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Sacco hands off CSD board recall to Everett

By From page A1 | April 18, 2012

Social media mogul Bob Sacco shut down his El Dorado Hills Community Services District board recall effort Saturday, deferring to a decidely more traditional effort by longtime board critic John Everett, who launched his own recall effort earlier this month.

In an e-mail blast to his supporters, Sacco wrote that he’d “officially released myself from this effort,” offering no explanation beyond, “We believe one recall effort is more efficient.”

He committed the roughly $250 he’d raised to Everett, whose recall targets all five board members.

Sacco and Everett share a livid frustration over the firing of former General Manager John Skeel, but until Saturday it appeared their commonalities stopped there.

Online marketer Sacco used an accusation-laden website, recallcsdboard.com, to attack four of the five board members, sparing Director Bill Vandegrift, the lone “nay” vote on the final Skeel termination in December. The website contains dozens of links to local newspaper and TV stories about the Skeel firing, between blog entries and invitations to Twitter and Facebook.

Sacco angered CSD officials last month by walking into Human Resources Manager Tracey Lynn Lowry’s office and photographing her against her wishes, then publishing the pictures on the recall website with unflattering captions. CSD administrative offices have since been locked down.

By comparison, Everett is an old-fashioned shoe-leather activist. He estimates he’s knocked on more than 900 doors in and around his St. Andrews Village over the years, arguing various issues.

Several boards have heard his sometimes-loud allegations of malfeasance about landscape and lighting assessments. He sponsored three last-minute write-in candidates in the 2010 CSD election.

During a brief phone interview last Wednesday, Sacco confirmed that he’d spoken with Everett about joining forces but said talks broke down. “John has a broader agenda; Our effort is more focused.”

He remained optimistic that he’d meet the $400 fundraising goal to publish the required notices, but was unaware of recall petition filing requirements or deadlines, deferring to local attorney Nick Yonano. Asked if he’d be able to collect 4,235 signatures for each targeted board member in time to get on the November ballot, Sacco replied, “We’re told there’s a lot of community support; it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Apparently it was a problem. Sacco did not return calls over the weekend.

He’d already lost some support in the community. Don Clark is a respected youth sports advocate and vehement Skeel supporter. He told Village Life last week that he didn’t think the recall effort would succeed.

“If the handling of Mr. Skeel broke the law, or ends up costing the district a substantial sum of money, then you have a reason to throw some people out,” he said. “Until that litigates, I’m not sure a recall is a smart move for the taxpayers.”

Clark also took the occasion to announce he’ll seek a seat on the CSD board in November. Directors Noelle Mattock and Guy Gertsch are in the final year of their terms, and have yet to announce if they will seek reelection.

While Sacco’s recall was idling, Everett had his foot to the floor, formally initiating the process by filing Notices of Intent with the county for all five directors on April 2.

Everett’s long-standing dispute with the district over various aspects of the Wild Oaks Park Assessment District is the dominant issue cited in his five notices. But reached at his home Friday, he said his biggest beef with the board members was their handling of Skeel.

He predicted that the resulting lawsuit would cost the district millions of dollars unless voters replaced the current board with one that would reinstate the deposed GM.

“We need John Skeel put back on the job he was hired to do,” Everett said.

Village Life contacted Skeel and asked if he’d consider dropping his lawsuit if offered his old job back. Skeel replied by e-mail, “All I have ever wanted was to get back to work, to do the job that I was hired for.”

Everett concedes that his assessment district allegations are incomprehensible to most residents, but insists that current and past boards have known Wild Oaks Park assessments were wrong and failed to correct them.

Interim General Manager Rich Ramirez defended his board, first by stating from experience that LLAD assessment districts have been a challenge for every agency he’s worked at. Mistakes are common, he said, because the assessment districts are often set up when communities are first planned, and must often be amended later based on how the neighborhoods, parks and amenities actually build out.

“This district has looked into Mr. Everett’s claims repeatedly over the years and found only minor problems, which have all been corrected,” he said.

Everett’s county filings also contest the board’s decision to put $450,000 toward a $3 million Buckeye Union School district gymnasium at the new Valley View Elementary School. He blames the current board members for a long-standing policy that requires the formation of a tax assessment district to fund maintenance for any new parks.

By law, any official who is the subject of a recall is allowed to answer the charges contained in the notice. That response becomes part of the recall petition, clearly visible to anyone who signs.

Former CSD General Manager and current board member Wayne Lowery’s response calls Everett’s statements “misleading and false,” noting that all CSD assessment districts are closely monitored by SCI, “the top property assessment consulting firm in the state,” and have passed independent financial audits since the first was formed in 1988. “The grand jury reviewed and rejected a fallacious complaint regarding Wild Oaks Park in 1998.”

The recall clock is now ticking for Everett. State guidelines give him 10 days after receipt of the response to file blank petitions for each director he’s attempting to recall. He must also provide proof at that time that he’s published each notice in a newspaper of circulation, such as the Mountain Democrat.

Everett’s petition filing deadline for Directors Lowery, Tony Rogozinski, Vandegrift and Gertsch is April 19. But Director Mattock filed her response three days earlier, forcing Everett to file her petition by Monday April 17, after Village Life goes to press.

Follow this story online at villagelife.com to see if the petitions and proof of publication were submitted on time.

Once the petitions are accepted by the Elections Department, Everett has 120 days to collect the required 4,235 valid signatures for each recall petition. If he succeeds the recall will be placed on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, the board faces a potentially expensive law suit from Skeel, with no settlement in sight.

While the two sides’ lawyers negotiate, the board continues to do the district’s business, making a strong case that they’ve righted the ship. In January they brought in Ramirez, a seasoned veteran who has been well received by CSD board, staff and most critics, Everett aside.

Interim Parks Director Mark Riemer came on board in late February. He sized up, then sized down the Parks and Planning Department, saving an estimated $81,000 in the first year.

The board also worked with residents to reduce the price of the long-dormant Windsor Point Park, and is gearing up for a summer-long 50th anniversary celebration.

They also hired a professional recruiter to find the next general manager and are giving the public a say in the process. Roughly 50 residents participated in a recent workshop, ranking the characteristics they’d like to see in the next GM: integrity, experience, visionary, accountable, team player, collaborative, consistent, honest, good listener and self-starter.

Losers included: witty, persuasive, patient, humble, cautious and calm. British accent didn’t even make the list.

Mike Roberts

Discussion | 1 comment

  • A BaynorApril 15, 2012 - 2:50 pm

    Where do we sign the new recall petition that Everett is running? Let's get Skeel back to work and the CSD board replaced and move forward.



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