Oceano general manager under board scrutiny

December 11, 2013
Lonnie Curtis

Lonnie Curtis

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors will meet in closed session Wednesday evening to review the performance of recently hired General Manager Lonnie Curtis.

Wednesday’s closed session hearing will mark the second time Curtis’s performance has come under review in his first two months on the job. Government watchdogs have accused Curtis of failing to comply with California’s Ralph M. Brown Act and Public Records Act, and district officials have had to instruct him to do so.

The board hired Curtis in October to replace ex-general manager Tom Geaslen, who left after overpaying himself $45,242 in district funds, according to a district audit.

Curtis told CalCoastNews that Board President Matt Guerrero chose to place the performance review on the agenda. Guerrero did not respond when asked why he called for the evaluation.

Prior to the performance review on November 13, Guerrero said that Curtis was not “under fire” or at risk of termination.

Since then, the district has received a Brown Act violation letter and has narrowly avoided another breach of California’s open meeting law leading up to Wednesday’s meeting.

After the November 13 performance review, district staff reported that during closed session the board discussed planning measures with Curits relating to water, sewer and other district business. A day later, the initial closed session report disappeared from the district website, which has since stated that the board took no reportable action.

On November 15, attorney Terry Francke of Californians Aware sent a letter to Curtis accusing the board of violating the Brown Act by holding a planning discussion in closed session. The board is scheduled to approve a response letter to Francke during open session Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening, the board will hold a special meeting simultaneously with its regular meeting in order to avoid committing a Brown Act violation.

Guerrero called for a special meeting earlier this week after Curtis added a hearing to the regular meeting without placing it on the agenda.

Oceano board bylaws call for yearly elections of a president and vice president, and elections have not yet taken place in 2013.

Wednesday’s meeting is the last scheduled meeting of the year, and board officer elections did not appear on the agenda. Curtis attempted to fix the error by adding the item to the staff report of an already scheduled hearing on board committees, he said.

The Brown Act requires agencies to place notice of all scheduled public hearings on an agenda 72 hours in advance of regular meetings.

Curtis said he placed a copy of the updated agenda on the front door of the district office on Sunday evening. However, the updated agenda contains no changes from the previously posted one. District staff only amended the staff report for the meeting.

Due to the improper noticing, Guerrero called for a special meeting, and staff gave notice of it Tuesday evening.

California law only requires agencies to give 24 hours notice of special meetings.

In addition to allegedly skirting the Brown Act, the district has also avoided complying with public record requests under Curtis’s watch.

Los Osos resident and frequent Oceano meeting attendee, Julie Tacker, submitted a public record request for Curtis’s job application and writing sample on October 11, four days before he took over as general manager. Neither Curtis, nor other district staff has yet provided Tacker the documents.

CalCoastNews requested the job application and writing sample, as well, on November 14 but has not received the documents.

Earlier this month, both Guerrero and district counsel Jeffrey Minnery said in emails to Tacker that they had instructed Curtis to turn over the documents.

“I have sent him specific instructions to handle it,” Guerrero wrote on December 1.

The next day, Minnery said, “This should have been handled.”

Minnery told CalCoastNews Tuesday that the document should be arriving shortly.

“I told Lonnie Curtis to send it to you,” Minnery said.

Curtis said computer failures have prompted the delayed response to the record requests.

“Our computer system here at the district failed,” Curtis said earlier this month. “I had to rebuild files.”

The district computer system had been down for two or three weeks, Curtis said in late November.

“We’re kind of stumbling if you will through some of this, but we’re going to get up and start walking,” he added.

Curtis’s replacement computer, the only district PC with personnel information on it, was not reading software properly and could not redact private information from his job application, he said. Curtis has stated that he has been working on redacting the documents since November.

When asked if he would send his job application and writing sample from his own private computer, Curtis said he would not.

“I do not release information from my own private computer to anyone, period,” Curtis said.

Curtis is Oceano’s third full-time general manager in less than three years. He is making $126,000 annually.

 


8 Comments

  1. IronMan says:

    Why would anyone be surprised! They keep replacing general managers just like Los Osos; however, the inept powers that be keep using the same formula and keep recruiting from the bottom of the barrel of the same pot. The same incompetent staff who have been a mainstay for a decade pre-screen all applicants, thus they are looking for people who are more corrupt and inept then they are. Maybe the Board will let him go, but don’t worry there is another Gleason, Curtis, Johnson, Chief Chitty, Wallace, Faria, Wilcox, Limon, McDow, Pierce, Rizzo, Anderson, out there to take the spot. We should feel fortunate that he hasn’t been on-board long enough to steal any money, misappropriate agency assets for personal gain, engage in sexual groping of staff, go postal on fellow staff, sleep with staff, extort money and drugs, import contraband and the list goes on and on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 6

  2. ajdury says:

    So, apparently Mr. Curtis submitted a “revised” Power Point Presentation as his writing sample for the application.

    Unfortunately, he forgot that the Intronets has all the secrets.

    Mr. Curtis didn’t ‘create’ this Power Point so much as ‘steal it and slap his own name on it’.

    What. A Dumbass.

    After tonight’s stillbirth of a meeting, I hope the Board will immediately start the process of letting him go with cause.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 7

    • MaryMalone says:

      I agree with the wisdom of the Board immediately starting the process of letting him go with cause….especially the “with cause” part.

      The OCSD BOD waited far too long with Geaslan and, as a result, he had plenty of opportunity to overpay himself to the tune of at least $42,000.

      The OCSD BOD’s continued failure in selecting an appropriate candidate for the GM position indicates a lack of diligence in background research. I believe it is obvious that Curtis misrepresented his qualifications and background and the BOD should have caught that in the evaluation of his application documents.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  3. mb20 says:

    Looks like we know where Leuker’s next job will be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 7

  4. Stunned says:

    I am convinced that no more than 3 people are necessary to handle all of Oceano’s business and 2 would probably need to be part-timers IF they backed all of this mumbo jumbo Brown Act and lawyer speak out of the equation!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 12

    • OnTheOtherHand says:

      That could be true but the temptation to bypass public input and run a government agency as their own little kingdom has tempted too many politicians and bureaucrats. That is why the Brown Act is in place with all its regulatory details which does indeed require a lot of time.

      The choice seems to be that we either pay the costs of inefficiency or we pay the costs of tolerating corruption, theft and petty tyranny. As bad as the first is, the second has proven to be worse in my opinion. I don’t see any cheap and/or easy solutions here. A well-informed citizenry would elect a better grade of politician and insist on better hiring practices within government but too many citizens can’t or won’t even take the time to try researching before voting. Of those that do try, too many are swayed by BS passing as facts.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 5

  5. tomsquawk says:

    country bumpkins….all

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

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