Both sides say they want public present
El Dorado Hills Community Services District’s embattled General Manager John Skeel will get a chance to defend himself in front of the CSD’s Board of Directors and the public at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 23.
Earlier this month the board delivered a formal “statement of charges” to Skeel, alleging that he violated the terms of his contract.
CSD Board President Guy Gertsch told Village Life that the Aug. 23 meeting will be held at the CSD pavilion (corner of Harvard Way and El Dorado Hills Boulevard), and was originally scheduled as a “closed session.” But late Friday both Gertsch and Skeel’s attorney, Ellen Arabian-Lee, told Village Life they want the meeting open to the public.
Since the charges are squarely disciplinary matters, Skeel has the final say as to whether the meeting, which CSD board members call “an appeal,” will be held in closed or open session. He can make his final decision as late as 24 hours before the meeting.
As of Monday morning the CSD had not received a waiver of closed session from Arabian-Lee. Skeel has not returned calls from Village Life.
Skeel was placed on paid leave June 20. The story caught the public’s attention in late July when Skeel went public, emphatically stating that he got little feedback and no direction from the board. He also asked why he’d been given only five-and-a-half months to prove himself. See the Aug. 1 story titled “Skeel, EDHCSD board break media silence” on villagelife.com for more detail.
Roughly 80 concerned residents turned out at the Aug. 11 board meeting to hear the latest developments first hand, even though the matter wasn’t on the agenda.
The board has remained largely mum in public, citing Skeel’s right to privacy. They remained tight-lipped on Thursday night, frustrating a local TV news crew who dutifully filmed the public comment portion of the meeting, which consisted of a succession of frustrated but polite residents wondering what was going on in their beloved parks and recreation district.
Skeel’s three year contract pays $126,600 per year, plus benefits, including up to $1,775 per month in medical, dental and vision coverage, plus a PERS retirement package and a $375 monthly vehicle allowance.
Moving Skeel’s family from Colorado cost taxpayers $9,380. Recruitment costs included four round-trip airfares between Denver and Sacramento. The other finalists for the position were local.
The district’s potential dismissal of Skeel hinges on whether district legal counsel Bob Thurbon can demonstrate that Skeel violated the terms of the contract.
The contract allows Skeel to be “discharged for cause,” for failing to perform broad responsibilities set forth in the contract or falling short of goals that should have been established in his first 30 days on the job. It also called for three- and six-month reviews.
Gertsch confirmed that a three-month review was conducted, and insists it included “issues that needed improvement with examples of each of our concerns.” Skeel contends the feedback wasn’t substantive and goals were never agreed to.
The contract also allows the board to terminate Skeel for “breach of contract, any grounds enumerated in state law, district policy rule or regulation,” a potential silver bullet that would allow the board to bypass potentially subjective performance measures if it can prove Skeel violated state law or district policy.
At the board meeting, Green Springs Ranch resident Denise Chambless worried about the cost the board’s handling of Skeel.
She called for an independent investigation of the hiring, discipline and potential termination of Skeel, the costs of which could stretch to over $500,000 if the board is forced to buy out Skeel’s contract.
Chambless asked if proper employment practices were followed. “Was he informed of expectations and goals? Was he measured? Was there a written warning or a performance improvement plan? Was he given the opportunity and tools to succeed?”
Gene Harter, a senior business agent for the El Dorado County Employees Association Local 1, alleged inaccuracies in CSD attorney Bob Thurbon’s account, as published in Village Life, of the negotiation to “carve out” CSD management positions from the employee’s union.
Harter also asked what happened to Skeel’s notes from the confidential interviews he conducted with each of the CSD employees.
Reached by phone on Friday, Thurbon said the files are being treated as “confidential personnel files,” and he had the originals because Arabian-Lee requested copies.
Arabian-Lee told Village Life that she also asked for an interview with CSD Human Resources Manager Tracey Lynn in preparation for Skeel’s “day in court,” but her request was denied.
The Village Life website contains a meeting notice that will be updated to indicate any status changes to the Aug. 23 meeting, including whether it is open or closed, and any time or location changes.
It it’s open, get there early becuase it will likely be packed.