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Taxpayers petition for Skeel's return

Skeel being paid $10,542 a month to sit at home while CSD plans his return
By: Eric Laughlin, Telegraph correspondent
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More than 100 concerned taxpayers in El Dorado Hills have gone online to sign a petition urging community leaders to bring General Manager John Skeel back to work. Skeel, who was tentatively reinstated to his position in September by the same board that placed him on paid leave in June, remains at home collecting a $10,542 monthly paycheck, while the CSD Board of Directors works out a plan for his return behind closed doors. Since voting to halt termination proceedings against Skeel, the board has met at least eight times in special session. That number goes up to 15 when you include all the special meetings discussing Skeel’s performance since April. And of the 15 special sit-downs, Skeel’s performance was the sole item on the agenda for 12 of them. Every time the board meets, directors Guy Gertsch, Noelle Mattock and Bill Vandegrift receive a stipend of $100. Director Wayne Lowery declines the stipend, while Tony Rogozinski donates his to causes within the community. That translates to a total of $6,000 being spent on Skeel-related special meetings since April. Skeel had joined the district in January, following a search that evaluated 70 candidates. He was placed on paid leave in June. He currently earns $126,500 a year, in addition to a monthly health benefits package. “That’s the part that really gets me,” said resident Don Clark. “Come January, he’ll be paid more for being out off the job than being on it.” Clark, who describes himself as a concerned taxpayer, has launched an online petition urging Skeel’s return on a website called gopetition.com. As of Friday, 70 people had signed it, but the number shot up to 107 Sunday night. Clark said he’s angry that thousands of dollars have been spent on special meetings, after a decision was already made to stop termination proceedings. “They’re just stonewalling,” he said. “And it’s making a lot of people angry, especially at a time when money’s tight.” Clark said he chose to set up the petition, since he believed an effort to recall board members would take too long. Skeel was reached for comment over the weekend and said he never expected this kind of delay. “The process is taking considerably longer than I could have ever imagined and I am frustrated,” he writes in an e-mail Sunday. “However, despite everything, I still want to get back to work for the CSD and do the job I was hired to do.” The most recent closed session meeting was held Thursday, Nov. 17. Since no decisions were made, there was nothing to report out in open session, according to Interim GM Sandi Kukkola. Due to confidentiality issues, board members have not been able to speak openly about their discussions. However, director Wayne Lowery said Monday that he feels they’re close to wrapping it up. Skeel had been placed on leave following allegations that he retaliated against a whistleblower. According to district counsel Robert Thurbon, Skeel attempted to discharge district human resources manager Tracey Lynn Lowry (no relation to Wayne Lowery), following Lowry’s disclosure to him that unnamed employees had been engaging in unlawful “buddy punching,” or clocking each other out after they leave the district offices. Skeel has said he investigated the time-clock related allegations, but didn’t find merit to the claims. As for suggesting Lowry’s position be cut, Skeel said he made the suggestion to the board only because he felt the district was too small to employ a full-time HR manager. He went on to state that he also suggested cutting the position of assistant GM, after he had been instructed by the board to trim $100,000 from the annual budget. Following the board’s Sept. 2 decision to stop the termination proceedings, Thurbon said bringing Skeel back to work would be a process, which would include Skeel “overcoming his deficiencies.” In his email, Skeel writes that he’s only been invited to meet with the board three times since their decision to keep him. The online petition can be found at: www.gopetition.com/petitions/get-john-skeel-back-to-work.html. It is also available at edhcares.org.