Sanitation board meeting turns contentious

March 19, 2011


Two members of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board sparred with board member Tim Hill and members of Surfriders over requests for an investigation into the financial cost of having the administrator of the district also act as an engineering consultant at Wednesday’s board meeting.

In the end, Hill’s request for an independent investigation was nixed by board members Tony Ferrara and Bill Nicolls. The board unanimously agreed to bring a proposal for a peer review of best practices back for discussion in about a month.

What began as a normal meeting quickly denigrated into shouting, mockery and anger as members of the public asked the three member board to vote in favor of Hill’s request for an investigation into allegations district administrator John Wallace has been using his position to funnel monies to his private engineering company, the Wallace Group.

John Wallace, Ferrara and attorney for the district Michael Sietz blamed allegations of misdeeds and violations dogging the district on former plant employees and the media.

Nicolls became agitated and repeatedly cut off Surfrider members who wanted time to discuss the issue.

“I take offence to that, we should be able to talk,” said Brad Snook, a member of Surfriders. “This is not Mr. Wallace’s plant; this is our community sanitation plant.”

In an interesting twist, the board packet for Wednesday’s meeting was put together by Wallace Group staff. They contended that allegations of overcharging had already been investigated by Rich Thomas of Thomas Consulting, who concluded projects were completed ‘within regulations and district policy with full board approval.”

Thomas’ report only looked into allegations the district had paid Wallace Group too much for a roof painting job and a chemical tank purchase.

According to the report, the district paid $57,627 to have a roof painted including charges to Wallace Group of $19,921 for specification review, bidding tasks and contract administration. The district paid Ingham Painting  $38,811 for painting the roof.

Another bone of contention is the cost of purchasing a tank with Wallace Group’s involvement. Thomas’ report says that no charges for a second tank purchase went to the Wallace Group which was only paid for administrative expenses.

When one of the plant’s chemical tanks cracked, plant operators ordered a new one for $11,556. An almost identical tank of a different color was purchased a few months later.

However, this time Wallace Group engineers charged for preparing specifications, bidding tasks and contract administration almost doubling the total cost.

Several plant employees contend they could have ordered the tank without any extra expense to the district and the rate payers.



  1. SLOChuck says:

    These people amaze me. Can they really be this stupid?
    I can’t wait to see how this all ends. I’m guessing Wallace will lose his contract and Ferarra and Nichols will lose the public’s trust. Keep faith and keep fighting, South County residents.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  2. undertow says:

    It was no surprise to see today’s article in the Tribune about the new regulations at the San dist and OCSD’s board meetings. Of course they wanna hear our comments ,just like Nichols did when the Surfriders asked to have time set aside for a discussion weeks prior to the last meeting, but your 3 minutes are up so shut up now. Give a politician enough rope and they will hang themselves and these guys are at terminal velocity heading towards the gallows.

    (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
  3. This video shows the Sanitation Plant flooding problems on December 19, 2010 and the flooding of its neighborhood on March 20, 2011

    Notice the Sanitation Plant repair in 2009 to the sewer line running under State Highway 1 and the Sanitation Plant cleaning a storm water drainage channel which directs storm water to the Oceano Airport.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  4. New photos taken March 20, 2010 of the Sanitation Plant with flooding of the Oceano Airport property! It is just a matter of time until this Sanitation Plant floods again!

    (12) 12 Total Votes - 12 up - 0 down
  5. winedude says:

    To me, this looks like something that the SLO Co. Grand Jury should be looking at. There are over 90 days until a new Grand Jury is sworn in. There may not be enough time for the current GJ to take a look as their term expires on June 30th but the next Grand Jury will start out looking for things to look at and this could very well be something that they can sink their teeth into. Unfortunately, an a previous note was correct, they cannot do much beyond recommendations to the DA and we all have seen what a joke that is here. These guys definitely need a bit of jail time…!

    (18) 18 Total Votes - 18 up - 0 down
  6. rallyraid says:

    There’s ample proof Wallace is dishonest and covering up that one of his employees stole $676 of public funds nobody can account for including Wallace, there is documentation.. Wallace fired the employee who reported it to the Sheriffs dept, The DA and Sheriffs dept have all of the evidence to prove embezzlement took place yet nothing is being done. The plant and the CPO get busted for fraud and multiple violations in reporting yet Ferrara and Nicolls to tell us everything has been investigated by their long time friend Mr Thomas and its all a big lie, again look at the State Documents.
    Its pretty clear if we rely on these guys to do the right thing they will not. We need to form a committee, gather signatures and stop playing games here. I say we start with the following.
    #1. File a multi signature complaint against Wallace with the Ca Engineering board based on questionable and unethical practices and negligence in performance of duties as a public servant.
    #2. File another multi signature complaint with the Ca BAR Assn against Seitz for ethics violations and dishonesty in service to the public for which he is being dearly paid. Seitz is obligated to protect the public who owns the plant, not Wallace who thinks he owns the plant.
    Had enough yet? Call this number and complain 1-800 843-9053 toll free for the State BAR of California toll free number or file a written complaint @
    Do we have an attorney in the house willing to draw up these docs. I will fund this venture myself if its doable. Please help us end the madness and corruption, get involved,its our tax dollars here going down the drain.

    (26) 26 Total Votes - 26 up - 0 down
  7. The residents of Oceano now need to wake up and look at the whole picture! This email from the San Luis Obispo Tribune leads up to the flooding of the Sanitation Plant, that now brings this article!

    From: Wilson, Nick – SLO []
    Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 3:27 PM
    To: Bill Bookout
    Subject: RE:
    Several of us here have received your e-mails and often we have similar thoughts about them. I think we’re confused about what we’re seeing here and what the story should be. Those are two huge points of concern for any news organization. If the judge has denied your request for a trial, then what’s your next step? If the judge has said the evidence you presented is not sufficient to show OCSD or other agencies committed wrongdoings, then what’s your next move? Why should Abel Maldonado or Blakeslee get involved and how might they help/change the situation? I don’t think anyone doubts flooding has gone on Highway 1, but if two judges have turned down your request for a trial the news media can’t serve as a vehicle of protest unless you have a formal protest (not just with us; with some official body). I think we all have to know why we should cover this story and have the information presented in a clear fashion that makes immediate sense to us.

    Nick Wilson
    Tribune Staff Reporter
    (805) 781-7922 (phone)
    (805) 781-7905 (fax)

    (7) 17 Total Votes - 12 up - 5 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      Bill, they’re right. You hit the end of the road on this issue a long time ago. You are a nice guy but it’s time that you move on. It is what it is and you are driving yourself crazy with something that won’t change. Move on with your life.

      (-14) 22 Total Votes - 4 up - 18 down
      • —————Typoqueen, My flooding problem has been fixed by Caltrans and the Oceano Community Service District in 2009! Now the people on the west side of Oceano are flooding as seen in this Youtube vidow as of March 20, 2011!

        Do you really think that these people should flood with the County of San luis taking no responsibility for their storm water drainage, while they collect $30,000.00 per year in rental income from where this water was once stored!???

        (12) 12 Total Votes - 12 up - 0 down
        • Typoqueen says:

          Bill, the first part of your Youtube thing as well as several other photos were of your place and around it. I do understand that it gets bad behind the airport. I know someone that lived on Honolulu for years. Their basement would be flooded with at least a foot of rain every time it rained. It really gets bad over there and I feel those people. We always go check out that area when it rains. The only fault I see is with the sewer district for the poor design of their plant which is right in that area. But when you buy a home in a lagoon then you need to understand that it’s going to flood. There are homes in Shell beach that also severely flood when it rains. If you look at pictures of the Shell Beach area before there were homes there you will see natural springs all over the place. If you build or buy on a spring or in a lagoon then your place will get flooded. The city/county should never allow homes to built in areas like that but they do. So it’s just the old buyer beware thing. The county/city can’t control these floods (most). Not necessarily at your place but much of the water comes straight up from the ground.

          (-7) 11 Total Votes - 2 up - 9 down
          • Typoqueen, Fountain Ave is the First to flood, which is opisite of Honolulo! Once Fountain Ave begins flooding, the water then moves across the Airport to the Sanitation District and then Honolulu!

            John Wallace was hired in the early 80’s to study this problem and was paid around $5,000.00 by OCSD in a contract with Caltrans, for Caltrans to take full responsibility for this drainage!

            Why should I have to be held accountable for Caltrans breaking signed contracts? Why should the residents on the West Side of Oceano Now have to flood every time it rains? The people of Fountain Ave, who flooded today since Oceano Nursery did not are not very happy!

            Please review what San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Martin J. Tangeman thought of this evidence as Justices–Steven Z. Perren, Arthur Gilbert and Kenneth R. Yegan State in regards to these videos and photos:

            “Bookout points to no findings of fact in his favor. Instead, he relies on over 500 photographs and videos showing the flooding, several hundred documents which he claims show each defendant exercised dominion and control over the drainage facilities, and the testimony of his expert engineer, Keith Crow. He believes the evidence against the defendants was overwhelming.
            Bookout claims the evidence is credible because it is uncontradicted. He cites Joseph v. Drew (1950) 36 Cal.2d 575, 579, for the proposition that uncontradicted testimony of a witness may not be disregarded, but should be accepted as proof of the fact to which the witness testified. Indeed, there are no doubt cases where the uncontradicted testimony of a witness is so credible that no reasonable trier of fact could reject it. But this is not such a case.
            Here there is an obvious cause of the flooding. The Exchange modified the drainage by constructing a junction box and pipeline that redirected the flow of water by 90 degrees.”

            (9) 11 Total Votes - 10 up - 1 down
  8. Crusader says:

    Wallace needs to be investigated…

    (47) 51 Total Votes - 49 up - 2 down
    • mbactivist1 says:

      Wallace isn’t the only one. Look at the people who fought to stop the independent review of the situation and you know who else needs to be investigated. Wallace couldn’t do what he does without buddies in local government. Numerous Cal Coast News articles show that in this county, certain people can get away with anything. They will never be prosecuted here. Write to the State Attorney General and the State Controller, tell them that the local “justice system” is useless, and ask for an investigation of the District. That is the only way.

      (34) 34 Total Votes - 34 up - 0 down
      • mbactivist1 says:

        For anyone who wants to try to get help from the state level:

        According to people who have sent complaints to the Attorney General recently, the form to use is at:

        Also, they say that unless you indicate that the local D.A. and Grand Jury are ineffective, you are likely to get a letter back from the A.G. telling you to go to them first.

        Anything the Grand Jury finds that seems to have a criminal element gets sent to the D.A., so you can mention that. Cal Coast News stories, such as those in Karen Velie’s series on Bordonaro or Gearhart can be used to show that going to the D.A. is not effective. With that established, you should have a shot at having the Attorney General consider investigating your concerns. After the shenanigans in the city of Bell, local government seems to be on their radar.

        As for the State Controller, where state or federal money is involved, he is currently authorized to investigate allegations of financial wrongdoing in local governments/agencies. There is a senate bill currently making its way through the legislature that would increase his authority to allow audits of local governments/agencies when state and federal funds are not involved.

        (20) 24 Total Votes - 22 up - 2 down
    • kitten says:

      Fixed it for you:
      Wallace needs to be investigated by somebody else besides his friends and business partners.

      (17) 19 Total Votes - 18 up - 1 down

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