San Luis Obispo rewarding dubious behavior
September 21, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo city officials and management staff have selected several individuals for promotions, awards and high-dollar contracts who are currently under fire for either alleged criminal activities or anger management issues.
City manager Katie Lichtig recently named Ron Faria, a San Luis Obispo public works inspector, employee of the year for his “shared vision, mission and goals.” Faria was reprimanded less than two years ago for misappropriating public property.
In 2010, Faria claimed a city-owned bat-wing mower was junk and then sold it to a salvage yard in Arroyo Grande for $150. Without removing it from the truck he arrived in, Faria then paid the owner of the recycle yard almost double what the city had received and took the mower to his home in Atascadero.
He then sold the mower for more than $3,000.
Currently on unpaid administrative leave while he faces felony assault charges related to a 2011 bar brawl, John Ryan Mason also was a 2012 employee of the year nominee.
Several utilities employees, not on administrative leave, also are involved in criminal investigations.
Wastewater collections supervisor Bud Nance is under investigation for illegally dumping toxic chemicals at the city’s corporate yard on Prado Road. Nance is facing several years in prison. His former friend, Kelly Gearhart, is facing 300 years in federal prison for a mountain of alleged financial frauds.
Even though property records provide evidence Kelly Gearhart’s son Jeremy Gearhart helped his father manipulate property values and defraud investors, Nance lobbied to have the younger Gearhart given a job in the city’s utility department, and he was hired several months ago.
Kelly Gearhart and his son would transfer properties between themselves, creating over-sized valuations and funding that helped hide a Ponzi scheme costing local investors more than $100 million.
For example, on November 7, 2006, Kelly Gearhart deeded a residence on Encinal Avenue in Atascadero to Jeremy Gearhart, at no cost. A month later, on December 8, 2006, Central Pacific Mortgage Company provided the junior Gearhart with a $250,000 loan on the property. Later that same day, the property was deeded back to Kelly Gearhart, according to the title profile history.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, councilwoman Kathy Smith congratulated staff for awarding a contract for a water pump station analysis to John Wallace’s engineering company, The Wallace Group.
“Good to see it go to a local group,” Smith said.
Smith said she was unaware, and not informed by city staff who recommended The Wallace Group, that a superior court judge ruled last month that allegations of fraud and mismanagement against John Wallace could lead to criminal prosecution.
In September, a city employee who management promoted several times following anger and discrimination issues, was awarded the city’s new Neighborhood Outreach Manager position.
While serving as a San Luis Obispo Police Department administrative assistant, Christine Wallace called her fellow staffers names and told them where they should go after a department employee asked to have her photo taken off a Christmas tree for religious reasons.
“Hey assholes at my new job, GFY (go fuck yourselves),” Wallace posted on her Facebook page shortly after being reprimanded by then-Chief Deborah Linden.
Before securing her police department position in late 2011, Wallace was in charge of rentals for the city’s parks and recreation department. After several complaints from the public that Wallace was openly hostile during rental negotiations, city officials ordered her to take anger management classes before being promoted.