EDHCSD board recall effort under way
Bob Sacco wants to recall four of five El Dorado Hills Community Services District board members in response to the suspension and eventual termination of former General Manager John Skeel.
The recall targets Directors Noelle Mattock, Guy Gertsch, Wayne Lowery and Tony Rogozinski. Director Bill Vandegrift gets a pass for breaking ranks with his board in December and voting against termination.
Sacco, an El Dorado Hills resident, attended last month’s EDHCSD board meeting and announced that the board’s actions left him no choice but to spearhead a recall effort.
Sacco hadn’t been involved in the confrontational board meetings that followed Skeel’s suspension in June 2011. Many at the January meeting had never met him, and wondered if he would follow through.
Sacco, an online marketer and entrepreneur in the online travel industry, quickly put up an e-petition and garnered 270 signatures. An estimated 25 residents attended a follow-up organizational meeting and divvied up broad areas of responsibility. Sacco leads the public outreach effort.
“I came into this not knowing any of these people, including the board members or John Skeel,” he said. “We’re just a bunch of citizens that don’t think we’re being represented professionally.”
He created a website, www.recallcsdboard.com, and established a social media campaign integrating Facebook and Twitter feeds with e-mail. He also spoke with local media, including Village Life, to explain his motivation.
“I live here because of the services this district provides,” he said. “I coach football; we play soccer; I go to the Daddy and Me dance every year. The lawsuit John Skeel’s going to file will cost this district a lot of money and impact its ability to deliver the services my family uses. This was handled very unprofessionally. We deserve better.”
Sacco said he made his decision after phone interviews with each board member. He asked each to reinstate Skeel. Vandegrift was the only one of the five who was reasonable, he said. “The others gave me guarded, incomplete answers; I felt this became a personal battle for them.”
Mattock and Gertsch are up for reelection in November. Neither has announced if they will run again. Sacco nonetheless wants to recall them, “to send them a little parting gift, a public vote of no confidence.”
He said the immediate fundraising effort will cover marketing and petition costs.
A secondary goal of the recall effort is to raise awareness of a perceived leadership void at the CSD. “There are a lot of very qualified people in this area,” he said. “Maybe we can get some of them to step up.”
One who’s already stepping up is local attorney and father of three Nick Yonano, who volunteered to head up the recall effort’s legal side. Reached by phone, on a CSD playground no less, he said his immediate task is to understand the process, which he described as filing a petition, followed by county approval of a “notice of intent to circulate,” after which the recall group has roughly four months to collect signatures for each targeted board member.
Yonano said he hopes the targeted board members will simply step down. “Why would they put the residents through this?” he asked.
Since Mattock and Gertsch are each in the last year of their term, Yonano said they may eventually fall out of the recall effort, depending on the time frame of the election and whether they decide to run for another term.
Barbara Dunmore, El Dorado County Assistant Registrar of voters, said she hadn’t heard from the recall committee as of Monday and, with some last minute help from her boss Recorder-Clerk/Registrar of Voters Bill Schultz, confirmed some recall basics:
• The recall petition will require signatures of 20 percent of the roughly 21,500 registered El Dorado Hills voters, or approximately 4,300 signatures, for each of the four directors targeted for recall.
• The signatures must be gathered within 120 days after filing a petition to recall. The Elections Department then gets 30 days to verify the signatures.
• A simple majority of total votes cast for or against each director is required to recall.
• Recalls are often “piggybacked” onto an existing election. The recall shares the cost of the election with the various other contests on the ballot.
• The cost of the El Dorado Hills recall would be born by the CSD.
The county billed the CSD $16,405 for the November 2010 election, said Dunmore. If a recall effort were added to the November 2012 ballot it would bear a share of the election costs, lowering the $16,405 share incrementally, but theoretically adding a second share of the overall election cost burden to the district.
Both Sacco and Yonano confirmed that neither is running for office or has any specific slate of replacement candidates in mind at this time. “My goal is simply to remove the problem,” said Yonano. “I’m just a parent who’s angry at how this was handled.”
Both Sacco and Yonano are active in El Dorado Hills soccer, which has endured its own drama in recent months.
“The pool of soccer talent we have here is amazing,” said Yonano. “Yet we don’t have enough fields for them to play on, and now we have to raise money and fight this thing instead of working to get more fields built.”
Interim EDHCSD General Manager Rich Ramirez, who’s been through two recall efforts in his 37-year career in public management, weighed in on the possibility of a recall in El Dorado Hills. “I’ve seen how recalls rip the social fabric of a community apart, taking years to heal,” he said. “Only the residents can weigh the immediate need for such a cost, both emotionally and financially, rather than wait a few months and have that debate as a lead up to the November election.”