E-mail outlines unhappiness at Incline improvement district

During the past few months debate on the number of employees leaving the Incline Village General Improvement District flared up at board meetings, and even on election platforms.

Now, the debate circulates on e-mail.

In the past two weeks, Kim Kelsch, the district's former administration services manager, left to take up a new position with the North Lake Tahoe Fire District as its business manager. And Mike Workman resigned as Utilities superintendent after 13 years with the district to take up a utilities position in Mount Shasta, Calif.

The latest resignations took the debate to a new level Thursday when Workman sent an e-mail critical of the district's operations to every employee within the district.

The Bonanza obtained a copy of Workman's electronic message.

Workman said in a telephone interview Tuesday that IVGID used to have a culture of involvement and accountability to the organization and the community.

There was fiscal responsibility and responsibility to the environment, he added.

"It was such a great place to work, you didn't feel like a government employee. You could give back," Workman said. "Then the new board and new management came in."

Workman said he left the district because he wanted to.

John Danielson, district general manager, said he was very surprised by the e-mail message.

"He had never given any indication of his unhappiness. I'm kind of disappointed and surprised," Danielson said.

Danielson noted Kelsch left on good terms from his perspective.

"None of the employees who left were fired, all left under good terms," Danielson said. "There's no bitterness on the district's side."

In his e-mail, Workman said the organization has lost it's soul and the values of the organization have gone.

"Our values were sound and we had pride that was unmatched in any public organization," Workman wrote. "We lost our soul. Plain and simple."

He added in the e-mail, there is no communication on issues concerning employees and trust between the management and board of IVGID and the employees has deteriorated.

"Communication is primarily a function of trust, not technique. When trust is high, communication is easy," Workman wrote. "But when the trust is low and the emotional bank account is overdrawn, communication is exhausting, it's terribly time-consuming and it's like walking around in a minefield."

Improvement district Trustee Chairman Joe Marson said people don't like changes, when asked about Workman's e-mail.

For years people said IVGID has too many people sitting at the top, Marson explained. They hired a firm to take a look at the organization and the firm recommended some changes be made.

"We didn't do it to hurt anyone - I'm sorry to see people go, there's no malice in it... but my obligation is to residents and voters of Incline Village, not employees," Marson said.

Another trustee, Syd Brosten agrees with Workman's sentiments and said he believes the district has lost many fine people for the reasons given in the e-mail.

"The change in organization was a mistake. I'm the only board member that believes that," Brosten said. "All the other trustees believe the people that have left were deadweight or they had better jobs to go to, and that's not true."

Brosten said anyone who has a disagreement with the general manager is finished and the employee has no one to go to.

One of the problems with the district now is everyone has to do what they're told, or things are made very difficult for those people, Brosten added.

"He's (Danielson) has made it so rough for them - they get bad reviews after years of good reviews," Brosten added.

Marson said he thought maybe people need someone to blame, after learning of Brosten's comments.

"Syd Brosten is using John Danielson as a scape goat," Marson said.

Workman said Tuesday, the board told employees they support the general manager and the direction he's taking IVGID and the community.

"I was involved in policy decisions, but in the last few years my job changed to a traditional utilities superintendent in a bureaucratic organization," Workman said. "I don't really know what happened politically, I was removed so quickly, I don't know."

Not all the vacant positions will be filled after the latest round of resignations, Danielson said.

Workman suggested the district eliminate his position, and it would be a good organizational move to do so, Danielson explained.

Workman said one of his goals was to eliminate his position and be moved into another area of the district as the matter had been discussed at a staff retreat four years ago.

"It goes back to accountability. If you can streamline government so it's productive, it's good," Workman said. "When my position wasn't needed, I'd move into another position (within the district)."

Danielson said if Workman really cared about the district he should have said 'here's some issues that need addressing,' while he was still employed.

"If there's a problem and issues, let's talk about it," Danielson added.

Workman said he did not have an exit interview although he requested one.

He was told the district was working on a new policy to hold exit interviews, Workman said, but at present the district asks the departing employee to complete a form.

Brosten said the community doesn't know what's going on because not many come to the meetings.

Danielson is trying to run the district his way and the majority of the board agrees with him, Brosten added.

"There used to be lots of 3-2 votes and a few 4-1. In the last two years there are lots more 4-1 votes," Brosten said. "The GM has control of the other four trustees."

Marson said he's comfortable with both resignations since Kelsch and Workman chose to leave. It's a case of supply and demand. Opportunities came up and people take advantage of them, he said.

He said he was not at all unhappy about the situation.

"It's just a little politics, people will see through him. Syd's way off base and he owes the rest of the board an apology," Marson said.


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