Oceano general manager fired with cause

March 14, 2014
Lonnie Curtis

Lonnie Curtis

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Editor’s Note: A video of Lonnie Curtis reacting to his termination is at the bottom of this article. Curtis tells CalCoastNews to record his remarks, then says it does not have the authorization to film him.

The Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors fired General Manager Lonnie Curtis Friday, just five months after he took over as head of the agency. Shortly after he was terminated, he flipped off an attendee of the meeting before driving away in his car.

The board voted 5-0 in closed session to fire Curtis with cause. By terminating him with cause, the board avoided dolling out $63,000 in severance pay.

Curtis’s firing marked the third consecutive Oceano general manager tenure to end with a termination. Prior to firing Curtis, the district board fired general managers Raffaele Montemurro and Tom Geaslen, who each overpaid themselves with agency funds.

Curtis faced frequent criticism since taking over as general manager on October 15. The board reviewed his performance three times in a six-week span late last year, then once more Wednesday night prior to firing him Friday.

Over Curtis’s brief tenure, board members had to instruct him to follow the California Ralph M. Brown Act and Public records Act and complained about numerous mistakes on meeting agendas. In recent weeks, the district overcharged development fees to property owners requesting water and sewer service.

“Everything is in a tangle — our minutes, our agenda, our rules and policies and even our goals,” Director Karen White stated Wednesday.

No board member would comment on Curtis’s termination Friday.

Curtis blamed his firing primarily on Los Osos resident and Oceano meeting attendee, Julie Tacker.

“She’s nothing but a hemorrhoid in this agency,” Curtis said. “She needs to go away — go far and go away.”

In addition to speaking at board meetings, Tacker submitted multiple record requests that Curtis ignored or delayed responding to. One record request revealed that Curtis plagiarized much of a PowerPoint presentation he used as a writing a sample when he applied for the general manager position.

Curtis was making $126,000 annually.

Curtis reacting to his termination:

 


68 Comments

  1. Julie says:

    If you care about Oceano you’ll e there Saturday, March 22 at 9:00am.

    You can speak to the General Managers position, pay, qualifications as well as help set priorities.
    Agenda posted moments ago.

    http://oceanocsd.org/agendas/03%2022%202014.pdf

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  2. sloroger says:

    As a long time resident of Oceano I’m appalled by the series of incompetent GMs hired by our board, and feel the board ought to be held accountable for their incompetent hiring practices so we don’t repeat the same costly mistakes again. I seem to recall a recently hired GM (or was it an ‘interim’ GM?) hired ostensibly due to his connections (wife) with the OCSD staff and/or board? Then failing to review a submitted writing sample for plagiarism? So much energy focused on petty attacks and so little energy focused on the work of the citizens of Oceano, let alone energy toward rebuilding community trust and relations within the board and OCSD staff. Is anybody interested in throwing out the old play book in favor of a fresh approach? How will the hiring process for the new GM be different from the recent failures? What education, skills and experience are needed in the new GM to turn things around?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

    • falconbh says:

      The board has failed for so many years, for many different reasons. They have been given more than enough opportunities.

      I happen to agree that we need to look for a ” fresh new approach”.

      Believe it should go beyond just looking for another General Manager !

      We should be evaluating letting the county take over these few functions and becoming more cost efficent. I have been very happy with all the services that the county has been providing the residents of Oceano for years. They have a lot of valuable resources.

      Do we really need $125,000 general manager + benefits + pension?

      Can we contract with Arroyo Grande to share staff in this area and reduce costs and improve services ?

      I believe we should consider a full merger with Arroyo Grande as another viable option.

      Another option is to bring in a Private Contractor to provide management at a much lower cost to taxpayers.

      We need to consider a lot of “new options”, that can lower costs, improve services, and actually help local residents.

      Consolidation, streamling, reducing costly duplication of services, and economy of scale all are ways to save valuable financial resources and help improve the quality of life for our community and region.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Julie says:

    I will respond to Lame Commenter aka John Arccuni just to say, I distinctly recall you saying you were not in favor of a treatment plant in the middle of town. Yet, you were quick to fund lawsuits and a dissolution effort trying to force us back to that location — a location that was chosen by the No Growth Board before me. I say the “No Growth Board” because they had to have known that choosing a location in the middle of town was the most absurd, the public would never stand for it at that price and the fight that led to years of delay accomplished their very goal…kept those who could not afford the sewer in their homes a bit longer and development has been staved off indefinitely.

    There is plenty of blame to go around John, you have some on you too.

    I”m much wiser for the lessons learned, it doesn’t mean I would change my vote of 9 years ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 17

    • Pelican1 says:

      Ahh..but wisdom is of no value unless you put it into practice.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

    • LameCommenter says:

      I’m not John Arccuni. Which WWTP finished project did HE have a part in? BTW I admit that I too find it difficult to resist figuring out a poster’s identity, and I too have probably guessed incorrectly, as you have.

      I never waffled in my position. I valiantly (or some would say doggedly) championed the Tri W location. I’m not Arccuni, but I DO bear blame. I will take to my grave guilt and regret over not having bought a full page Trib piece against the recall, since a few scores of votes persuaded would have saved the town. In this regard, I “learned” and failed the town miserably, as you did.

      Tri-W..the weed lot, .may I call it that….Drove past it recently; it’s a sculpted, erosion wattled, fenced wasteland. Could have been a cheaper, standard, sensible down-slope coastal location WWTP with negative air pressure to capture odors. We should place a plaque amidst the lovely weeds and coastal shrub to memorialize the severe though impassioned misjudgment of you and the Cal-Trans regime who shattered the town. Matthews Bronze in the Inland Empire does a great job on building plaques.

      Such a plaque wouldn’t do any good, though. You didn’t learn and wouldn’t vote differently on killing a started, funded, vetted project and throwing your shovel. I wish at least Morro Bay could learn by watching Los Titanic sink. Morro Bay is headed into somewhat parallel financial grief (aka needless, misguided, board/council-autocratic mega-expense).

      You say “I’m much wiser for the lessons learned”. Egads, my mind reels figuring out how much, per capita, it cost the little lovely berg of L.O. for you to learn “lessons”. I am forced to acknowledge and respect your passion, but you steered your ship onto the rocks at flank speed. Spare Oceano your input.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 5

      • Julie says:

        Are you suggesting my one vote caused ALL the ilks of Osos? How about going back a decade; when the Faster Better Cheaper bunch proposed the original fiasco? Formed the LOCSD?
        I wouldn’t have ever gotten involved if they hadn’t tried to build at the “weed patch”.
        Place blame square there.

        Sorry to John Arccuni.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

      • Julie says:

        Hey there again LC,
        With your experience at WWTP’s were you experienced in borrowing from the SRF?
        I’d like to know more about that.
        jt

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

      • MaryMalone says:

        Tacker wasn’t the only one who learned a lot from the Los Osos experience.

        While scapegoating is a cheap and lazy way to attempt to shift community blame and rewrite history, in this case it is quite transparent.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 11

  4. SLOTECH90 says:

    I am wondering what, if any, are the educational requirements (College course work) and
    vetting process needede to select a city manager? It seems as though these folks are a breed apart , i.e. City of Bell City of Paso Robles ad nauseum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

    • MaryMalone says:

      Well, here is an easy approach to take to help eliminate the obvious losers.

      If a “writing sample” is required, ensure it is a real writing sample. General Managers have to write a LOT of official documents, such as staff notes for board packets. They also have to supervise other written documents presented by the District and ensure, as much as possible, that they are accurate and believable. They have to interact with legal counsel and oversee the documents presented by legal counsel.

      All of this is to ensure that the District is being run based on the Board’s direction.

      Once the Board gets the potential GM’s writing sample, the first thing they should do is read it themselves to see if it passes muster. If it does, the next step is obvious: do a web search to see if it has been published by anyone else or any other agency.

      If it has, then there is a big problem. Unless the GM applicant can prove that he/she wrote and published it prior to the one published on the web, then it is a strong indication for plagarism.

      Submitting false information for the purposes of employment is, in most government agencies, meets with automatic ruling out of the candidate for employment/contract. If the plagiarism is discovered following after the candidate has been hired/contracted, then the candidate is subject to official board action and/or termination.

      Obviously, the OCSD BOD didn’t even bother to, a) figure out that a power-point presentation is NOT an example of the kind of writing that a GM will be mostly doing, and, b) didn’t even bother to do a web search for plagiarism.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

      • Julie says:

        Sadly Mary, LOCSD’s Kively who was fired from her previous job in Atwater lied on her application too — checking the box “no” where it asked if you’ve been terminated before. It was brought to some Board members attention after her hiring, but they did nothing about it. Her performance has been nearly as bad as the OCSD GM, the Board just saw it’s first financial in over 3 months at it’s last meeting, March 6. Scary to have gone so long without that simple monthly statement of accountability. She underwent a performance review a week ago Saturday, no reportable action.
        Stay tuned in Osos, too.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 13

        • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

          There you go again Julie trying to discredit someone by using newspaper reports which are hardly unbiased documents if they are even remotely credible. You have no idea what the termination was about; nobody knows except the board in Atwater at that time.

          Her performance has actually been great despite your best efforts to slander her every opportunity that you can get.

          Where were all the financial reports during your tenure as a director on the LOCSD board? We went for years while the GM you hired couldn’t seem to locate the missing $1.5 million left by the board before you. You (and we) STILL don’t know where all the reserves went…..ALL of them GONE!

          There were never any reports on GM Bleskey’s performance from your board. How about when Gail, a private citizen, was outed as writing a CSD staff report? How about when even your supporters were mad because you hired a law firm with no noticing on your closed session agenda and no competitive bids! Never an explanation, an apology, or a correction from you! All of that and so many other blunders hardly give any of us the tiniest shred of reason to take your opinion seriously, certainly not that of dissing the entire LOCSD board for hiring Ms. Kivley, they who had your mess of a bankruptcy to clean up.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

          • Julie says:

            So it’s OK that she lied on the application Lynette?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

            • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

              You were not in closed session with either board and do not really know the full story. So you might, if only to look less ignorant and suspicious yourself, want to moderate your tone or simply leave the question alone as it is irrelevant. We have a very knowledgeable and informed board who makes correct decisions; she was their choice and she has lived up to the faith that they have put in her.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

        • MaryMalone says:

          What is wrong with the LOCSD board?!

          Why would they allow three months to go by without a financial accounting on what is going on in their district?

          It makes me wonder if the board is complicit in this GM’s failure to perform one of a GM’s most important requirements…keeping the board current on the district’s financial status.

          A lot can go south for a district if their GM fails in their responsibilities, especially if the failure involves failure to keep the board informed on financial matters. This is especially true if the board allows it to go on for months.

          I think the board needs to publicly explain to its constituents why it failed in the board’s financial responsibilities to them. After all, if money has been spent wrongly by the GM, it will be the constituents who will have to pay for it.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

          • Pelican1 says:

            Ahh..”But the Raven chides her blackness.”

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

          • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

            Here’s your answer MaryMalone: The bankruptcy took an obscene amount of staff time to cut all those checks to the creditors. At the same time, the auditors needed the myriad of files and documents to do their work, eating up more staff time. The long-standing District Accountant retired, we got a new GM and the District was short staffed. Oh, and there was new billing software for the Water Department.

            The Board went south under Julie and Lisa’s tenure with the GM they hired and then never reviewed until they finally, obviously, had to let him go. But I guess you didn’t know about that.

            The Board HAS explained these things to those who come to meetings or watch them on Channel 20. That Ms. Tacker, present at those meetings, does not care to enlighten anyone about this speaks to her dislike about not being able to push the Board or the new GM around.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

            • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

              Oh, and I forgot to mention that the GM and staff were ALSO working on the District’s yearly budget. I hope you now get why Ms. Tacker’s complaints are so specious.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

            • MaryMalone says:

              There is no excuse for not providing monthly financials to the BOD, especially for three months in a row.

              As long as the BOD is conducting business and district money is being spent, monthly financials are required for the BOD to do their job, which includes oversight of the financial condition of the district.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

              • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

                Guess you never worked in an office with limited budget and limited staff, so you really wouldn’t know. You might ask Ms. Tacker why her board failed to do the same thing.

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

                • Mitch C says:

                  I have a modicum of exsperience in government finance … if either OCSD or LOCSD could use my services on a voluntary basis, I will make myself available at their request.

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  5. shelworth says:

    Hey, since Los Osos’ new GM was terminated from her last position, that means this guy is qualified to lead LO when she goes right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  6. indigo1955 says:

    When I see $126,000…I just quite don’t see that particular professional attire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  7. falconbh says:

    I hope the board will be open to some of the ideas that Ms Tacker has regarding the district and the community.

    Her ability to identify problems, then offer solutions based on facts and data are important leadership qualities that can help the OCSD become more successful.

    She certainly will not cheat or steal from the taxpayers.

    After watching her you can really see that she wants to be a real servant leader for the people and elected board.

    The new budget needs to be addressed. A strategic plan to reduce the defecit must be approved. Water conservation implementation is needed. A five year infrastructure/facilites plan needs to be approved and funded. We need internal financial controls in place that will provide checks and balances so that no one indivdual has the sole power to steal taxpayers funds.

    Some people like her, some do not, but one fact we cannot dispute is that this leader knows how to set goals and accomplish them ! She will always place the needs of the ratepayers first !

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 30

    • Lynette_Tornatzky says:

      falconBH, you might want to study the Los Osos bankruptcy and its causes and fallout before you make statements like the one you made 03/15/2014 at 4:21 pm.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  8. justchuck says:

    Give him a ticket for no seat belt. I am sure he will be sorely missed. NOT

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  9. ajdury says:

    So, a hemorrhoid’s job is to annoy an asshole, right?

    GOOD JOB JULIE!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 9

    • ajdury says:

      Now, to focus on the last current detriment that the OCSD suffers under. That one particular position up on the board, just to the Board president’s left.

      Once that’s gone, actual work can be accomplished by the board and the staff.

      Micromanagement of office staff will cease
      Meetings won’t last 2+ hours (with no accomplishments) because of hot air speeches
      Folks won’t be denigrated when approaching the podium
      Uneducated and ignorant involvement of serious district issues will abate

      The Board president needs to wrestle back control from that one rogue board member and the rest of the board needs to support him in that goal.

      Lord knows the general public has tried, to no avail. Let’s stop the bully pulpit antics of the OCSD.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

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