Political fun and games in Oceano
June 16, 2010
There was a special meeting Tuesday night at the Oceano Community Services District to talk about a budget, since Oceano is facing a monetary crisis. To try to find out where all the money went, the District is engaged in a forensic audit. Meanwhile, it was decided that there ought to be a budget and everything had to get out into the open.
Charming and flashy Raffaele F. Montemurro, our latest in a string of general managers, most of whom could not tolerate the dysfunctional boards, delivered the bad news. He sweated through a tough performance requiring little more than just saying over and over again “decrease expenditures” and “increase revenues”. While all the board members get that and want that, when it comes to how to do it, he works at the behest of the new majority of the board, Jim Hill, Mary Lucy, and Lori Angelo.
This majority was created when Barbara Mann retired. Because Dahl had a business relationship with Angelo, he recused himself, leaving three directors to vote for Mann’s replacement. With abstention counting as a “yes” vote, there was a three way tie among three candidates.
Over objections by Dean (and later legal action set for trial on August 26), Angelo, with support from Montemurro, Hill, and Lucy, claimed the seat. Also supporting off-roader Angelo, is off-roader Kevin P. Rice who tried to discredit Dean at the podium and provides hit pieces against Dean for the majority.
The meeting did not go exactly as planned, since at one point it was decided not to name names. That left out the barbaric and unjustified attacks on Director Pamela Dean, by the majority and a few members of the public that are an embarrassment to watch on televised OCSD meetings.
Back to the budget. Montemurro, who refers to himself as “Raffaele” and “economist” made a noble attempt, though categories were confusingly excluded, included, collapsed, lumped, misnamed, unnamed; and amounts were underestimated, overestimated, and fabricated.
Montemurro took odd liberties with the budget, such as the inclusion of new water meters. That item was removed since he apparently had not discussed it with the utilities staff (given the parlay of comments) and the board had not discussed or approved the expenditure; plus Nina Grabiel in the audience testified that she did not want the waves that go through the air to read the new meters going through her body.
Larry Bross embraced the budget at the podium saying “This is change”, to which the majority replied back with glee “This is change”.
In addition to the change of having a budget at all, that is, a stapled set of papers that one could actually look at, with just a few pages missing; Montemurro presented the majority’s major change to the budget, which is to sack the two most senior employees, Gina Davis (administration) and Phil Davis (utilities), by eliminating their positions. They have until June 30 to pack up and get out, with no time (and crushed motivation) to pass on down their decades of knowledge and expertise. Montemurro said “It’s just business.”
In Gina’s absence (lacking her experience and skills) there will be an employee who is already working full time, hand picked by Montemurro shortly after he landed his job. She was one of his references when he applied. It appears that a position (with a different title from the one she was given) was properly advertised prior to Montemurro’s coming on board; but that he did not select from the pool of applicants. I am told that employee records were removed from Gina’s office into Montemurro’s office, even though it is in her job description to maintain them.
Montemurro intends to increase a part time position to a full time position and then have a total of three working in administration directly under him. The three in the field will also answer only to him. He drew a chart on the board to illustrate how good management removes the middle people and leaves only the top person.
Lucy, who wants to clean up the district, said she also wants to sack the lawyer.
Montemurro said water bills in Oceano are going to increase 25 percent as soon as possible.
The three-vote block, Angelo, Hill, and Lucy, previously voted Montemurro a $9,000 increase in pay and five year extension on his contract.
Oceano could and should be a healthy destination resort with a safe beach. Instead, ODSVRA has for decades drained the resources of the Oceano Community Services District, including our water, our sewer, and our fire department. The off-highway vehicle industry wishes to continue this subsidy, at our expense. To do so, they need to control the District.
Dr. Nell Langford is executive director of Safe Beach Now.