In recent weeks, PublicCEO has published an article by Fred Smoller calling for consolidation of governments, and a rebuttal argument that was submitted by a PublicCEO reader. The story that’s now coming out of El Dorado County introduces a third topic: Collaboration in and between governments.

The relationship between El Dorado Sheriff John D’Agostini and County Supervisors is strained. In April, the Sheriff and County Supervisors had a showdown during a Board of Supervisors meeting. The video shows a defiant Sheriff D’Agostini defending his department, its budget, and his authority.

So when the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office took to the skies in its helicopter, D’Agostini didn’t consult with, well, just about anyone.

The privately owned helicopter, call sign ‘Eagle One,’ took to the skies on August 20th piloted by reserve deputies. The pilots’ time and the helicopter are both being volunteered to the county. That should keep the costs of the aerial program to a minimum.

According to a press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office, “With volunteer pilots using their own aircraft, there is no cost to the taxpayers or the County.  The fuel will be paid for through Federal Asset forfeiture funds.”

The aircraft and pilots are also self-insured.

In an interview with Sacramento’s KCRA News, D’Agostini said that he was already working with Risk Managers to assess and mitigate the department’s exposure to liability resulting from its aviation operations.

However, it appears that the county was never consulted or informed about the decision to bring the fight against crime to the skies.

But County Supervisor John Knight told PublicCEO in an interview that he wasn’t aware of any steps that had been taken with county counsel or risk management officials. “From what I gather talking to people around the county, “said Knight, “is that it hasn’t taken place.”

Knight is also concerned about the process that D’Agostini followed. “My issue is about whether or not this had gone through the approval of county counsel. What documentation is necessary? Risk management, liability; anything could affect the county in one way or another and one of my main charges is to protect the county treasury.”

While cooperation inside the county’s governance structure is important, a lack of communication with other agencies and departments caused a scare during a CHP aerial rescue this week.

‘Eagle One’ came too close to the CHP chopper aiding in a water rescue, which triggered alarms onboard the CHP aircraft.

When someone from Cal Fire called the local dispatch to know whose helicopter it was, they laughed when they were told it was El Dorado County’s ‘Eagle One.’ The dispatcher herself seemed surprised to learn that they had acquired a new helicopter that very day. Cal Fire offered to communicate to CHP who the helicopter was and why it was in the area, but with some cooperation, collaboration, and communication it could have been a non-event.

Knight might take issue with how he proceeded, but he doesn’t question the autonomy that the Sheriff has in his own department.

“How (D’Agostini) runs his department is his business. How he uses volunteers, really any department that uses volunteers deserves applause for delivering services and saving money.”

Perhaps a conversation about ‘consolidation’ could start with collaboration and communication.