Oceano manager’s history of mismanagement

April 12, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

Amid allegations of mismanagement, some former Oceano Community Service District (OCSD) directors question how similar problems from General Manager Raffaele Montemurro’s past were not disclosed in a background check performed shortly before his hiring in 2009.

During Montemurro’s two-year stint as head administrator for the county of Kenosha in Wisconsin, reports of his alleged mismanagement, failure to follow directions from superiors and inform the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors of financial deficits surfaced.

These shortfalls cost the county more than $3 million, documents show.

Last month, OCSD directors Jim Hill and Carole Henson resigned, citing disagreements with Montemurro over his accounting practices and failure to follow the board’s direction.

Montemurro, 59, faces allegations by Hill and Henson that he runs the district as he deems appropriate while keeping the board and the public in the dark.

Tasks, such as performing annual audits, keeping accounting records available and obtaining permits, have not been done, the two former board members say.

In fact, the remaining three Oceano board members told CalCoastNews that they agree with that assessment.

Prior to Montemurro’s 2009 hiring, the Oceano board hired the district’s Santa Maria attorney firm, Kirk and Simas, to run a background check on the prospective employee.

Even though dozens of Wisconsin newspaper articles provided details of Montemurro’s firing and the events that led to it, the report from the Santa Maria law firm only notes that Montemurro had some personal financial problems, such as a foreclosure and three accounts in collections.

Montemurro would explain his financial woes as a hardship he endured because of an “unjust firing.” And the $3-million loss that Kenosha County suffered was, in fact, the fault of County Executive Allan Kehl, Montemurro said.

“I turned my boss into the FBI,” Montemurro said. “It took seven years, but he was arrested and I was vindicated.”

Montemurro and Kehl were friends when Kehl, then sheriff, decided to run for Kenosha County’s top elective position. Montemurro worked hard to get his friend elected under the agreement that he then would be hired to the county’s top administrative job.

In 1998, Kiel followed through on his promise and hired Montemurro. But shortly afterward, county audits of its financial footing failed to get done on time.

This is the same problem that now plagues the Oceano district, San Luis Obispo County officials said.

Under Montemurro’s leadership in Wisconsin, numerous financial snafus caused the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors to ask for a change in management.

In 2000, Montemurro reported a budget shortfall of $2.6 million in health premiums that would need to be made up by a property-tax increase, partially because of miscalculations which almost doubled the medical benefit cost.

A few days later, Kehl fired Montemurro.

Montemurro fought back, blaming several county employees and Kehl for the budget snafu.

Montemurro, who said he will sue the OCSD if he is fired, quickly threatened a lawsuit against Kenosha County under a claim that he suffered a “significant physical disability” because of his termination.

He listed the cause of his illness as “false accusations, defamation of character; political scapegoat for someone else’s gross negligence and incompetence; and harassment and attempted coercion to force resignation and forfeiture of job duties and benefits.”

Along with family members, he lashed out at Kehl by making contentious appearances at board meetings, where they blamed Kehl for the shortfalls.

The feud quieted down in July, 2000, after an investigation report into the county’s financial failures described Montemurro as a rogue employee whose mismanagement was responsible for the medical-benefits shortfall.

The investigator also discovered Montomurro’s mishandling of a union grievance, that he insisted on handling his way and threatened to fire an employee who pointed out his errors, cost the county an additional $850,000.

A few months later, Montemurro sent a threatening letter to Kehl, “Cane (sic.) Kehl What you started I shall finish, what goes around comes around.”

Montemurro explained his wording, “Cane in the letter refers to the biblical Cain, who murdered his brother Abel. Kehl stabbed me in the back.”

Nevertheless, in 2008, Kehl was sentenced to two years in federal prison for accepting envelopes stuffed with $100 bills from an American Indian casino-backer after Montemurro informed the FBI of his former friend’s illegal acts.

Montemurro has battled against the Oceano directors, who asked for a performance review. The failure of the board to agree to order an performance evaluation was one of the reasons that Hill and Henson stepped down.

The three remaining board members, Lori Angello, Matthew Guerrero and Mary Lucey, have decided to put the issue of ordering a review on hold while they work to fill the vacant positions.

Angello and Lucey said they support Montemurro’s management of the Oceano district, saying that he is often overworked.


Loading...
WiseGuy

Shame on Supervisor Teixeira for letting this travesty of justice continue unabated in his district as Katcho did before him. I’d hate to think it was campaign contributions from the culprits that has the Supervisor turning a blind eye to this situation.


Kevin Rice

Get a clue. Teixeira has no more say over the Oceano CSD than you do. In fact, Oceano residents have more say. He has absolutely no jurisdiction. It’s up to Oceano to fix its problems.


I’ve noticed a common thread to your comments: blame everyone else and cast aspersions while doing nothing.


WiseGuy

We expect our Supervisors to be LEADERS. This is a perfect opportunity for Teixeira to show his leadership ability, if has any. He could use his position to rally support for an investigation, or he could have his own office investigate, or he could call for disbanding the OCSD.


SLO, your’s is a cop-out attitude; a pass-the-buck attitude; a head in the sand attitude. This idea that Teixeira has “no jurisdiction” is pathetic. His district INCLUDES OCEANO. So where is he when all this mess is going down on his watch?


Teixeira showed up at OCSD meetings when he was campaigning for office. Now where in hell is he when he could actually DO something worthwhile for the community? “No jurisdiction”! Yeah, right. What total cop-out. How pathetically weak.


Teixiera could call a press conference today and help get an investigation going.


SLOrider, you don’t even live in Oceano. You’re a carpetbagger who is always looking to ingratiate yourself so you can push your own personal agenda. You are part of Oceano’s problem.


Kevin Rice

Just more blaming other people, wiseguy….


Call your own press conference. Teixeira’s district includes Oceano, but the county has no jurisdiction over the CSD. None. Zero.


Oceano is it’s own problem. As soon as apathy awakes many ills will be cured. Until then, it’s always the other guy’s fault.


WiseGuy

What would be the purpose of ME calling a “press conference”? The “press” already knows enough about this mess to do whatever it is it does.


As far as I can tell, SloRider, you are working hard to make sure the truth does not emerge. WHO are you trying to protect? And why?


kitten

To Mr. SLO rider, the following is a list of government agencies contacted with and complaints filed regarding this matter if accepted. Also are the media outlets notified in recent months.

1. SLO DA

2. The Attorney General office

3. SLO Sheriffs dept

4.SLO Grand Jury

5. Teixeria office

6. FBI’s public corruption investigative unit

7. Calls to Blakeslees office with no return.

8. Several law firms specializing in government corruption under various codes.

9. ABC news in Los Angeles

10. Fox news

11. The tribune

12. Cal Coast

13. The TPR

14. New Times

15. LA times

16.KSBY

17 KCOY

18. CalAware

I may have forgotten a few here but you get the picture, do you see any investigations happening? I don’t. Everybody in this county has the right to point fingers as well as you do. When you’ve talked with every possible agency that comes to mind and they say its not our within their jurisdiction whats left, perhaps you can offer a few ideas. You seem to be rather involved and successful in your fight to keep your favorite playground open, how about exerting some of your free time as a Firefighter towards the greater good of Oceano or SLO counties politics needs and not just its recreational opportunities.


Kevin Rice

I hate to inform you only 4 of those 18 are government agencies. If you think ABC News in Los Angeles cares about Oceano CSD… well, that explains a lot about expectation versus reality…


You will not persuade a government investigation until substantial fact can be shown that a crime occurred locally. Whatever happened in WI is irrelevant. Furthermore, mismanagement isn’t a crime and is not the D.A.’s or A.G.’s problem. It’s Oceano’s problem. The Grand Jury might have interest, but they are toothless.


The solution is consensus building and taking charge of government. Only Oceano can take charge of their government.


MaryMalone

The two writers who led the investigation into the City of Bell fraud investigation just received Pulitzers for their work.


The LATimes article about the Pulitzer indicated the two writers (Vives and Gottlieb) are looking for other cities and towns to investigate, as part of a continuation of their City of Bell work.


ruben.vives@latimes.com

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com


undertow

Anybody hit these two up about a working vacation to the happiest place in earth?…..LOL


MaryMalone

I’ve already contacted them.


justme

Looks like we Los Osans get to watch someone else’s CSD expolde. Stress city.


WiseGuy

As part of the investigation, the following people should be required to testify and be asked questions under oath:


Barbara Mann, Mitch Cooney, the Davis’s, Dave and Lori Angello, and Jim Hall. That would be a good start.


This is how it has worked in some small towns (before Montemurro was hired): The General Manager contributes “campaign funds” to certain people running for the OCSD. Those people win a seat and then do the bidding of the GM.


I’m not accusing anyone of any illegal activities. I”m not in that position. Enough facts have not yet been gathered. But we are long overdue for a proper investigation. There are people who know much more than they have shared with the public. I believe the culprits, whoever they might be, are still at large.


RU4Real

WiseGuy, I agree with you regarding the people you have listed that should testify, however, as you know, Mitch Cooney carries his OWN SET OF BAGGAGE!


Disgusted

One has to ask again why the GM was given a raise and a 5 year contract after only a short time in this position. As I recall, Dahl and Dean voted against the raise and extention. How does the contract read if Montemurro is threatening to sue if he’s fired? Why are Lucey and Angello happy with his management yet agree that he hasn’t performed expected tasks? Who will he blame this time?


Typoqueen

Yeah, I didn’t get that bit about them not feeling he’s performed expected tasks but Lucey and Angello are happy with him????


Just that he’s threatening to sue would make me want to boot his butt out of there.


It’s all soooo shady in Oceano.


MaryMalone

Incompetent general managers, or administrators, are the most successful when they have someone to blame for their incompetency.


Unfortunately for the incompetent administrator, their scapegoats have a tendency to quit, or finally stand up to them, at which point they have to be fired.


Have there been any staff changes at OCSD lately? If not, perhaps Montemurro’s incompetency is at the point where it can no longer be covered up, even with the help of Lucey and Angello.


Bluebird

And without CalCoast News Montemurro and his like would never be exposed.

The Tribune, once a decent paper, publishes pablum or doesn’t get the issue. What do you expect with interns doing the reporting The only people who receive a decent salary are managment.

KSBY puts out 30 second sound bites and has become mostly pablum with sories like No Place like Home. Love the way they show a reporter walking up to a house, knocking on the door of either a victim or an accused and no one responds. Wow!

For the real NEWS go to CalCoastNews.


Lewy

“The Tribune, once a decent paper, …”


When was that? Must have been before I arrived on scene.


rallyraid

KSBY is worthless when it comes to news but they are covering a pretty serious “breaking new story” today in that Coney island hotdogs are going Hollywood.


hotdog

Well thank god for that!


justme

And the corporate National newzzzzzzzzzz is now just one big filter.


MaryMalone

OMG, it sounds like Kirk and Simas just used one of the online sites that give you the basics of a person’s past. OCSD could have done that for $9.95.


A four-year-old with a computer and an internet connection could have done a better job than that.


There’s no excuse for not researching local media articles.


SLOChuck

What I don’t understand is why no enforcement/oversight people are taking this seriously.

Grand Jury, help us!

DA, help us!

FBI, if needed, HELP US.


RU4Real

SLOChuck, I think it’s “wishful thinking” on your part to think that the Grand Jury, DA or anyone else in the very corrupt County of San Luis Obispo would even “look into this mess”. I’m sure they’ve known about it for a very long time, but as usual, prefer to “look the other way”…Look at what John Wallace is getting away with & is anyone doing anything about THAT? Further, in my opinion, the CSD’s have way too much power & I think everyone would benefit if they (the CSD’s) would be eliminated. They’re too expensive & most of the small communities that have CSD’s have no infrastructure to support them. The General Manager’s & staff are overpaid employees with way too many benefits. There is simply no justification for the high salaries, in addition to the amount of corruption that goes along with the individual CSD’s. Have NEVER seen a CSD that I liked!


mbactivist1

The SLO Coast Journal did a story on that not long ago http://www.slocoastjournal.com/docs/archives/2011/jan/pages/news3.html


It says that special districts get away with so much because they are not subject to the same kinds of oversight as other government agencies. That’s why they get away with so many shenanigans.


undertow

And this is exactly why the likes of the Wallace group or others love these places as they represent a pot of gold or “sustainability”, their new buzz word,honest folks just call it stealing.


undertow

Hot digity damn….this story is almost like reading a script from the Dukes of Hazard. Maybe we can make our own SLO mini series called Imbred acres. We got your cross burning, millions in funds stolen from senior citizens by local investors,corrupt politicians protected by former law enforcement officials, wife’s of the corrupt politicians overseeing departments of the corrupt local businesses, Attorneys working both sides of the fence for personal gain,giving your tax dollars away for personal use by certain employees, a $325,000 annual salary to a city manager who allegedly lives 3 hours away, a Sheriffs dept known to have a team of bad apples who’s idea of protect and serve it to steal your guns so you cannot shoot yourself, Millions lost in defunked almost started projects by corrupt contractors in bed with local businessmen, Atascadero’s woes and illegal dealings…seriously where does it stop?. Think about what you’ve read here in the last year and ask yourself is this for real? So where the hell are the attorney general and FBI?


RU4Real

I realize that SLO County is corrupt, but we simply cannot afford these CSD’s for all the small unincorporated Communities. As I said before, the infrastructure just isn’t there to justify or even support having CSD’s, & for that same reason, the small communities cannot support being “incorporated”, therefore, in my opinion, it would be better to let the County do the “job” of running these small unincorporated areas, the County has the “workers” & we’re already paying for them, let those employees work a little harder & actually EARN all that money & those benefits!


MaryMalone

Do you think the County would do it any less expensively?


RU4Real

MaryMalone, Of course it would be less because the County already has the “employees” & who do you think pays THEIR salaries? BEFORE we had the “Community Service Districts”, it was SLO County that did the work OF “MANAGING” the small unincorporated communities. They read the meters, handled street maintenence, water service, etc. I see no reason to pay twice, the County did it before & it was much more efficient (& less costly) & they certainly can do it again. The employees are already trained for the jobs. Let’s think “efficiency” & not “WASTE”.


MaryMalone

I’m thinking “reality.”


The County doesn’t have the staff or resources anymore to do the kind of local service needed by local kinda-rural areas. The County is set up to do services at the County level.


rallyraid

Its no wonder the county and local cities are going broke. I watched two county guys in a county SUV and another in a full sized county truck drive down the street looking for potholes,they found one crater big enough to hide a small child in smack in the middle of the road, three guys and two vehicles and did they fill it with cold patch? hell no, they painted white lines around it so now its a target. Three guys and two vehicles to operate one can of spray paint….that’s efficiency. Guess we need to assemble a team of volunteers to do street repairs also.


MaryMalone

I suggest we all start contacting the reporters at the LATimes who covered the City of Bell debacle, give them a bit of background, and ask them to at least look at the situation to see if it is something they would be able to profile as a follow-up to their Bell articles.


I would think the Wallace/SSLOCSD issue would be more attractive to them because of the ecological disaster that occurred in December secondary to Wallace, the cover-up “oversight” by the SSLOCSD board, etc.


But this OCSD situation has reached a really bad state, too, so they may be interested in this article, too.


WiseGuy

Oceano CSC had BIG problems long before Montemuro was hired. If he’s as incompetent as some say, perhaps he was hired as a scapegoat, or, simply to cover up tracks of mismanagement in the past.


The Angellos know a lot more than they are saying about this entire OCSD mess. They would have to. I’m not saying they are lawbreakers but I”m pretty sure they know about laws being broken.


Is there an Angello who would disagree with this? If so, let’s hear about it.


And still, no serious, complete investigation. With accusations flying, I would think the innocent would welcome an investigation.


I think we need an Grand Jury Investigation, and first on the list to be questioned, I think, would be the Angellos who have deeper and longer connections to the inner workings of the OCSC than anyone else on the OCSD Board.


Is there ANYTHING I’ve stated here that does not sound reasonable?


MaryMalone

Sounds like a plan to me..


Typoqueen

Wow, you really have it out for Angello. Monte is simply and idiot and the board was stupid to hire him, not just Angello. I can’t believe that any of them like this guy, he’s a rude buffoon. I am going to once again stick up for Angello. Although I don’t care for any of them on that board she doesn’t seem to be as bad as you make her out to be. For any other city she wouldn’t be good but for the OCSD she’s not bad.


MaryMalone

QUOTE FROM THE ARTICLE: “Angello and Lucey said they support Montemurro’s management of the Oceano district, saying that he is often overworked.”


————


The last sentence of the article shows how incompetent Angello and Lucey are.


RU4Real

WiseGuy, Good luck getting the Grand Jury or ANYONE ELSE to look into this corruption…Like the people who appointed the Grand Jury, they will continue to “look the other way’, because that’s what they do! Good luck finding a judge in SLO County that is NOT Corrupt! How could you expect anything else, when the entire SLO County DA’s Office is corrupt??


rallyraid

Where is Rick Searcy in all of this mess, has he nothing to ad? Mr Searcy was also a long time participant in OCSD’s dealings.


WiseGuy

Right! Question him also, please.


R

Happened in Wisconsin and here. Coincidence? Doubt it.


MaryMalone

It happens in a LOT of places, especially in smaller local government agencies.


It is not unusual for an incompetent general manager or administrator to bounce around from place to place. Each place he lands is so glad to get rid of him/her that they aren’t quite frank about his/her performance on the job when inquires are made by their potential new employers..


Often the Board isn’t able to give the kind of oversight needed with a new administrator. By the time they find out, like when they start getting letters from the IRS, a lot of damage has been done.


WiseGuy

I agree 100 percent, Mary. And a lot of turnover in GMs allows bureaucrats and directors to blame all the mismanagement and missing dollars on the “past administration.” It’s always the fault of “those other guys.”


But in Montemurro’s case, he did arrive long AFTER the shenanigans began to go down. He may simply be here for mop up or cover-up, before being sent on his way. And when he goes, all kinds of stuff will be “blamed” on him, whether he deserves it or not.


MaryMalone

WiseGuy, there are a few red flags with Montemurro.


A HUGE red flag is the fact that, like at his previous position, he is not accomplishing completion of the required audits. The lack of timely required audits at Kinosho reportedly was responsible for the $3million shortfall they experienced.


Montemurro also was said at Kinosho to not follow Board directions. After two years they fired him, but there was a lot of damage done by then.


The pattern of behavior in Kinosho appears to be recurring here at OCSD. While he cannot be blamed for the problems created before he became OCSD’s administrator, if his actions similar to his actions at Kinosho turn out the same for OCSD as they did for Kinosho, it is going to be a very expensive mistake made by the OCSD board members to not to have called for an outside audit the first time Montemurro didn’t do the first required audit on time.


In addition, OCSD seriously has to take a different approach to doing a background investigation next time. I can loan them my potted fern, they can set it next to a computer, and it would get about as good of information as they got on Montemurro.


RU4Real

MaryMalone, I seriously doubt they EVEN do a “REAL” background check! If they do, it’s certainly not like one you’d go through in Los Angeles!


MaryMalone

In a previous article, it was said that OCSD used their Santa Maria district counsel to do the search. But the district counsel didn’t even look in local publications.


I see the websites online all the time that, for $9.95, they will provide you some financial information, where they’ve lived, etc.


That’s kind of what their search sounds like.


MzWhatever

Montemurro has dug his own hole! Past happenings with OCSD will be delt with in due time. My question is WHY can’t Mr. Montemurrow keep up with his current responsiblities? Agenda’s, financials…….. Why does he always answer a question with a question? He can never give anyone a straight answer!

MY OPINION MONTERMURRO HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE IS DOING!!!!!! OH AND WHAT IS WITH THAT AWFUL PINKY NAIL OF HIS? GIVE THAT MAN SOME FINGER NAIL CLIPPERS!


Disgusted

It seems that in the Italian culture this is supposed to indicate that the wearer doesn’t do manual labor. This guy seems to need pink shirts and long nails to prove himself to others. It doesn’t work.