Oceano general manager’s job on the line

March 14, 2014
Lonnie Curtis

Lonnie Curtis

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The board of directors of the embattled Oceano Community Services District may fire yet another general manager Friday, this time less than six months after hiring him.

On Wednesday night, the board reviewed the performance of General Manager Lonnie Curtis for the fourth time since hiring him last October. On Thursday, the board scheduled a closed session meeting for 4 p.m. Friday, in which the topic of discussion is firing Curtis.

Since 2008, the board has hired four full-time general managers.

Prior to hiring Curtis, the board fired then general manager Tom Geaslen after learning he had overpaid himself more than $45,000 of district funds. Two years earlier, the board fired Geaslen’s predecessor Raffaele Montemurro after he paid himself for working full time and being out sick simultaneously. Montemurro’s predecessor Patrick O’Reilly resigned after about one year with the district, citing differences with the board.

Curtis’s brief tenure has included allegations of California Ralph M. Brown Act and Public Records Act violations, as well of plagiarism. As part of his application for the position, Curtis submitted a plagiarized PowerPoint presentation as a writing sample.

“We all agree that our district has management and directional challenges,” Director Karen White stated during Wednesday’s meeting. “Everything is in a tangle — our minutes, our agenda, our rules and policies and even our goals.”

Prior to closed session Wednesday, the meeting focused on Curtis’s recent practice of overcharging development fees to residents requesting water and sewer service. The board has granted multiple appeals and has had to return money to property owners Curtis has overcharged. In some cases, Curtis has charged back fees for development conducted by previous owners, though no corresponding liens existed on the properties.

Curtis has also irked board members in recent weeks by attempting to force frequent critic Julie Tacker to sit in a certain location at board meetings. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Curtis directed district staff to zip tie chairs to the boardroom floor. Director Lori Angello then cut two zip ties, and Curtis scolded her for doing so.

A slashed zip tie that was used to fasten boardroom seats to the ground

A slashed zip tie that was used to fasten boardroom seats to the ground

Angello’s issues with the district have even penetrated her own home. Last month, water flooded Angello’s home after a district water main burst behind her house.

“I was directly in front of it,” Angello said. “I have a swimming pool downstairs that got flooded.”

The busted pipe also caused water to flood neighboring houses. The affected houses received a combined bill of about $15,000, which the district is expected to cover, Angello said.

Curtis’s contract includes six months severance pay, which equals $63,000. The board can avoid making severance payments if it chooses to fire Curtis with cause. Doing so, however, may prompt a legal battle.

The board hired Curtis in early October 2013 at $126,000 annually.

 


14 Comments

  1. taxpayer says:

    So this guy works for 5 months and gets 6 months severance. This board has got to be the most dyfunctional governing body in the County. Only the Morro Bay City Council has a chance of winning in a contest for most incompetent. C’mon folks and elect some people common sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Pelican1 says:

    Can you spell DYSFUNCTIONAL?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  3. ajdury says:

    Mr. Curtis was officially relieved of his duties at 6pm tonight.

    Josh has some rather telling (and scary) video of Mr. Curtis as he was driving away from the OCSD. That man has some mental issues.

    How he ever got hired is beyond me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. MaryMalone says:

    QUOTING ARTICLE: “Last month, water flooded Angello’s home after a district water main burst behind her house.”

    I keep saying that Oceano’s water delivery infrastructure has been allowed to go without proper maintenance for so long that it is a safety issue, especially to the firefighters who try to access OCSD water by accessing the fire hydrants. Some of these hydrants–which are supposed to be exercised and repaired once a year–have not been exercised in 10 years.

    When there are breaks of water mains, it can be a public health issue. Certainly, it is a waste of water resources, which is something none of us can afford, especially with the declarations of emergency for water resources by the County and the State.

    The OCSD BOD needs to quit fooling around with trying to pass bonds for hiring firefighters and spend their resources on bringing their water infrastructure up to reliability.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  5. falconbh says:

    I admire the board for making this move. It was clear that it was just not working for the community.

    Balanced budget and infrastructure need a lot of attention.

    Hope they keep open to new ideas and a plan that the community can embrace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

    • MaryMalone says:

      QUOTING FALCONBH: “I admire the board for making this move.”

      They should be experts at firing incompetent general managers. They certainly have had enough practice at it.

      On the plus side, they seem to be shortening the time period between when it becomes clear the Board has hired another lower GM and when they actually get around to firing him.

      On the minus side, they continue to hire incompetent GMs. This is such a waste of District resources.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  6. miles archer says:

    My experience has shown that most cultures of corruption begin at the top. Who is responsible for continuing to place inadequate people into these positions…over and over again?

    Seems my friends in Oceano should be looking for a broom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  7. DennySLO says:

    After giving this some thought, I still cannot understand why the board and the all the general managers that have had issues, don’t just embrace the folks that show up every meeting with ideas and suggestions that could better improve the current conditions within The service
    District in Oceano?
    Instead, it’s just a battle of wills and the public suffers financially and the transparency of
    actually serving the district population is lost. Why do our elected/appointed officials continue to act portly to the people both inside and outside of their district? What happened to serving the people, with the peoples interest in mind? Sure, you receive a paycheck and rightly so however it seems that the paycheck is just never enough and the focus changes to figuring out ways an individual can profit from the people requiring services.
    Just my opinion

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

    • mbactivist1 says:

      I agree, but refusing to take advantage of the good ideas and advice from the public is not unusual – at least not in this county. It seems that once some people get some power, they don’t think they need to listen to their constituents anymore.

      That said, this crew does seem worse than average. I still can’t get over these lines in the story “Curtis has also irked board members in recent weeks by attempting to force frequent critic Julie Tacker to sit in a certain location at board meetings. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Curtis directed district staff to zip tie chairs to the boardroom floor.” That’s beyond dumb.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  8. mbactivist1 says:

    Maybe after Ed Kreins is finished cleaning up the mess in Morro Bay City government, he could help these folks recruit somebody decent to run their CSD

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

    • kkeene88 says:

      Yes, you are right, he will have a difficult task cleaning up the mess the current council majority has made……

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

Leave a Comment