Oceano board to meet pre-Christmas after manager plagiarism charge
December 22, 2013
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors will hold a special meeting two days before Christmas to discuss the performance of its general manager, who is accused of plagiarizing part of his job application.
Since longtime engineer Lonnie Curtis took over as district general manager on October 15, the board has had to direct him to follow the California Public Records Act and Ralph M. Brown Act and has twice reviewed his performance in closed session. The board is now faced with choosing whether or not to discipline Curtis for allegedly plagiarizing a PowerPoint presentation he submitted as a writing sample while applying for the job.
For two months, Curtis withheld delivering his job application and writing sample to Los Osos resident and Oceano board critic, Julie Tacker, who requested them under the Public Records Act. He withheld the same documents from CalCoastNews for nearly a month, claiming the district computer system crashed and he was unable to properly redact the documents.
Curtis released the documents on Dec. 11, just prior to a meeting in which the board reviewed his performance. The writing sample he released was a PowerPoint presentation on water usage, entitled “The Road Ahead — An Agenda for Sustainability.”
The presentation was nearly identical to one prepared in 2007 by Timothy Brick, the former board chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Curtis told the Tribune that Brick gave him permission to use the presentation. Brick said to the Tribune that that he did not mind Curtis using the presentation, but he was surprised that Curtis used it as a writing sample in a job application
On Friday, the district announced a special closed session board meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday. The meeting will mark the second review of his performance in twelve days and the third in six weeks.
The first performance review resulted in a formal Brown Act violation complaint from Californians Aware attorney Terry Francke.
A day after the meeting, district staff reported that during the closed session evaluation the board discussed planning measures with Curtis relating to water sewer and other district business. The Brown Act prohibits agencies from conducting general planning sessions during closed session.
During its most recent meeting, the board narrowly avoided violating the Brown Act after Curtis added a hearing without placing it on the agenda. Board President Matt Guerrero called for a special meeting simultaneous with its regularly scheduled in order to provide proper noticing for the hearing.
Monday’s agenda states that the board will review Curtis’s performance under section 54957 of the Brown Act. The section cited allows the board to discipline or terminate Curtis.
The board hired Curtis after terminating ex-general manager Tom Geaslen, who over payed himself $45,242 in district funds, according to a district audit. In 2011, the board terminated previous general manager Raffaele Montemurro after CalCoastNews reported that he had paid himself for working full time and being out sick simultaneously.
Montemurro earned $87,500 a year, but Geaslen raised the general manager salary to $126,000 yearly, which Curtis is currently making.