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.


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67 Comments

  1. rallyraid says:

    Well looks like a congratulations is in order the the OCSD and the folks of Oceano, according the the SSLOCSD website Ferrara is the OCSD rep and Chairman.

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
    • SLOChuck says:

      Wait… Are you saying that according to the SSLOCSD website Tony Ferrara is now the AG and the OCSD rep on the SSLOCSD board?
      How is that possible?
      WTF is going on down there?

      (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
    • SLORider says:

      Bzzz! Incorrect.

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

        Bzzz…Better read the website SLO rider as its says Ferrara is the OCSD Board member and chairman.

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
        • SLORider says:

          Bzzz… Better read it again with your glasses on. It really doesn’t. Really.

          (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
          • rallyraid says:

            This is cut and pasted from the San Dist website today, and your right it sorta, its wrong from 08/09

            2008/09 Board Members

            Oceano Community Services District: TONY FERRARA, Chairman

            City of Arroyo Grande: VERN DAHL, Director

            City of Grover Beach: BILL NICOLLS, Director

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

    Spoken like a real carpetbagger! SLOrider, You don’t even live in Oceano. And it appears your interest in this issue is purely selfish, in the worst way.

    Of course I am “blaming others.” You know why? Because it IS other peoples’ fault.. You have a problemwith THAT?

    When you make lame excuses for Mr. Teixiera you appear to want Oceano CSD to remain in chaos, and Mr. Teixiera to remain a limp-dick “leader”, and the corruption to continue.

    Heck yes, I AM blaming others. And that now includes YOU, SloRider. YOU are harming Oceano!

    (-10) 16 Total Votes - 3 up - 13 down
    • SLORider says:

      Nothing is anyone’s fault besides apathy of the citizens who formed and control the district. The county has no jurisdiction over a special district. You’re asking a county supervisor to horn into the business of Oceano CSD where the county has no business–exactly why a special district exists… to separate from the county. Screaming, inventing conspiracy and pointing fingers rarely works to cure anything. Keep blaming the world or do something.

      (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
      • WiseGuy says:

        Yes, I am asking the county supervisors to “horn into the business of Oceano CSD”. The system is failing. Teixiera has an opportunity to be a hero…or a zero.

        He has free speech to try to help Oceano, but we hear nothing now that the election is over.

        Who are you trying to protect, SLOrider? And why can’t they fight their own battles?

        What’s in this for YOU, Slorider? You don’t even live in Oceano. Why are you so darn “concerned”?

        (-3) 11 Total Votes - 4 up - 7 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        County Supervisors may not have formal powers, but they can push a CSD into acting.

        As long as the supervisor has impact on where County funding goes within the CSD’s boundaries, the supervisor has a heckofalotof impact.

        (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
        • SLORider says:

          Supervisors have political influence, certainly. However, using influence on a public controlled agency that is not within their jurisdiction could be considered interference with the public will just as easily as helping. The public’s representatives are the CSD board. It is the public’s obligation to control what they have created.

          You’re asking a supervisors to interfere with a separate entity. It might be perceived as welcome, but it is certainly not their responsibility to do so.

          And county funding in Oceano has nothing to do with items the CSD is responsible for.

          The question is not whether Teixeira can apply pressure, it is whether it is appropriate or proper. I wouldn’t oppose it, but the caustic remarks about Teixeira are uncalled for. He has no obligation to interfere with the separate CSD, and it is arguable that he should not do so.

          Again, it is the public’s CSD and the public’s responsibility.

          (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
          • WiseGuy says:

            SLOrider, all you are doing is facilitating foot-dragging when it comes to having a proper investigation into the OCSD problems.

            It seems obvious that some people really don’t want anyone going back and scouring the records or conducting interviews to get to the root of the problem. There may be all kinds of embarrassing or illegal behavior to be uncovered.

            You seem to be working on behalf of people who want a cover-up. Perhaps it is your way of ingratiating yourself with people who you feel are sympathetic to your OHV interest in the dunes. if, not, then why are you lobbying so hard to avoid a thorough investigation? You don’t even live in Oceano. What are YOU getting out of all this lobbying? Something doesn’t smell right.

            (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
            • SLORider says:

              What you can’t get through your skull is I AM ABSOLUTELY IN FAVOR of a proper and thorough investigation. I am lobbying against your finger pointing, insinuations, and slander here.

              Get the audits done, then follow FACTS, not your allegations. Then, interview everyone: Vern, Pamela, Gina, Phil, Jim, Mary, Barbara, Lori, Simas, Raffaelle, Cooney, O’Reilly–whoever was there when the FACTS show that something was wrong. My guess is traceable records don’t exist and little will come of anything.

              (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
          • MaryMalone says:

            For the record, *I* am not asking a supervisor to do anything.

            I’m just pointing out that, if a supervisor wishes to, they can use funding, and other kinds of political influence, as a way to motivate many people and organizations, including CSDs.

            This is not unusual in politics: local, state or federal.

            (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
            • SLORider says:

              Duly noted. Opposite of ‘wiseguy’ who is denigrating a supervisor.

              (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
              • DuneDude says:

                And, your attack on Jan Marx was not denigration?

                (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. kellygirl says:

    Once again, thanks to Karen Velie & Company for digging and digging and getting the story that no one else in local media seems to be bothered with. Doesn’t the Tribune get tired of going after Velie’s leftovers?

    I understand from hearing the radio discussion tonight that Teixeira has no official input in the issue, but one would think/hope that he’d be working quietly behind the scenes to knock some heads together and defuse this mess.

    (19) 21 Total Votes - 20 up - 1 down
  4. ApathyWillKillYou says:

    First of all, Santa Maria attorney firm, Kirk and Simas should be sued and shamed for providing such a worthless background report on Montemurro.

    And it should be already CLEARLY documented that Montemurro did not follow the directions from the elected board in open public meetings minutes. And if he failed to perform his job as directed by the board then that should be clear grounds for termination without any wrongful termination suit justifiable.

    AND if his employment contract contains any kind of clause that he CANNOT be fired for NOT doing his job then the BOARD should bear full PERSONAL financial responsibility for any judgements in his favor as they are the ones who approved the employment contract in the first place!

    This is the PEOPLES money and the people in this county need to get their torches and pitchforks as the corruption in this county is RAMPANT!

    (21) 21 Total Votes - 21 up - 0 down

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