Termination of Oceano’s general manager on Tuesday’s agenda

May 27, 2011


While Oceano’s general manager sat with his head hung low wiping sweat from his brow, the district’s board members voted to have a special meeting on May 31 to discuss the discipline, dismissal or release of their community’s general manager.

During a five and a half hour rowdy meeting on Wednesday evening, Oceano Community Services District board members and members of the public ranted about Raffaelle Montemurro’s failure to keep the district solvent and his attempt to defer water payments to San Luis Obispo County.

“There is irony in a water company not being able to pay its water bill,” director Matt Guerrero said.

In his defense, Montemurro blamed the board for not following his advice to sell some of the districts water rights while simultaneously raising water rates.

“I can’t take responsibility for what I have no control of,” Montemurro said.

Several board members fired back telling Montemurro it was his responsibility to have established a budget on actual numbers rather than possibilities.

“You cannot establish a budget on a hope,” said director Felma Hurdle who noted that he was hired to fix the district’s financial inadequacies.

Several members of the public also voiced concerns that Montemurro had given himself and several other staff members increases in pay.

Montemurro said that other than one employee who received a scheduled step raise about 60 to 90 days ago, no one in the district had been given a pay raise.

Nevertheless, the districts financial statements appear to say otherwise. For example, while some employees have not received their scheduled step raises, others, alleged favorites of Montemuro’s, have, according to payroll registers.

During the by-weekly payroll period ending March 18, the district’s net payroll cost was $7,894. By April 29, with the addition of one employee at a two week net cost of $1,255, that number jumped to $11,153, a $3,259 two-week payroll increase, according to district financial records.

Before former directors Jim Hill and Carole Henson tendered their resignations in March, citing disagreements with Montemurro over his accounting practices, Montemurro’s net pay was $2,377 every two weeks.

On April 15, Montemurro printed himself a check for $2,623. Two weeks later, he increased his two-week net pay to $3,111.

As for the latest 80 hour payroll period, for May 12 through May 25, Montemurro is slated to receive a $3,152 net paycheck. According to the payroll register, he is being compensated for 80 hours of work time and 20 hours in sick pay.

If terminated on Tuesday, Montemurro is contracted to receive three months salary.

Tuesday’s special meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. with time allotted for public comment before the board goes into a closed session.

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It’s official. Montemurro got his walking papers!

Wow. Looks like the fat boy got his hand caught in the cookie jar.

Are there really some people in the South County who are actually standing up and doing something about the mess in that area? People in Los Osos were snickered at for being so vocal, but if the residents of Oceano, etc. hadn’t been so passive about all the things going on down there, maybe the OCSD would not be in such a mess as it is. I noticed that the investigation into the South County Sanitation District and Mr. Wallace and his million dollar renimeration has stagnated. It seems like the people there like the ‘good ole boy’ network = maybe because too many of them are in on it.

Dump Montemurro and get someone in there who will do the job correctly – but THIS time get a COMPLETE background check on the person and not from someone who may have been a good buddy of of the applicant..

It is very odd that people in lower level that serves the elected official typically require a background check, while elected officials do not.

“People in Los Osos were snickered at for being so vocal, but if the residents of Oceano, etc. hadn’t been so passive about all the things going on down there, maybe the OCSD would not be in such a mess as it is…..”


Your compassion is underwhelming.

Have you ever driven through the residential areas of Oceano?

Perhaps it is the disparity in the socioeconomic-resource situations between Oceano and Los Osos that produces less political activity. Before you attempt to blame the good citizens of Oceano (and surrounding area), making such a sweeping disparaging remark about the passivity of a community suffering such hardships with their two governing bodies, you might want to take a look at the communities you are comparing to ensure that there are enough similarities to make the comparison valid.

Being politically active requires resources, time and money being the two major ones. The socioeconomic reality of any group of people is going to impact the availability of both time and money to expend on political activism.

You might want to consider this: Los Osos, when compared with Oceano, has twice as many residents (potential political activists), are less likely to have small children to tend to (freeing up time for political activism), and has a per-capita income that is half-again larger (possibly available funds for costs related to political activism). Oceano is at a double the %disadvantage, when it comes to numbers of residents from which to draw for political activists, when compared to Los Osos, just based on the ability to participate in a largely-English-speaking-only political arena.

In addition, since Oceano is part of a larger agricultural area than Los Osos is, there are likely more undocumented workers in Oceano than in Los Osos. I would also imagine that undocumented workers might not want the visibility being politically involved sometimes brings, and would be unavailable to participate politically.

Also, last December Oceano residents had between 0 and 3 million gallons of raw sewage flood their streets and homes. While the OCSD’s conduct is an important issue, if I lived in Oceano and only had time to follow one local issue, it would danged straight be the SSLOCSD facility. While embezzlement and poor management are important issues to address, raw sewage carries the threat of fatal diseases, such as some hepatitis viruses. (Did you know that they have hepatitis D, E, F, G and H now? And that blood banks don’t test for any of them?).

Finally, in the time I have been following the issue of the WWT facility, I have been impressed by the tenacity of the local activists in getting information about what, for too long, went on behind closed doors. From what I understand, it used to be a challenge to even find out when the SSLOCSD meetings were being held.

Repeatedly, when the public has attended the meetings, the SSLOCSD board members and Wallace have outright lied to them–full well knowing the crowd knew the truth, which just makes it that much more insulting. AG’s mayor (an SSLOCSD board member) has repeatedly insulted Karen Velie, our intrepid reporter bringing us the news about OCSD, SSLOCSD (and other news). The SSLOCSD board has also spoke completely inappropriately to members of the audience, most of whom, I would wager a bet, are CUSTOMERS who the board is supposed to SERVE.

Despite the activists’ efforts, consistently the SSLOCSD board has refused to allow any real investigations because they just might hold the board and/or John Wallace accountable for the decades of $$$millions lost to mismanagement.

The conduct of the board members at the OCSD meetings is simply inexcusable. The board members are supposed to be setting an example. The political activists who attend those meetings deserve Purple Hearts for jumping into that fray.

In summary, before you blame the good people of Oceano for the situation at the OCSD or SSLOCSD, comparing Oceano to Los Osos, please pause and reflect on the diverse socioeconomic realities of the two Districts. The old saying, “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” might be something to ponder.


Data Source: http://www.city-data.com


Oceano: 7,665

Los Osos: 14,865

Los Osos has twice as many residents from which to draw activists as does Oceano, while the number of and type of major issues is about the same (their respective CSDs and their wastewater treatment facilities – Los Osos WWT still in the works).



Oceano: 31.9 years

Los Osos: 42.9

The median age is 11 years older (one-third older) in Los Osos than it is in Oceano, This is significant because of the time when child-rearing responsibilities are likely to occur. At 43 years of age, there is less likelihood of having young children at home, which would provide more free time for political activism.


Oceano: $40,927

Los Osos: $56,305

The median income in Los Osos is 37% higher than it is in Oceano, providing the possibility for more financial resources available to expend in political activism.


Oceano: $18,315

Los Osos: $27,734

The estimated per-capita income in Los Osos is 51% higher than it is in Oceano, providing the possibility for even more financial resources available to expend in political activism.


Oceano, English: 65%

Los Osos, English: 88%

Oceano, Spanish: 33%

Los Osos, Spanish: 5%

Of the Spanish-spoken-in-the-home residents, the percentage who reported speaking English “very well” is:

Oceano: 51%

Los Osos: 73%

The total percentage of people who speak English in the home AND people who speak English “very well” and live in Spanish-speaking residents:

Oceano: 82% (6,272)

Los Osos: 91% (13,588)

The total percentage of Spanish-only-speaking residents:

Oceano: 18% (1,380)

Los Osos: 9% (1,337)

There are 7,316 (46%) MORE people in Los Osos who speak English very well than there are people in Oceano who speak English very well. That gives Los Osos almost double the number of potential political activists, compared to Oceano.

There are about the same number of Spanish-only-speaking people in both Los Osos and Oceano, despite the fact that Los Osos population is about double Oceano’s population.

Unless OCSD provides Spanish translation services at their meetings, local newspapers provide Spanish full-copy editions of their English versions, or there are Spanish-edition broadcast news stations (i.e., CNN, MSNBC, etc.), Oceano is at a double the %disadvantage, when it comes to numbers of residents from which to draw for political activists, when compared to Los Osos, just based on the ability to participate in a largely-English-speaking-only political arena.

A system of doing business which is designed specifically to maximize spending, minimize work requirements, discourage innovation or value added, make it impossible to fire for incompetence, and above all to remove all accountability and responsibility from anyone involved is a business system designed for certain failure. Welcome to the public sector.

To paraphrase Milton Friedman, if you put the government in charge of the Sahara Desert, within five years there would be a shortage of sand.

I finely got to watch the meeting last night and it was another marathon of a meeting. I couldn’t stop watching this episode of ‘As the OCSD Turns’. It had most of the usual colorful cast members. Monte was supprising silent as each of the ‘colorful’ people from the audience got up and ripped him a new one. Too bad we didn’t have Dean and Nell there, that would have made the night complete.

Giselle found her voice and man oh man was she was on a roll, the next thing you know she’ll be throwing punches. They should have appointed Guerrero as prez, they really missed out on an opportunity on that one, he’s the most diplomatic of them all. I was disappointed in Angelo’s behavior, she kept on muttering rude sarcastic little things under her breath, perhaps she’s always been like that but I just didn’t notice. Lucey’s decorum has gotten a bit better. Felma is the best thing to hit that board in a long time, a real breath of fresh air, she’s a very smart woman (darn I hope she and Guerrero don’t mess things up by adding class, decorum and brains to those meetings). The city attorney is a joke, she needs to hit the road. Why does that nut from Los Osos keep coming to the meeting’s. She cost the town of LO a fortune and now she’s trying to spread her love to Oceano for some reason. Tracker brings up some valid points but what’s she up to and why is she there?

Although I don’t care for some of them, with the present board perhaps Oceano can find a way to achieving some normalcy. But first Monte MUST go. Can I get sued if I say he’s ‘allegedly’ an incompetent thief??? Okay, I won’t say that, he’s very dodgy at best.

That’s my take on the meeting.

“But first Monte MUST go. Can I get sued if I say he’s ‘allegedly’ an incompetent thief??? ”

I have to admit that it seems highly irregular for a salaried executive to pay himself for 100 hours in an 80 hour payroll period. I thought when an employee receives 20 hours of sick pay during a payroll period that those hours are deducted from their standard salary rather than added to the standard 80 hour salary? I wonder what caused the other strange fluctuations in his recent payroll checks?

What is highly irregular, in my experience, for a GM to have the right to increase his pay whenever he wants. In the CSD’s with which I’ve been associated, GM pay increases must be approved by the Board.

Yep, it is odd, but I have a feeling that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I think you are right. Sounds like he is looting the bank account while he still can. I wonder which director signed his check.

I have never done payroll, but I would bet that what he(GM) is doing with his 100 hour salary is illegal.

“They should have appointed Guerrero as prez”

I agree 100%. He is intelligent, well-spoken and knows when to speak up. He’s the real leader in the group. But the three that voted for Angello are of course herself and her 2 buddies. That will not change. With Matt & Felma on this board, some good things can happen if the threesome doen’t block every move. Lucey is more polite since she likes her fellow members so far. But, remember she voted Montemurro a raise way too soon and was more than happy to vote for the new computer system minus any competition. Angello bumbles thru the meeting as Prez. And Searcy thinks he know too much since he’s served in the past, and has already overstepped his bounds. Matt & Felma are the last great hope. Add the person with the 2 MBAs and Young to the mix come the next election and who knows what can happen. And that’s my humble take.

I’m not sure if the district is actually facing insolvency or not. I have not seen any evidence, only this “financial challenges” report written by Jim Hill and based on guesswork. This is similar to the “basis” for the water rate increase. It was based on guesswork which showed both the water and sewer funds losing about $300,000 during the 2010-11 period. According to the financial data available just prior to that rate increase going into effect, the water and sewer funds were actually making money.

I’m concerned that the insolvency issue is a ploy in order to sell the district’s water. Who wants the water sold and who will benefit? Well Lori Angello wanted to sell the water despite the overwhelming voice of the residents to not sell. Her husband, and former board member was seen high five’ing the developer in the audience when the decision was made to proceed with the sale. Jim Hill and his minion Carole Henson also wanted to sell the water. At the pivotal vote however, Angello and Henson voted yes, and Hill ended up voting no. This is what led to the split between the Hills and Angellos, and the resignation of Hill and Henson shortly thereafter.

BTW, these three were going to sell this water for $500,000 for a development project, which if built in Oceano would have resulted in water hookup revenues of over 3 million dollars to the district.

Now “President” Angello is in control of the board, has installed another of her longtime friends Rick Searcy onto the board, and my guess is this discussion about selling water will surface again.

In regards to Montemurro. Everyone knew he was incompetent from the beginning, and the only reason he was hired was because he was willing to do the bidding of Jim Hill. This included the firing of two longtime employees almost immediately after he got the job. This was a top priority of Hill’s for at least a year previously. Montemurro was almost responsible for altering the appointment process at the last minute to allow Angello to be seated on the board with only two votes. After that Angello, Hill and Lucey all voted in lockstep to buy an accounting software for $250,000 without it going out to bid, eliminating the districts rules of order, trying to run the meetings on Robert’s Rule’s of Order only, a large pay raise to Montemurro, and letting the big developer in Oceano get away with not paying their fair share in hookup fees, which cost the district over $50,000 this year alone. (Same developer that built the Belridge subdivision for the Angello’s)

Montemurro was a hatchet man, and a toady, and that was all. It’s time for him to go, but just realize you will never get a legitimate person running the OCSD until certain board members are gone. And when they go, the money will have gone with them.

“I’m concerned that the insolvency issue is a ploy in order to sell the district’s water.”


Me, too. Big time. It seems to be Montemurro’s answer for everything, which makes me suspicious he has a vested interest in selling Oceano’s water rights.

He also doesn’t pay the bills on time and in some cases not at all. It would not surprise me if he were building up the checking account in order to disappear with the funds. It has happened in districts before.