Fort El Dorado Hills under a flag of truce; Colonel Skeel holding ground

By From page A5 | October 28, 2011

Richard Esposito

The battleground that is Fort El Dorado Hills remains under a flag of truce as the warring parties try to negotiate a treaty. Tony Rogozinski of General Guy Gertsch’s Community Services District staff recommended everyone involved in the conflict lay down their weapons and cease hostilities.

Meanwhile Colonel John Skeel, currently holding the upper hand in the affair, waits patiently to hear the final details of the peace treaty.

In case anyone missed the action, Colonel Skeel was given a dishonorable discharge and ordered back to Fort Colorado, where he worked prior to the move to El Dorado Hills. It seems Skeel wasn’t the leader the CSD board believed he was after an extensive and expensive search party interviewed him for the elite position of managing the western post of El Dorado Hills CSD.

Colonel Skeel has been on paid leave since June 20 when General Gertsch and his staff accused him of conduct unbecoming an officer. In their latest salvo they declared 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.”

Tough words coming from a board attempting to derail their general manager by planting a phony performance evaluation into his personnel file and accusing him of false charges brought on by a few disgruntled foot soldiers.

The charges indicated that Colonel Skeel asked Assistant General Manger Sandi Kukkola to initiate disciplinary action against the district’s Human Resources manager Tracy Lynn Lowry for insubordination. When Kukkola disobeyed the colonel’s orders it soon became obvious both she and Lowry were undermining the Colonel’s authority.
Skeel’s efforts at improving company morale and saving the district a substantial amount of money through reorganization was met with heavy resistance from a good ole’ boy (girl) system currently in place at Fort El Dorado Hills.

The elite on the general’s staff including Directors Noelle Mattock, Bill Vandegrift and General Guy Gertsch himself distanced themselves from the colonel when it soon became apparent everyone, including district legal counsel Bob Thurbon, wanted to muster colonel Skeel out of the service — El Dorado Hills CSD service that is.

Like most government service jobs, terminating an employee takes an Act of Congress or in this case a three-year contract — a contract worth $126,600 per year plus benefits. Colonel Skeel might not meet the standards of our local CSD board but he sure was savvy enough to secure a tidy three-year deal for himself. Or was this simply a major tactical error on the part of the General and his staff?

It didn’t take long for the local citizenry to see through what was happening. Their vocal support for Colonel Skeel and the likelihood of a very large financial settlement for breach of contract and unlawful termination has now brought us to where we are in today’s battle.

As the two sides finalize last-minute details that will ultimately put colonel Skeel back in charge everyone from the current staff, soldiers in the field and the citizen militia anxiously await the outcome.

Will the Human Resources department be outsourced to capture savings? Will the assistant general manager remain on staff or will she be demoted? And what’s to become of General Gertsch’s board when the next CSD election rolls around?

Regardless of the “make nice” comments being lobbed around like hand grenades with the safety pins engaged, there’s little doubt people will be on edge upon seeing the Colonel marching once again through the halls of the CSD headquarters at 1021 Harvard Way. Those plotting against him may be laying down their weapons now — only to use them at a more appropriate time later.

For all intent and purposes Colonel Skeel has won the battle but ultimately he’ll lose the war.

The only advice this column could offer Colonel John Skeel is to watch your back (especially around the Human Resource department), keep your bags packed and ready for redeployment, and rent — don’t buy.

Richard Esposito is publisher of Village Life. Contact him at [email protected].

Richard Esposito

Discussion | 6 comments

  • John YoungOctober 31, 2011 - 2:26 pm

    How sad that a supposed to be responsible journalist has fallen prey to the minor, but loud group that supports John Skeel. If you look at this group you will find that it is mostly just employees and their spouses or friends. You have become a victim to the exact thing that the employees have, they want to blame someone for their problems. The ones who spoke and quite often lied did so because they want to go back to the old way where no one ever asked them any questions or justification for their actions. You are now in support of a group who does not want to be monitored, to be able to do whatever they want. The board is to blame for this mess. They had their opportunity to present to the public why they believe that Mr Skeel is not a good leader or failed to be the leader they, the board, were looking for. I know this is just a commentary, but one still hopes that you would take to the time to learn both sides of an argument prior to influencing people who have not actually listened and seen. Question if the board has taken this long (almost 2 months now) to "work" with Mr Skeel, then is Mr Skeel a person who should be in this position. Obviously the board still has problems with him or he would already be back in the office. So ask yourself, if you want to do what is best for a district would you not resign since it seems obvious that you cannot work with the board?

  • another observerOctober 31, 2011 - 5:57 pm

    Seems to me the writer of this piece is laying blame on both sides. The board gave Mr. Skeel a three year deal. How foolish was that? And now they're at risk of paying out the backside because of their ineptness. Again I say how foolish they are to get into this situation. Skeel isn't going to resign. Why should he? He's going to get the better end of this deal. Again, the writer did a nice job putting the board's actions in proper perspective. Skeel may be a failed leader but the board failed in hiring this failed leader.

  • Disgruntled residentOctober 31, 2011 - 8:36 pm

    I thought this commentary pretty much nailed it. It's not a complex problem at all. Colonel Skeel tried to save the district a substantial amount of money by eliminating some expendable overhead. The HR rep obviously has a friend or friends on the board and didn't want to go down without a fight. She made up some untrue charges against some employees and called it whistle blowing. No wonder the employees were angry. I was at Mr Skeels' "hearing" and there were at least 150 people there who were overwhelmingly in support of Skeel. I think there are only around 30 full time employees at the CSD so I think the public was well represented. I assume the delay in bringing Skeel back has something to do with how he is supposed to work with the 2 people that he wasn't allowed to "reorganize". Probably the threat of a lawsuit from HR has to be weighed out too but I think the board knows her lies would never hold up in court. It's very sad really. I know a few CSD employees. They are understaffed and have no leadership whatsoever. My kids worked as seasonals a few years ago when there was a lot less politics there. Kukola and Lowry are the only leadership without Skeel. If they can't understand that the employees are the CSD and they are responsible in giving them the tools and direction to do their jobs then they should step aside and let Skeel do his job. What does the board have to lose by bringing Skeel back and letting him hire his own leadership team? I think he can put the CSD back on track but it can't be the business as usual mentality that the board has been allowing. There are some tough decisions that must be made to fix the serious good ole boy (girl) problems that exist with the board and present leadership. These people seem to be in the wrong line of work. I used to think working in parks and recreation would be fun and rewarding. I'm glad I'm in the private sector these days. Let's fix this people!

  • the truth is.....November 04, 2011 - 6:36 am

    The board is simply not operating in a fashion that is honest or ethical. We are getting jerked around by a board that is trying to cover their butts, protect the employees that worked with the CSD legal counsel and the Board of directors to knowingly terminate a person based on false manufactured accusations, and was retaliated against. An investigation should be conducted by the District attorney or State labor organizations to put these peoples feet to the fire and hold them accountable for the illegal activity they have conducted period.

  • curiousNovember 04, 2011 - 1:33 pm

    The board is a bunch of baffoons. And one of them is a drunk - every time I see him at EDH affairs, he's loaded off his arse. He gives drunks a bad name!

  • Crown Village ResidentNovember 12, 2011 - 7:56 pm

    FYI curious - if you attend board meetings you'd see that Director Vandegriff is the only board member that consistently makes decisions in the best interest of the CSD unlike the other board members who all have special interests or are busy watching out for their employee friends who caused this whole mess in the first place.



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