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More CSD woes: Former department manager sues

By August 22, 2011

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.

Mike Roberts

Discussion | 11 comments

  • Clarification on CC&R position in articleAugust 22, 2011 - 1:14 pm

    The CC&R Compliance Position was filled by the neighbor of last years Board President Noelle Mattock. It was ultimately filled by a person outside the district. Yea right.

  • Noelle MattockAugust 27, 2011 - 10:04 am

    CC&R compliance was filled by Jeff Routsong. As I undestand it, he is a Cameron Park resident, but cannot confirm where he lives as I do not know. The district has a new CC&R compliance person who happens to be a former volunteer who served on the Districts DRC committee. I do not know where she lives...other than I can confirm she lives here in EDH as she has served as a volunteer for the district.

  • EDH CitizenAugust 27, 2011 - 12:37 pm

    To Noelle Mattock, The real question is: Were you or were you not involved in the hiring of that gentleman for the CC&R position, regardless of where he resides? Is the CC&R job a political patronage position now? And are you admitting that the same job was filled a second time without recalling any of the laid off employees for the job? Was the position advertised the second time, where, for how long, and why was it not posted in the "Job Opportunities" section of your website? Because you have a "Job Opportunities" page on your website, residents are misled into thinking there are no jobs open if a job is not posted there. And what about your allegation that John Skeel was trying to sneak in raises for a couple of employees--you snuck in a whole position apparently without properly advertising it or offering it to laid off employees. Explain yourself, ma'am--and keep on revealing more about your actions, please!

  • noellemattockAugust 27, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    I play no role in the hiring of any employee other than the General Manager. I have never referred an employee to seek employment at the district nor have I provided a reference for any employee.

  • Noelle MattockAugust 27, 2011 - 4:17 pm

    I understand there are many unanswered questions and rumors floating around. If you would like to meet for coffee to discuss your concerns I am happy to meet with you or anyone else who has questions. My email is [email protected]

  • ConcernedAugust 22, 2011 - 5:01 pm

    How come the board cannot defends it actions? They have laid off a handful of employees but cannot give a reason why? They are being sued by 2 former employees for basically the same reason... no reason. Why do all the problems surround around the HR person? Why are they defending all her actions when clearly there have been some transparent issues with her hiring practices. I hope everything comes to light soon because I don't like the idea of my taxes paying for these games. I will be at the meeting tomorrow!

  • El Dorado Hills GuyAugust 23, 2011 - 4:25 pm

    We need some kind of invistigation here. Now Board Member friends get hired too. This is in addition to friends of the HR person. REALLY?

  • outragedAugust 24, 2011 - 8:34 am

    I attended last night's CSD meeting with John Skeel so that I could "see for myself" what was "going on." It was my first ever attendance at a CSD meeting. What I saw was incompetence, indifference, cronyism, and a large portion of arrogance on the part of the CSD. I was embarrassed. This was a Kangaroo court against Skeel. I now think we need a RECALL THE CSD effort to reclaim our CSD. These people are not representing the people of EDH and are only representing themselves for their own benefit no matter what they say and cannot be trusted. Get ready for a flood of lawsuits where all our money is going to pay for THEIR legal defense of their egos rather than new parks and athletic fields for our families.

  • Travesty in EDHAugust 24, 2011 - 1:56 pm

    I'm with you on the RECALL of all CSD Board memebers. I was there last night. What a travesty. I am convinced they ALL are incompetent. This is OUR community service district! This is not so much about John Skeel as it is about the CSD Human Resource manager being clearly out of control. If that wasn't made evident to the CSD board last night, then maybe I need psychiatric help. By the way, there's a lot more coming on the hiring and spending practices of Tracy Lynn Lowery. There are other lawsuits on the way. When will the CSD Board see the light? We, the residents and taxpayers of El Dorado Hills may not be able to solve the National Debt crisis, but you better believe we can fix this CSD problem. This is ours! Show up at the next board meeting and voice you displeasure.

  • Hal ErpenbeckAugust 24, 2011 - 5:39 pm

    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.

  • Hal ErpenbeckAugust 24, 2011 - 10:00 pm

    See my post above it got posted to the wrong place it had to do with John Skeel but my last paragraph goes well here as well



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