of an anonymous survey of district staff collected in late April. The comments were largely supportive of Skeel. Many criticized Lowry, accusing her of retaliatory firings and of hiring her friends and family.

“Mr. Skeel would love to return to his work,” said Daniels, who then threatened “a full and thorough investigation of the allegations heard here tonight” if the (Skeel termination) proceeding goes forward. “I believe that there has been enough said today that each of the board members will be subject to deposition and examination under oath.”

Former general manager and current Director Wayne Lowery (no relation to Tracy Lynn Lowry) asked his successor what he’d do to rebuild the board’s confidence if he were reinstated.

Skeel replied, “Clearly we’d need to sit down and have a serious talk about communication and expectations.”

Short URL: http://www.villagelife.com/?p=10673

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23 Comments for “Skeel and CSD board face off”


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  1. Concerened EDH Citizen

    What an embarrassment for our community.

    What I felt like I was witnessing last night was a 4-hour severance negotiation. In my estimation, we did not get the whole story. There appeared to me to be something more that no one seems comfortable bringing to the surface. The die is cast. I sensed irreconcilable differences between the parties.

    The board did a lousy job on this hire. This is not a reflection on Mr. Skeel. The board chose a candidate without determining if that candidate fits the culture they want. The HR Director was given far too much influence on the decision and on the post-hire evaluations being shared with the board. The Board wasted time, money, and goodwill that the district does not have. Shame on them.

    I can’t imagine that the HR person can be nearly as bad a person as she was made out to be last night. That said, there is clearly a problem in the workplace and she seems to be at the center of it. I’d like to hear that the board is working with her on a performance improvement plan – at minimum.

    We live in a small community and board members are bound to have personal relationships with employees. However, there is a clear impression that Noelle Mattock is favoring her friend, the HR director, and that perhaps Wayne Lowrey is doing the same for his former employee. Both should come clean as to their personal relationship with her and any conversations outside of official settings that relate to this situation.

    I also got the impression that CSD Counsel, Bob Thurbon, never made it clear to Skeel that he had no attorney-client privilege in his discussions with Thurbon. Conversations that Skeel appeared to think were in confidence with counsel were relayed by Thurbon to the Board? After 20-years, it appears to me that Thurbon has become too comfortable in his position and it is time to review the relationship. He appeared vested in a pre-determined outcome – that Mr. Skeel be removed.

    The only way our community grows and prospers is by attracting new residents – people like the Skeels who move here from other communities because of the quality of life offered in EDH. We have no industry to speak of and a limited business base. The services provided by a top quality CSD (and good schools) are prerequisite for anyone who considering moving to our area.

    Now that our Community Services District is losing the confidence of the community and our schools are losing funding why would anyone want to move here?

    What a sad state of affairs and everyone involved – the Board, counsel, Mr Skeel and the HR Director – share the blame.

  2. I was present at that meeting and disagree with the preceding comment. The directly visible fault was entirely with the board, and we owe thanks to Mr. Skeel for asking that this proceeding be public.

    At this meeting Mr. Skeel demonstrated competence not only in his past actions but especially in his performance at the meeting. His communication skills were evident and entirely consistent with the “4 C’s” advice that I gave to tech writers during my own career: Be Clear, Concise, Correct, and Complete, in that order of importance.

    The facts showed clarity on Mr. Skeel’s part, a muddle on the part of the board.

  3. Concerened EDH Citizen

    Mr. Skeel demonstrated competence in answering the questions, and he gave no reason to believe he is anything less than a competent GM. But I have to believe there is some base level of competence among the Board and they did not set out to sabotage their new hire.

    Something happened – and as likely as not it was as simple as a clash of business cultures.

    Neither side can be without fault for allowing this to get to this level. That doesn’t mean either is necessarily bad.

    I would be surprised and pleased if a solution is reached to keep Mr. Skeel in his position. My sense is that we’re beyond that and are just arguing over $. Everyone loses in that scenario.

  4. El Dorado Hellion

    Last year, the CSD Board decided that new blood was needed in EDH. The CSD Board watched over the recruiting, interviewing, reference checking, and background checking of their top candidate – John Skeel. Ultimately, the CSD Board determined Skeel to be worthy and capable. The CSD Board hired and transplanted Skeel and his family to El Dorado Hills. The operation was a success. Wait – “Code Blue!”

    Transplant rejection is expected. It is as natural for the immune system to attack the transplanted tissue as it is for some school kids to hate the new kid in town. Doctors, teachers and leaders watch over this. What was not expected was for the rejection would spill over onto the leaders themselves – those that could easily conjure up charges and hide behind the veil of “personnel action.”

    Within six months the CSD Board, cloistered behind their veil, took steps to dismiss Skeel. EDH folks immediately smelled a rat, and the CSD employees issued a “no confidence” vote on the CSD Board.

    At last night’s ‘kangaroo court, (a “he said, she said” playground drama) Skeel, attempted to shine some light under the veil but the CSD Board counsel evoked the veil whenever it was convenient.

    Last night, CSD Board President, Guy Gertsch, grabbed the microphone to assure the audience that he was watching every nickel in the CSD. Huh? The comments sounded hollow and out of place. Does he think that we cannot calculate the cost of paying-off Skeel and hiring someone new? Also, if Skeel is so bad, what does that say about his hiring ability and decision-making? Where is the person in charge? Who is going to overcome transplant rejection and separate the fight on the playground?

    We need leadership. We need someone to watch more than our nickels, to also watch over our common decency, core beliefs and values. Integrity, Excellence, Customer Service, People and Sustainability. This could start by reinstating Skeel.

    From the CSD website: People: “Our strength is in our people. The collective talents of our employees comprise our most important asset. We are committed to providing an organization and operating environment that attracts, nurtures, stimulates, and rewards employee professionalism and creativity. Our success will be achieved only through Inspired People operating in an environment that promotes: Integrity and Excellence; Mutual trust, respect and dignity; Openness, sharing and honesty; Empowerment and teamwork; Passion and commitment; Innovation and risk taking; The recognition and sharing of accomplishments of success and rewards of achievement; and The value of diversity.”

  5. I attended lasts nights meeting and was appalled that the CSD Board had the nerve to even insult our intelligence with such a poor attempt to conjure up false claims about Mr. Skeel, throw rank and file employees under the bus regarding issues that apparently never occurred, and were smug and seemingly unmoved by statements that did not suit their forgone conclusions. One question that I wish was asked of the board is this…WAS THIS THE BEST YOU COULD COME UP WITH?

    Another thought that really sticks with me is a comment that Director Wayne Lowery made regarding a so called review of Mr.Skeel, and I am paraphrasing “I would like to see John Skeel’s file tonight to insure that it is not tampered with before we have an opportunity to see it.” This comment tells me that he knows, or at absolute minimum has a feeling there is an internal confidentiality problem in the district. I assume these files are under lock and key of the HR Manager?

    Mr. Skeel was on trial, fighting for the good of the community, his family’s future, his job, and standing up for what is right and god bless him for having the gravitas, and character to rebut the frivolous untruths that he has been accused of. It is apparent to me that the usual scenario for retaliatory terminations is not to worry to much because damages are usually not pursued. Why? I assume most do not feel like they would have been given due process in the first place? Emotional stress? Financial grief? I can only imagine.

    My last comment has to do with this report in the Village Life. This is huge local story and this report is in my opinion is the weakest of all the reporting on this topic so far. Alot of fluff and not much reporting. I copy pasted the Meat and Potato’s of a huge 4 hour meeting.
    “Three hours of testimony on the charges were heard, after which a parade of district employees ‒ current and former, and familiar El Dorado Hills activists came forward to encourage the board to reinstate Skeel.” I ask again…WAS THIS THE BEST YOU COULD COME UP WITH?

    • As stated in the last paragraph, the story was a prelimary piece. A more detailed account, included a fairly comprehensive account of the public comments, will be posted later today (Thursday). Thanks for reading Village Life.

    • Thank you Mike Roberts!

  6. This whole thing did not pass my sniff test from the time John was put on leave. The more I learned the more offensive it became to my olfactory senses. It was hard for me to believe that a guy with master’s degree in parks and recreation management, a great tract record and the best pick of 70 candidates could fail in just five months.
    In the press and in personal emails back and forth between myself and the board’s president, he said that when the all of the facts were known the public would understand. Well last night over 150 EDH citizens and I heard the facts from the CSD. From the response of the attendees and the buzz where I was sitting, we came to understand alright. It was not an understanding the board would have like. My favorite remark was someone said of the board ‘this must be their first rodeo’ there was an immediate replay ‘and it looks like a goat rodeo’. Colorful, perhaps but it captured my opinion. There were some other remarks too colorful to print.
    The so-called charges that the CSD laid out were trivial to say the least. In fact they seemed somewhat contrived. While we were waiting for the board’s decision some of us talked among ourselves. I think that was the consciences of the group.
    The other thing that I was hearing was that if the board did a bad job of selecting John as General Manager they were doing a worse job of firing him. The steps that should have occurred prior to him being put on leave simply did not happen. That does that say for the board’s handling of the issue or the CSD’s H.R. Director for that matter.
    Speaking of the H.R. Director the board needs to take a close look at her actions. She seems to be at the center of the problem between the board and John. Also if we are to believe just a small amount of we heard last night she has created a toxic employment environment.

  7. Yes it was indeed a kangaroo court last night with the way Mr. Skeels lawyer was often avoiding answering questions and flashing catch phrases like “if the glove don’t fit you’ve got to acquit,” just to get crowd reaction in the mostly pro Skeel audience. The attack on HR has been most vicious by various people including Mr Skeel. Claiming that one person said something or didn’t say something when the other person says the opposite, goes to then having to decide who to believe. I do not know what was said between HR and Mr Skeel as they have differed on the story, but I do know that Mr Skeel claims what he and the Board and Mr Romero talked about differ. So now its not just a 1 on 1 conversation, but 1 on 5 (as one board member was not present), where Mr Skeel is radically differing the events of a meeting between himself and the other 5 people. So does this not present a possible pattern of not telling the truth in relation to conversations? In his defense Ms Arabian-Lee claims she put that text together so there could have been errors, but Mr Skeel also stated that he did not have access to his personal notes or emails so he was basically going off his memory. If he did not have access to his emails why were several emails attached to his documents presented last night. He obviously has access to some emails if not all of them. Of course to his defense he may have given the information to Ms Arabian-Lee prior to getting access to his emails, but wouldn’t you as the person trying to correct the boards misunderstanding then go back and remove or update that part? So there is something that is just fishy about this. Either Mr Skeel has hired poor lawyers who do not review their work or Mr Skeel is not telling the truth or 5 people are not telling the truth. The most likely reason is that Mr Skeel is not telling the truth, and if he is not telling the truth here then what else is he not telling the truth about?

    There were two issues where HR was being attacked on prior to Mr Skeel starting. One being an email stating Mr Skeel would receive benefits on Jan 1st if he started on Jan 10th, and the other being some mistakes in the contract. The benefits email was an obvious error by HR as benefits are only given the first day of the next month after you start. Even Mr Skeels lawyer admitted during closing that Mr Skeel made mistakes, that people make mistakes, but then does not allow HR to make a mistake? The board did reply that Mr Skeel’s benefits and the start date were correctly stated in his contract, which Mr Skeel signed. But no reply was given by Mr Skeel or his lawyers when asked about that part of his contract. The other issue HR was attacked on, was the contract and some mistakes that Mr Skeel reported to the person he was negotiating with, HR. Nothing was said as to what the errors were, but I find it highly unlikely that any HR person would create a contract for a management level employee. I highly suspect the Boards Lawyer, Mr Thurbon, was the one that crafted the contract, but this was not brought up, and it seemed to me that Mr Skeel and his lawyers were saying HR created a contract for the GM position and it is HRs fault for any mistakes in said contract.

    Mr Skeel also stated that his draft “proposal” was to include the layoff of both AGM and HR (the only other non union employees at the CSD besides the GM), for savings as directed by the board. Yet AGM was filling in for Recreation Director. Why was his draft proposal not to demote AGM to this position rather than let AGM go and spend time and money (remember to recruit and hire someone costs money)? If you check Paychex website on the HR section (as HR was also being eliminated) nowhere do they mention they will do recruiting. So now to recruit and hire a director you will need to assume about 30% of the first year salary, and possibly even more, at approximately $100,000 salary that cost is about $30,000. And there are 3 directors that need to be hired, where is the cost savings to the board? Now back to his draft proposal in that he wanted to layoff HR due to the size of the district as well as cost savings. Last night John stated this district was the same as his previous district and he also stated that he hired an HR person part time, and that person became full time at previous employment. So if this district is the same size and previous district needed a full time HR person, why wouldn’t this district? Also my question is why didn’t he outsource HR at previous employment rather then bring in a part time person? Ms Arabian-Lee early in the meeting stated that she could not think of a single area where an employer with 31 employees has a full time HR person. I guess she did not talk to her client since previous employment has full time HR. I do not know the actual number of employees at the CSD, but 31 employees as stated in Mr Skeels document would at best only cover the full time employees, not part time employees, when during the summer there are about 150 additional employees added, not to mention the other part time people who are employed throughout the year, including one who was said in the accusations by the board to have been promised an increase in hours. Of which both herself and her supervisor denied that she was promised additional hours.

    At the meeting it was mentioned about the Buddy Punching that was alleged to have happened. Per Mr Skeel, he says he was not given any information from HR, but did proceed to talk to Parks Supervisor. Per Mr Skeel, Parks Supervisor came back and said there was no buddy punching going on. During public comments two employees came forward and stated they were the employees that were being accused of said Buddy Punching, but they also stated they just learned of this accusation last week, not back in late April early May when Parks Supervisor should have been asking his employees about this. So either Mr Skeel did not talk to Parks Supervisor or Parks Supervisor did not talk to his subordinates, which is it, the board needs to investigate this matter further. Did Mr Skeel talk to Parks Supervisor via email, via phone, how he contacted him to discuss this should quickly clear up whether Mr Skeel investigated the serious matter. In the complaint filed by Mr Skeel it states HR only mentioned Buddy Punching in a “casual conversation”, not in a meeting per the Boards accusations against Mr Skeel. I find this extremely difficult to believe, that anyone would discuss a serious infraction in a casual conversation. I would like to know when both HR and Mr Skeel say the meeting/casual conversation took place. As Mr Skeels first reaction to a serious complaint should have been to take the “casual conversation” into a private meeting with HR and maybe even the Parks Supervisor. Per Mr Skeel he did not include HR, who brought the complaint to him, in the conversation with Parks Supervisor, question why not?

    There have been several employees who have mentioned they were retaliated against by HR. HR typically does not ok the hiring or firing of employees, it is up to the supervisor or higher management to determine a person’s fate. However quite often HR is responsible for delivering the news to a person and is often seen as a person responsible for that persons firing.

    There were many complaints that HR has too much power, but no details were provided about this power. Only thing being said is HR retaliated against people by firing them, well again HR does not control a person being fired. It was also mentioned that HR has a personal relationship with board member Mattock. Question you can’t have friends anymore? Even in the unlikely event Ms Mattock’s close relationship with HR caused Ms Mattock to be prejudicial against Mr Skeel, there were still at least 3 other board members who believed the allegations against Mr Skeel were serious enough to warrant a thorough examination and therefore placed him on administrative leave.

  8. Mr Young

    Thank you for stating the assumed obvious. “HR does not control a person being fired”. Yes that is the way it is supposed to be in a functional organization. She has indeed terminated employees she has had disagreements with. Most have been part time employees but it is important to note that part time employees continually make up a larger portion of the CSD employment base for obvious reasons. They can be paid less and get little or no benefits. I believe she is currently also supervising employees that have nothing to do with HR. What do they do they do if they have an HR issue? Sounds like too much power to me.

    On a related note no directors or supervisors were consulted before the reorg a couple of years ago that resulted in layoffs. You’d think they would at least enlist the expertise of directors before making such decisions The Debbie Kiley fiasco and lawsuit seems to be partially related to the fallout of a poorly conceived reorg that put her in a position to clean up the mess in a position that she was set up to ultimately fail in despite her best efforts.

    So to review the whistle blowing charges supposedly 3 months ago by Tracey Lynne Lowery:

    Employees were stealing gas – reviewed by John with the Finance director and determined to be a paperwork issue and a new procedure installed to fix the problem. Boy I’d hate to work there and be accused of stealing before an inquiry of the problem is even researched.

    Buddy punching. It is my understanding from last nights meeting that the two accused employees were told the day before yesterdays meeting that they were the accused. They were not written up or disciplined in anyway. Why not? Obviously there was no proof. HR couldn’t find any and neither could John Skeel upon investigating it with the supervisor. Mr Young questioned whether an investigation took place because the employees didn’t know. As a former supervisor myself I would not talk directly to accused employees unless I was presented with solid evidence. Why destroy employee morale or humiliate them on something that may not be true. You’d check the timesheet records and ask the payroll person. You can’t just accuse employees and what would be gained if you simply asked the employees. Obviously the HR person didn’t have evidence.

    Since when do unproven accusations equal whistle blowing? Could an employee accuse HR of something that was proven false and be protected by the whistle blowing law? No – It’s called slander.

    This whole thing smells like a coverup of the true facts. Mr Skeel was asked by the board to find 100k of savings. The HR outsourcing seems to have absolutely nothing to do with his relationship with the HR director. His mistake was to outsource a friend of a board member. It would have been easier to get rid of a couple of rank and file employees instead but I trust Mr. Skeels’ 22 years of experience in determining what was best for the district. All these charges and allegations appeared to have been manufactured after Skeel being put on leave. The whistle blowing defense is laughable at best. 2 of the board members seemed very concerned last night about the alleged reviews that Skeel never saw and Wayne Lowery clearly questioned last night the security of the employment files which I assume are housed in the HR office.

    An HR rep is supposed to limit liability. How many lawsuits need to be brought against the CSD before something is done.

    Before the meeting last night I wondered How John Skeel could possibly want his job back. After hearing so much damaging information on the state of the CSD and the boards apparent lack of knowledge of what was really going on I see how he can come back. That board is about to get recalled unless they do the right thing and do it soon. Maybe Skeel can than get back to what he was hired to do – get the CSD back to where it should be providing services to the community instead of paying off lawsuits.

    By the way the parks and athletic fields here are first rate and the recreation programs offered by the CSD are awesome. It would be nice to put the focus back where it should be by getting this mess resolved quickly.

    Last night was truly a sad demonstration of egos and self interest.

  9. So HR has terminated employees she has had disagreements with, question do you blindly follow everything your supervisor or someone else at your place of employment has to say without question? The question then is what were the disagreements, when did the disagreement happen to in relation to the employees’ status change, and what was the reason for the person being let go? Part time employees are not as protected as full time (IE union employees have a large process to go through in order to be fired, while part time employees can just be let go), but they still have rights and could follow Ms Kileys example and file wrongful termination charges against the district. In fact I encourage anyone who can prove they were wrongfully terminated to do so.

    If HR is supervising employees and they have an HR issue they go to the next level up just like anyone else would if they had a problem with their supervisor. If at that time the HR supervisor does nothing, then go up the next level, if no one listens then you have claims, just make sure everything is properly documented to prove your case. That is pretty standard no matter who is your supervisor.

    As for a reorganization, I am guessing you work for yourself, cause well that happens, I work for a large company that let go several hundred employee was I talked to, nope, was my manager talked to, nope, and per my manager, her manager was not talked to either. I find it hard to believe the GM or AGM was not consulted on the reorganization, but you know what it does not matter, as we are in an economic downturn and reorganization happen.

    Reading Ms Kiley’s argument it seems she was moved to another position and then had several stumbling blocks in said new position. After which she was let go and replaced by a person who is now doing Ms Kiley’s old job as well as the previous position, it sounds to me two positions were combined and one had to go. Do you choose the one with stumbling blocks? And then 10 months after that she was let go her charges are now coming forward, kind of convenient as if I thought I was being discriminated against I would have filed papers much sooner, but that’s me.

    As for the whistle blower charges, while I do not know what happened, I would hope that the board had some proof that Mr Skeel did not look into the allegations or that there was indeed some proof about those allegations. For Buddy punching, while I agree I would not question each of the employees, I would hold a meeting to let my reports know that people are levying some pretty serious allegation. As for looking at timesheet records, do you know what buddy punching even is? A person is clocking in another employee; therefore the timesheet is being altered. So how does checking a timesheet and ask payroll answer whether a person is clocking in two people? Oh and remember per Mr Skeel there was no accused employees as Mr Skeel stated HR did not give him any.

    And how do we know they are unproven accusations? Already we have two employees who admirably stepped forward and stated they were falsify timecard information, are there others? That alone tells me there was proof to some allegations of impropriety.

    As for lawsuits, anyone can bring a lawsuit, answer the question, how many has the CSD lost or had to settle in the recent past. If so many people were wrongfully terminated I would suspect that there would be more than 1 wrongful termination lawsuit. Why has Ms Mcgrath not filed a complaint or lawsuit if she was terminated right after reporting safety concerns?
    The board meeting on Tuesday was a sad demonstration of showmanship and pandering to a crowd to illicit response. This should have been treated as a chance to clear the air, answer questions, straighten out information that Mr Skeel felt was wrong. Now while he did answer some questions and his lawyers answered some questions, too often the responses were not there at all. I left disappointed in both sides.

    • To John Young: Please, please stop writing! I’m begging you. You make my head hurt! Please take a basic (in your case, remedial) writing class. You sound like a person in CSD management, for crying out loud: little planning, lots of hissing and sparks, but nevertheless, a dud.

      Poor HR–so misunderstood. But, according to the Board President she was a headhunter for a Fortune 500 company! Why do you make apologies for her? She’s an expert! I’m sure she has credentials to back up her position! Right? Right . . . .

      I hate to say this, but you write like a child throwing a temper tantrum. You can’t seem to finish a comprehensive thought. You go from pillar to post. What I’ve seen so far from the more literate writers is a disfunctional CSD management team with its own agenda. When Mr. Skeel made efforts to make proper adjustments, the team, in league with one board member, turned the tables on him.

      Your letter contains the same childish charges read by the District’s attorney at Tuesday night’s meeting. By the way, “Mr.” Apologist, where were “HR” and Acting GM Tuesday evening? What do you think about the Acting GM missing a board/community meeting of this magnitude? Skeel was chastised for missing CC&R meetings! The Acting GM’s absence distinctly shows her disdain for the public and the employees she’s charged with directing. Put her on admin leave! Call HR for approval, ASAP!

      I’m tired of hearing about HR! With so few employees remaining there’s absolutely no reason for the CSD to pay a salary to a full time HR “manager” who can’t seem to get out of her own way. Give me a break! HR in small agencies like the CSD used to be referred to as the “personnel clerk.” Suddenly, it’s a profession akin to brain surgery, minus the training required for the latter.

      It’s apparent what the illustrious HR’s fellow workers think of her and what she thinks of them. This is a person who has been allowed too much authority and tried to exert that authority over the man put in charge. A dopey board seems to have gone along with HR authority for reasons (so far) known only to the board. I’m curious as to what the “relationship” is really all about. Must be serious and juicy because I doubt that the board members will be able to redeem themselves in the voters’ eyes. Thus, it is a costly relationship.

      So, again–just go about doing your job! Let people who really have some insights do the writing so that dummies like me can form our own opinions through logical discourse, not rantings.

      I suggest once more that you try to improve your writing style and that you curb your obvious fury. Good grief, these diatribes sound much like the temper tantrums ascribed to the HR manager at the CSD! Naw . . . couldn’t be! It’s obvious “John Young” couldn’t have filled out the personnel forms necessary to be hired at a Fortune 500 company, let alone achieve a position of responsibility. Sorry, my mistake.

      • Thank you for showing me that I must be correct on at least some if not all of my thoughts. After all a person does not attack someone unless they have nothing but still want to win. This is exactly what Mr Skeel and his lawyers have shown in the board meeting. When asked did he not read in his contract when his benefits started, did he answer a very simple question, nope he did not.
        Since you don’t have any insights let me give you a couple Ms Mcgrath was not terminated, she did in fact resign, of course I missed that little piece of information in her complaint about being terminated, but I do happen to know a few of the employees at the CSD who can verify the information.
        Also it was not HR who blindly brought up buddy punching in an attempt to make Mr Skeel look bad, but this information was given to HR by another employee. Whether HR provided the employees name to Mr Skeel or was attempting to protect the employee due to the seriousness of the allegations is beyond me. But HR did not make this claim up.
        I hope my poor writing abilities did not interfere with your enlightenment.

  10. El Dorado Hills CSD Employee

    Dear Mr, Roberts, I am a CSD employee. Normally I would not make any comment on this matter but I feel for the sake of the truth I will inform you that you are absolutely 100% wrong regarding this statement. “On Tuesday night, two admitted “buddy punchers” came forward.”
    I am not criticizing you, but you must have misunderstood and I want the truth to be known.

    Terry Halvorson was not accused, nor ever admitted “Buddy Punching”

    Gilbert Castellanos flatly denies that he ever “Buddy Punched” for any employee or that any employee ever “Buddy Punched” for him.

    The other accused employee is not yet named, but denies any “Buddy Punching” ever happened that he is aware of period.

    FYI

  11. Stonegate resident

    I was at the meeting and I cannot believe that this reporter used admitted buddy punchers. The buddy puncher claim are accusations towards employees with no evidence to back them up. It’s the HR manager trying to do anything she can to get John Skeel fired, even lie about other employees. It makes it even worse to know that the HR managers is good friends with certain board members and he is pretty much invincible, even know she is the problem. I feel for the employees that have to try and continue to perform there job while all this is going on.

  12. Yes there was a misunderstanding about the alleged buddy punching. I was not accused of buddy punching. I work for the parks department where this buddy punching supposedly happened and I can assure you that it is not an issue. I have never seen it or heard of anyone doing it. No one has admitted to it and no one has been disciplined. 2 employees were accused of it the day before the 8-23 meeting by HR. Perhaps it could be better worked out and resolved in a more private forum than the internet.

    I was accused of stealing time from the district by participating in a weekly big brothers mentoring program during lunchtime at local elementary schools. As of this moment I have never been told I am doing anything wrong and have received zero communication whatsoever from CSD management since I started the program 1 year ago.. We were recruited for this program during a CSD staff meeting by a big brother / big sisters guest speaker who was invited to give a presentation in the hopes staff would participate. The 4 of us that stepped forward were assured that the district would “be flexible” in our lunch schedule so that we could mentor a child in need. It felt good to help a kid and represent the CSD in such a worthy community project. I was appalled to see this presented in the charges against John Skeel at Tuesday’s meeting and it was the first I knew of it being a problem. It seems strange that it was never a problem during the 6 months we participated in it before John Skeel was ever hired.

    I have donated countless free hours to the district in my 5 years of employment. I’m not required to but I do it out of pride for my job and my dedication to being a positive representative for the CSD to the community. Seems like the right thing to do when you work for a parks and recreation district. My work phone is on 24 hours a day even though it’s not required to be.

  13. Is the rumor true that Tracy Lynns husband also works for the CSD……are you kidding me?

  14. The HR director Tracy Lowry and assistant general manager Sandi Kukola should be fired before the district goes bankrupt over existing/potential lawsuits. Also, the Board should be RECALLED if they let this fiasco continue…

    • Yes let’s just fire two people without any proof they did anything wrong just because. I have heard and read the charges against Mr Skeel, and I have heard and read his arguments against the charges. I have heard and read what some of the employees have to say about charges as well as AGM and HR. However, I have not heard or read any proof the board has about the charges, that is a very big piece of information still missing. It is mentioned in the statement of charges several exhibits that I have not seen, has anyone else seen those?

      I find it funny that you and so many other people commenting here are willing to “clear” without question the popular person and “fire” the unpopular people. This is the real world not high school elections; there is a due process for everything. So far to me the board is following the due process when it comes to Mr Skeel. They placed him on administrative leave because they had evidence of wrongdoing; they then allowed him to defend himself against those allegations. Now we are waiting to see if the board believes what Mr Skeel says or if the board finds Mr Skeel has not given explanations to clear him. After that if Mr Skeel wishes he may proceed to the next step above the board, which is his choice. Ms Kiley has made the choice to proceed to the next step, but to date no one else has.

      If you have proof and not just hearsay about AGM or HR doing inappropriate or illegal activities I strongly recommend you bring this information to the board. If they will not listen or do not act on this proof with the same process Mr Skeel is currently going through, then I suggest you follow Ms Kileys example and file a Grand Jury complaint.

  15. Last Tuesday’s meeting was not a trial of Mr. Skeel. It was his opportunity to answer to the charges the board has made. It was vital step in providing Mr. Skeel with his due process. I know the “kangaroo court” left many with questions and it did not clear up any rumors. I have been accused of many improprieties. Instead of trying to address many of the accusations in an anonymous manner, I would rather answer yours questions in person. I invite anyone with questions/concerns to contact me directly. I would be happy to meet with you over a cup of coffee to answer and adress any of your concerns. You can reach me at noellemattock@edhcsd.org

    • concerned citizen

      All concerned citizens need to attend another special meeting tonight 8/30/11 at 6:00 in the St Andrews Building.

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