Skeel back on job?

By: Eric Laughlin, Telegraph Correspondent
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The El Dorado Hills Community Services District Board has voted to halt termination proceedings against John Skeel, the general manager who had been placed on administrative leave less than six months after being hired. The board’s unanimous vote came after hours of closed session chats, as well as multiple public hearings that recorded comment from residents and district employees, most of whom supported Skeel. Skeel spoke to the Telegraph shortly after hearing the news. He thanked the district’s residents, employees and board for their confidence in him. “It’s a huge relief,” Skeel said. “Although it’s been a very stressful time, I’m glad it’s brought the employees closer and gotten the community more involved. “I think we’ve all realized how important communication is,” he added. “It’s a fresh start as I see it and I very much look forward to working together with the board. All I ever wanted was to get back to work.” District registration employee Pat Thompson said she and others in the office are thrilled to have Skeel back. “It’s very good news,” she said Friday. “He’s such a great leader and we’re happy to get him back.” But the district’s counsel Bob Thurbon said Skeel and the board will have to come to an understanding that involves him “overcoming his deficiencies,” before he reports to work again. “It’s not as simple as: here’s your job back, come in tomorrow,” Thurbon said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a process to bring him back.” The district made a more formal assertion in a press release issued Friday, stating that the decision “will be contigent upon implementing a detailed remediation plan to allow the general manager to correct performance deficiencies and overcome the basis to terminate his contract and return to duty.” The first step in that process involves Skeel meeting with two board members this week. Director Bill Vandegrift couldn’t comment much on the matter, pending that discussion, but said the decision to give Skeel another chance followed “a lot of wrangling and a lot of thought.” The initial decision to place Skeel on leave on June 20 had generated mass public criticism, which also included allegations that human resources director Tracy Lynn Lowry retaliated against employees who crossed her, and hired and/or promoted friends, family members and even her own nanny. Lowry was the alleged whistleblower that Skeel retaliated against prior to his being placed on leave. Although Skeel’s attorneys have requested the nepotism allegations be investigated, they have some merit following the release of a district cash dispersement log that shows Lowry’s husband Joel being paid $935 for his IT services, only days after another part-time employee handling similar duties was let go. Acting GM Sandi Kukkola confirmed Friday that Joel Lowry first came aboard as a volunteer in Oct. 2010, but began getting paid for his services in March of this year. Those services include updating the district’s website, services that were performed by the laid off employee up until the end of Sept. 2010. The board is set to approve the invoice during Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting. Joel Lowry spoke up in support of his wife at the final public comment session leading up to the board’s decision regarding Skeel.