Kollar tapped for sheriff post

By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
-A +A
There’s a new sheriff in town — sort of. Facing pressing budget issues and concerns of a politicized department, El Dorado County supervisors narrowly selected longtime Undersheriff Fred Kollar to take over the county’s top law enforcement position. The 3-2 vote came late Thursday afternoon during a lengthy Board of Supervisors meeting, in which sheriff’s Lt. Kevin House also sought to replace Sheriff Jeff Neves. Both Kollar and House decided against running for sheriff in the June 2010 election, but both expressed interest in filling the position through the end of Neves’ term. Neves is set to leave the department Dec. 26, a full year before his term ends in January 2010. Kollar’s first day as sheriff will be Dec. 27. Supervisors initially indicated they would make their decision in January, but Chief Administrative Officer Gayle Erbe-Hamlin cited the need to address the impending void in leadership sooner rather than later. The new sheriff will take over with budget shortfalls, difficult contract negotiations and a competitive sheriff’s race threatening to politicize the department. “The sheriff’s department has some serious fiscal and administrative challenges in the short-term,” Erbe-Hamlin said in a statement. “Fred is intimately familiar with these challenges, has a solid command of the day-to-day operational needs of the department, and is uniquely qualified to provide the management needed during this transitional time.” Supervisors decided in early November they wouldn’t choose Neves’ replacement from among the seven announced candidates running for sheriff in a June 2010 election. But the vacancy attracted some political wrangling anyway, with House lobbying for the appointment and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association backing Kollar. In a letter to supervisors, House cited the contract “impasse” with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the need for better communication with the county among his goals. He also said he would not endorse a candidate for sheriff and would leave both his lieutenant position and the undersheriff position unfilled if selected. But with the Chief Administrative Office recommending Kollar, the seven-year undersheriff was given the bump. Kollar called the department’s budget deficit “probably our biggest challenge in the upcoming year.” The department is projecting a $750,000 gap in the next fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010. In addition, declines in countywide sales and property tax revenues are responsible for a $400,000 budget shortfall. The department will see some savings from deleting the undersheriff position, which has a $210,000 annual salary. “I’m able to do that due to the unique nature of my circumstances,” Kollar said of working without a No. 2. But, he added, “any new sheriff will need an undersheriff.” The county said it would reevaluate the possibility of reinstating the undersheriff position when a new sheriff is elected. In the meantime, Kollar will have to oversee the department during difficult bargaining negotiations with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, as well as upcoming negotiations with jail staff, who belong to Operating Engineers No. 3. Kollar said one unpopular item for the DSA is the county’s proposal to change the definition of “hours worked” so that it doesn’t include vacation or sick time. “I don’t involve myself in the economic issues,” said Kollar, who has attended most of the bargaining sessions between the DSA and county. He does offer his input when it comes to the “operational impacts of what they’re discussing.” The county is also considering changes to its charter review that could mean a change in how deputy sheriff’s salaries are negotiated. As for the upcoming election, Kollar cited the need to keep politics out of the office. “Any time you have this many people running for sheriff, it becomes divisive,” observed Kollar, who characterized his role as minimizing the race’s impacts on his department. “It’s hard to keep that out of the workplace,” he acknowledged. “People want to know who their leader is.” For now, it’s Kollar.