Oceano, how much money does it take?

December 12, 2012

Julie Tacker

By JULIE TACKER

After years of questions surrounding the Oceano Community Services District finances, they don’t seem to be much closer to finding answers.

The district’s current General Manager, Tom Geaslen, discloses bank account balances in his periodical Friday reports along with other bits of district business, but bank balances don’t explain what funds are restricted, how they are allocated or how much is set aside as reserves.

The last four Friday reports, over six weeks, say “Staff cleaned up additional audit questions.” The report doesn’t articulate what the nature of the questions are, who is asking or what answers have been provided.

Geaslen’s highest priority when hired in June 2011 was to “complete ongoing back audits and perform first stage of forensic accounting.”

At that time it was well known that the district was three years delinquent concerning state required audits. Geaslen, the OCSD accounting manager and the “accounting team;” two auditing firms, Moss, Levy & Hartzheim, LLP., and Caliber Audit & Attest, LLP., an accounting firm, Pressley & Associates, plus two independent consultants familiar with the district’s previous accounting system, have racked up $83,000 in bills, with one audit still delinquent and the most current audit now due.

The 2008-2009 audit was completed in late 2011, but later rescinded and “restated” it to include FEMA monies received and spent that year related to repairs from damage that occurred in the San Simeon earthquake of 2003. The 2010 Board requested that the 2008-2009 audit be forensic in nature and hired CPA consultants Glenn, Burdette, Phillips & Bryson but for a narrowed scope of only the fourth quarter and specific to checking and credit card charges.

The $8,000 analysis found numerous irregularities and red flags for fraud. The final audit was never presented to the board, leaving the board and public with no opportunity to question the independent auditor.

Under Geaslen’s direction the 2009-2010 audit was completed in June of this year; using sole discretion Geaslen forewent the auditor’s management letter, normally included. Geaslen claimed, “We know what it would say and we didn’t want to pay for it.” Suggesting the poor accounting practices of the past continued through that year. Again, no auditor presentation.

The years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 audits for the fiscal years that closed under Geaslen have not been presented to the Board. No closing statement or 4th quarter report for fiscal year 2011-2012 has been given to show any contributions to reserves or budget deficits. Instead, something Geaslen called a “projection” was only available to the public using the Public Records Act request process.

Fiscal year 2012-2013 is well underway, having begun July 1, the board has yet to see a 1st quarter report. The report would show how July’s $560,000 windfall of FEMA reimbursements for earthquake repairs done in 2005 and 2006 effect the district’s bottom line. With the district coffers seemingly fuller than they have been in recent years it would be prudent to discuss allocations, look at priorities, decide how funds and reserves will be backfilled and make budget adjustments to track how much money is going where.

The OCSD adopted a series of rate increases in 2011 that will take water rates incrementally up over five years. The recent influx of cash may prove that the rate increase was unnecessary or that further increases slated for each of the next three years should be stayed. An analysis should be done immediately and any additional rate increases heavily scrutinized.

Even with the new found funds and rate increases over the last two years, Geaslen is delaying implementation of the district’s capital improvement infrastructure projects in hopes they will be funded by grants. Pursuit of said grants is being done by yet another consulting firm. Eligibility for grants includes sound financial reporting, grant providers will be looking for clean audits and transparent handling of the people’s money. So until the audits are current and complete, applying for grants is an exercise in futility.

Last spring Geaslen brought $485,000 worth of improvement projects to the Board. Identified in the projects was a leaky water main at 17th and Beach streets, estimated $300,000 to replace. This important project was only partially funded at the time, but still no replacement plan is in place.

The district’s main sources of water come from the State Water Project and Lopez Lake, hundreds of thousands of dollars each year spent on some of the most expensive water available. Letting water continue to leak into the ground is irresponsible and negligent, wasting a precious resource and the ratepayer’s money.

In the meantime, Geaslen appears to be gadget shopping, looking to spend over $150,000 on a Jetter truck; telling the board he’s looking into financing it as to keep the district’s cash accounts flush. This said in a community that prides itself on having paid cash for an expensive fire truck in the past.

Geaslen is disconnected from his board, failing to follow through on their ideas and direction. The board appears to want to show consensus and solidarity behind Geaslen, rather than hold his feet to the fire, to the detriment of the ratepayers in the tiny community.

 

 


23 Comments

  1. falconbh says:

    We simply need to request a State Audit.

    The State Senate/Assembly Joint Audit Committee purpose is to help local citizens when we have problems like this with a local government agency.

    It will either clear up the problems or independently hold those responsible for their actions.

    In addition, it will outline internal controls to help eliminate future problems.

    Currently, the citizens, businesses, rating agencies, and others have lost confidence in the finances of the Oceano Community Services District.

    In all fairness, the current Board of Directors have done an excellent job. I support their efforts to improve the downtown area, and standing up the the Five Cities Homeless Coalition plan.

    Future Goals:

    1. Complete Audits
    2. Re-evaluate Rate Increases
    3. Oppose Five City Fire Authoritiy Protest Vote On Fire Tax.
    4. Use the General Elections-Democratic Voting Process for increasing Taxes and Fees.[ The protest vote method erodes confidence and fairness in our democratic process.]
    5. Request Independent State Audit.
    6. Promote Downtown Corridor Revitilazation Plan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  2. Jeanne Blackwell says:

    The Grand Jury is the citizens watchdog. Someone needs to file a complaint with the Grand Jury and have them do an audit and check out the numbers. That is what they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. surfdawg says:

    Tacker is a developer/carpetbagger whose fifteen minutes of Los Osis wackiness has long passed. Oceano doesn’t want your project, please head back to Los Osos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

    • MaryMalone says:

      Red herring and attacking the messenger.

      Did Geaslen finish the audits, as he promised he would do?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  4. aft50s says:

    I wonder if all of the numbers associated with owning a sewer jetter have been discussed with the board?Costs such as; fuel for the truck @ $150 per day when used, 2 employees at $300-400 per day (loaded salary cost) when operating the truck and the $8 – 10K per year in maintenance/upkeep of the rig, This when coupled with the actual cost of the finance payments over 7 years at $20K + per year.

    And don’t forget all of the extras needed such as root saws, chain flails, sand removal tips etc – easily another $20K before the rig ever hits the streets. And then there is the inevitable damage which will occur to the aging sewers regardless of how good the operator is. Things will happen.

    For the piss-ant amount of sewers Oceano has, it seems like a better idea would be to have a larger local city like Pismo or Arroyo Grande clean the sewer lines once/year on a contract basis and let them worry about the ancillary expenses associated with owning such a high-tech machine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 6

    • Justducky says:

      This is the sort of thing Geaslen likes to do so he is doing it. Why would he want to mess with stinky old audits. Does it occur to you that the Board most likely wouldn’t understand nor would they care if he brought those figures before them anyway?

      Geaslen isn’t a real CSD Manager, you know. He has absolutely NO background in CSD management. He is just pretending to be a CSD Manager and being paid a fine salary as a pretender. What was his background before coming to the Oceano CSD? Why I guess everyone knows he was Paul Texiera’s campaign manager. Hmmmm…wonder if that helped him get his well paying job?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

    • cathy says:

      I do agree with Julie the rate increases on the water bills should not continue. It has always been my contention the majority of the residents of Oceano can not afford these rates. The district should do everything possible to serve the people and their needs.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

    • MaryMalone says:

      I doubt it has been discussed with the board, other than Geaslen ordering the board to fund the purchase.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. MaryMalone says:

    QUOTING ARTICLE: “Geaslen is disconnected from his board, failing to follow through on their ideas and direction. The board appears to want to show consensus and solidarity behind Geaslen, rather than hold his feet to the fire, to the detriment of the ratepayers in the tiny community.”

    We need look no further than this to nail down the source of the problems at OCSD.

    The Board is not supposed to be serving the General Manager by showing “consensus and solidarity” behind the General Manager. The Board is not supposed to SERVE the General Manager. It is the GM who is supposed to show solidarity and consensus with the Board. It is the GM who is supposed to SERVE the Board.

    In a CSD, it is the Board of Directors which comes up with policy and directs the course of the District. The Board then directs the General Manager on what needs to be done and, to some degree (varies by individual board), how to do it.

    If the General Manager does not do what the board directs him/her to do, then the Board gets rid of his raggedy @ss and contracts with a new GM.

    It appears that at OCSD the situation is reversed:

    Geaslen, by thumbing his nose at a Board of Directors’ weak direction, has commanded both the role of the Board and the role of the General Manager. In the process, Gleasen has eunuched the OCSD Board of Directors, and it appears he is just the latest in a string of self-serving GMs who has held the knife that castrated the Board.

    And the Board has meekly tolerated and, to some degree, facilitated it.

    The Board, by failing to provide the leadership and direction to the General Manager–and enforce the General Manager’s implementation of the Board’s direction–has reduced itself to sock-puppet status. In allowing Gleasen to not meet crucial deadlines and not perform on the direction the Board has provided, the Board has actually put Gleasen in complete control of OCSD.

    The GM serves at the pleasure of the Board. The Board has had the right, AND THE RESPONSIBILITY, to “at-will” Gleasen out of his contracts, and have not.

    Worse, Gleason is just the latest of the OCSD General Managers who have routinely thumbed their nose at the OCSD Board’s directions and policies, and kissed off deadlines of crucially important assignments and projects, such as the audit mess.

    Yet these General Managers continued to hold their positions at OCSD long past the point where they stopped performing on the stipulations of their contracts and the direction of the Board.

    Worse, some of the OCSD’s past self-enriching General Managers committed financial improprieties, and if that is not enough, several of the last members of the string of GMs allowed a very costly and liability-begging situation to continue on in the utility department for years. In the process, they made OCSD, the Board members and the General Managers themselves the laughing-stock of the County.

    Each of these successive self-serving GMs, by not implementing Board policies and directions, has, as a result, implemented their own self-serving and self-enriching (if informal) polices. In the process, these uncontrolled GMs, have imprinted OCSD with firmly entrenched conditions and informal (but operational) “policies” of their own.

    In effect, there has been no Board direction of OCSD for years. The result is a morass of dysfunctional informal, operational, de facto “policies,” which is a combination of a mess of revolving-door GMs.

    Thus, OCSD is now saddled with an impotent Board of Directors which allows the General Manager they contracted with (and can un-contract with at will), who jerks the Board around by the short hairs. OCSD now has a set of GM-installed, informal operational policies that are more akin to something directed by the mentality of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (tinyurl.com/3s8qf) than something directed by a Community Services District’s Board of Directors.

    Since the Board is not now, and has not been for years, performing its duty of directing the course of the OCSD, there is no reason not to disband OCSD and return it to the management of SLO County.

    I think there have been quite enough flim-flam General Managers who have entriched themselves at the expense of the OCSD ratepayers, don’t you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

    • Justducky says:

      I must say that you, Mary and Ms. Tacker seem to have a very good take on the situation at OCSD – a weak Board that have found themselves yet another GM with whom they have bestowed great undue CON-fidence. Again they are being led around by their collective noses by a man who knows nothing about his job, but is quite happy to take his fat paycheck that at least HE had the intelligence to negotiate. Honest, Mr.M? Well, I guess there are all levels of honesty. Maybe for you taking money that you haven’t REALLY earned is honest. That is not honesty in my book.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 15

      • MrM says:

        The OCSD Board, which regularly reviews Mr. Gleaslen’s performance, are satisfied with the progress to resolve OCSD issues pursued by Mr. Gleaslen.
        Mr. Gleaslen is getting the job done; and to the satisfaction of his Board too.

        That you do not think highly of him is noted; but the OCSD Board’s decisions regarding his pay and performance as GM is not in your hands. If you not satisfied with the OCSD Boards decisions, then elect new board members that see issues as you do.

        Meanwhile, I have confidence in the currently seated OCSD Board and their GM as I have not seen any facts or data which show that such confidence is misplaced.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 10

        • MaryMalone says:

          The only things Gleasan is good at are self-enrichment on the taxpayers’ dime, and leading the OCSD Board of Directors around by the short hairs.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  6. MrM says:

    I do not know Mr. Geaslen except through reputation. His performance as Oceano’s GM is viewed favorably by his Board; and is know as an honest man doing a very difficult job in a fishbowl of a community attempting to to resolve community issues not of his making.

    Regarding Ms. Tacker’s comments of his performance; she has not presented any facts or data supporting her opinion that Mr. Gleaslen is incompetence, corrupt or misleading his Board and the Public.
    We all know that the OCSD has had serious problems over the last few years; but all Ms. Tackers comments show is that these issues ARE being resolved by the current Board (with the help of Mr. Geaslen); but just not to Ms. Tacker’s liking or approval.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

  7. Myself says:

    Tacker don’t you think you’ve carried this far enough, just because Oceano didn’t want to play with you and Jeff doesn’t mean that you need to be a constant thorn in their backside,go play advocate for the homeless, or better yet go to some small country and help the natives there.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 20

    • StatusQuoJoe says:

      Is she right or wrong? Have we really spent $83,000 on consultants AND Geaslen’s salary? And we don’t have all the work complete? That’s not what we bargained for.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

    • MaryMalone says:

      Do try to deal with Ms. Tacker’s opinion and not attempt to derail the discussion by using personal attacks against other posters.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

    • cathy says:

      It does seem to me this is a personal vendetta against Mr. Geaslean. I am guessing Justducky is Jeff. I find it silly that someone writes something and then is anonymously commented on favorably by co conspirators.

      I would like to see past opinion pieces by Julie on previous OCSD Managers. I started reading Cal Coast News when Montemurro was in the process of being fired. If there is this much negative opinions on someone who has done a good job then she must have written dozens of opinions on him and the prvious board violating the law. Are there archive files to look at?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

      • StatusQuoJoe says:

        All OCSD GM’s have been incompetent…but NONE has ever pulled down as much $$ as Geaslen. Criticism of him is welcome when he’s making about $50K per year more than Monte.

        Where do you think that additional salary is coming from Cath? It’s that water rate increase that you and I agree should never have been implemented, it’s going straight into his pocket. His salary is burning it up, that’s why he hasn’t had funds to fix the pipes in the street and other important repairs.

        Checking archives? As I recall, Tacker attended our OCSD meetings and called for Monte’s firing, before Jim and Carol resigned in 2011. The story she’s written here points out that previous management was just as crappy. This GM is just savvy enough to hire others to do what he was hired to do.

        No one else seems to be watching our money Cath. If Tacker wasn’t writing these pieces, why aren’t you?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

      • MaryMalone says:

        Cathy, often an issue-oriented writer will become “active” on a subject or politician (i.e., start writing opinions supporting or criticizing the subject or politician) due to circumstances that brought the focus of the writer to the subject/politician.

        Example: I had not previously written criticisms against John Wallace and the Wallace Group until CCN’s articles on the SSLOCSD debacle caught my attention. So does my current writing interest regarding Wallace now deserve less merit because I had not written critically in the past?

        I don’t remember you posting a lot about Geaslen in the past, one way or the other. Does that mean your opinion on Geaslen you are expressing in this folder deserves less merit?

        Finally, whether or not an opinion is meritorious does not depend on the presence or absence of a conflict of interest. An opinion stands on the merit of its premise and argument. Even if a conflict of interest exists, it does not mean the opinion expressed is not valid. It just means the opinion and argument have to be scrutinized with the knowledge of the conflict of interest as one of the issues of analysis.

        Example: I think GWBush was a terrible president, and I have written extensively about that subject. I also hold the opinion that GWBush lied us into the Iraq war, saying there were WMDs when, in fact, there were not.

        The fact that I have written previously about my low opinion of GWBush’s presidential administration has nothing to do with the merit of my opinion that GWBush lied America the Iraq war.

        So has the OCSD years-overdue audits been completed, as promised by Geaslen as a condition of his employment? If they haven’t been completed (which they haven’t), then Tacker is telling the truth and that lends validity to her opinion, and I don’t care if Tacker wears a pink flamingo hat and stilletto heals to the Farmers Market on Thursday–the claim that Geaslen has not completed the audits will STILL be valid, lending credibility to her opinion.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

        • Justducky says:

          I must say, Mary, that I don’t often agree with your opinions, but here you are speaking very logically. And by the way, I’m not Jeff, but feel if he wanted to comment here he should be able to without condemnation.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  8. Grrr says:

    Pelican1, well put.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  9. Pelican1 says:

    Pot…meet Kettle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

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