Illegal appointment will cost Oceano

June 24, 2011

Pamela Dean

By LISA RIZZO

The Oceano Community Services District will likely be slapped with nearly $75,000 in fees after losing a civil lawsuit that found the board illegally appointed one of its directors.

In his tentative ruling released Tuesday San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall awarded former Oceano board director, Pamela Dean, $74,441 in attorney’s fees after she obtained a ruling March 18 that found the district’s Board of Directors failed to follow the law when it appointed Lori Angelo to fill a vacancy.

In February 2010, after Barbara Mann resigned from the board, Lori Angello was appointed by a vote of 2-1 with one director abstaining.

Following the vote, Dean claimed the board violated its own rules of order by appointing Angello with only two votes. In addition the vote violated Government Code Section 61045, which stated “a majority of the total membership of the board of directors shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.”

After Angello refused to step down, Dean filed a civil lawsuit against the Oceano Community Service District and Angello.

In March, Judge Crandall ruled in Dean’s favor, agreeing that Angello’s appointment was not legal.

By that time, however, the issue was moot. Angello ran unopposed in the November election and won a seat on the board. She is now the district President.

Dean was able to go after the district to pay her attorney fees under the California Private Attorney General Statute because the court declared the lawsuit a “useful public service,” one that set “future precedent and guidance not just for this board but for other community services districts and public agencies.”

Tentatively, while the board has been ordered to pay Dean’s legal fees, the judge did not find Angello personally liable.

“Practically speaking, however, the court sees no reason why attorney’s fees should be awarded against Lori Angello, personally.  Because the award runs against a public agency, there is little risk of insolvency.”

That may not be the case for Oceano, however, which is financially strapped and is facing insolvency, according to a district document titled, “Financial Challenges to Remain Solvent.”

Once July 1 arrives, the CSD will officially be three years behind on completing and turning in audits to the county. Without the financial reporting, Oceano is not able to refinance current loans, obtain new loans, or win available government grants.

“Our finances are already tight, so it is going to be another pinch on the budget,” Oceano CSD Board Vice President Matthew Guerrero told CalCoastNews. “We are working on a new budget and this will have to be factored in.”

Meanwhile, the CSD appointed a new interim general manager Wednesday following the dismissal of General Manager Raffaele Montemurro over findings of mismanagement of district funds.

The new interim general manager, Thomas Geaslen, will be tasked with getting the CSD’s finances in order until a permanent replacement is found.

In his tentative ruling, Crandall noted that it appears “the board has changed its appointment practices and is complying with applicable authority” in that regard.


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75 Comments

  1. oto says:

    THANK-YOU LYNN HILL FOR A CITE TO THE ACTUAL FEBRUARY 24TH, 2010 AUDIO OF THE BOARD’S ELECTION PROCEDURE. (ELECTION/APPOINTMENT/ANNOINTMENT) WHAT THE HELL IS THE DIFFERENCE? SOMEBODY! GET ME THAT 2001 ALLEDGED COONEY-CREATED BOARD PROCEDURE! I AM NOT TAKING THESE VARMITS WORDS ALONE THAT COONEY CAME UP WITH THE IDEA THAT TWO BOARD MEMBERS COULD APPOINT ANOTHER MEMBER WHEN ONLY THREE BOARD MEMBERS WERE VOTING!

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

      The board can create all the procedures they want to try and circumvent California law but in the end the llaw supersedes any procedure they create.

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

    Some off topic and specious speculation deleted, commentary directed to the moderator is quickly removed, questions ????

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
    • RU4Real says:

      Perhaps similar “charges” should be brought against Marshall Ochylski of the Los Osos CSD for unilaterally nominating & appointing his former campaign manager, Mike Wright…There’s certainly something VERY SMELLY about THAT appointment…

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

        There was ONE vote? Nonsense.

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      • oto says:

        Ochilski was just chosen by the OCSD to represent it before LAFCO. Everyone followed Angello’s suggestion, who in turn, got the idea from Jim Hill, I believe, when he was still on the board.

        Director Searcy stated that he liked Shell Beach attorney/resident Brian Kreowski, who has served on the Avila Beach Harbor Commission. That Searcy would chose Kreowski is ironic.

        Once, when I was in Kreowski’s office, I noticed a picture of King Leopold II on his wall.
        Kreowski extolled the political acumen of this man, who historians consider the most brutal ruler of the Belgian Congo “Free State,” in the early 1900’s.

        Leopold II routinely ordered his native police force to massacre defenseless and peaceful tribal communities whose only crime was to protest the taking of their crops, lands and people as slave laborers under punishing conditions. As Kreowski proudly stated, “both he and Leopold are Dutch.”

        Then Kreowski went on to observe that “Mexicans” were just as racist as the next group, pointing out that Mexico has a hierarchy of bias based upon race and economic class.

        This was a disagreeable extrapolation, or misinterpretation, of my reason to visit him in the first place, which was to discuss a real estate dispute over title ownership to land caused by the seller’s failure to disclose a defective condition of the property.

        Both the buyer and seller were “white.” The most harassing neighbors were not. The harassment was directly related to, and exacerbated by, the seller’s failure to disclose the neighbor’s claim of interest in the “defective condition.” (If I tried to explain the legalities of the “defective condition,” I could put you into a coma, so I won’t go there….)

        The types of behavior I reported to Kreowski concerned gender hate speech, physical threats and assault, vandalism and race-based insults. These neighbors, who happened to be Latino, were also confirmed alcoholics and glue sniffers. Therefore, the issue of racial bias was indeed relevant, but it was by no means the only explanation for their tortious conduct. The addictions, which finally took their toll, were more relevant to the issue of why they behaved as they did.

        And if there was an identifiable “cause of compaint” it must be laid at the feet of the seller, who knew exactly what she had done by knowingly hiding the condition of the property from the buyer, and previous disputes with the neighbors about which of them had to fix the defective condition.

        I left Kreowski’s office with the impression that he needed to understand one very important point when it comes to talking about race relations in the context of real estate disputes:

        Rather than focus on the race of the negotiator, and blame his or her transgressions on race, it is better to identify the individual act that is offensive or injurious, rather than attributing the act of one individual to an entire race or culture.

        This is a very hard rule to follow when one is confronted with the tortious conduct previously described. But in the end, you have to ask yourself, what kind of world you would like to have, and then, try to act accordingly.

        In my own experience, I find it easy to lump people together based upon one negative experience with one individual. So, I try to train myself out of this habit. I try to verbalize the act that offends me rather than to presume that the act “was motivated by” the individual’s race or ethnicity, even when the person states that “they hate white people.” They, too, mistake the acts of individuals to be the acts of an entire group of people who are, in fact, not involved at all.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  3. SLORider says:

    From the Court’s tentative ruling:

    “The core issue in this lawsuit was THE BOARD’s compliance with law in the appointment of
    a replacement member.”

    Pamela Dean was on THE BOARD.

    “Petitioner Pamela Dean obtained a declaratory ruling that THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS of the Oceano Community Services District failed to follow applicable rules and statutes…”

    Pamela Dean sued taxpayers for a wrongful action that she participated in.

    “[T]he declaratory judgment concluded that THE BOARD failed to comply with Government Code §1780 and certain applicable provisions of the Community Services District Act…”

    Pamela Dean held the gavel during the appointment.

    “Moreover, it appears to be uncontroverted that THE BOARD has changed its appointment
    practices and is complying with applicable authority.”

    Pamela Dean presided over the appointment.

    “[T]he court sees no reason why attorney’s fees should be awarded against Lori Angello”

    THE BOARD broke the rules.

    (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
  4. SLORider says:

    PRETTY MUCH NAILS IT (posting from below):

    “This is just another in a pattern of suing by Pamela Dean. The minute she bought her property she started fighting with OCSD, accusing them of trying to take her property which was absurd. She even put up signs saying OCSD was trying to condemn her property for their use when nothing was farther from the truth. She always complained about unfair treatment and badmouthed developers but that is exactly what she was. She bought, built, has now sold and moved to Oregon. All the while she was here, she was trying to find reasons to sue the people of Oceano. Don’t think she is out attorney fees for her latest gig. This whole deal about “doing the right thing, abiding by the law, bla bla bla ” regarding the Angello appointment is a total sham. She could care less, it was a complete 100% venetta against Angello because her husband was on the board when Pamela falsely accused OCSD. It was all about personal hatred of Angello and Oceano. Period. Now she has moved away, imagine that.”

    Pamela Dean’s goal was to make a buck on the backs of OCSD rate payers by “flipping” a lot next to the water yard and selling it to the district for a quick $100K or so profit—except after she bought it the district decided they weren’t interested and she got stuck by her own agenda. So then she subdivided and built several units to make money that way, causing problems all the way along because she refused to pay her fair share of the water connection fees.

    She always was threatening to sue for this and that and the other thing.

    She’s pretty knowledgeable about real estate because she had power of attorney for Cal-Trans and dealt with securing right-of-way and selling lots in that capacity. Except she never wanted to live in Oceano. So she pursued getting on the OCSD board just for revenge and she got that–took it right out of the taxpayers.

    I bet Pamela and her lawyer really pumped up the bill with fake hours and rates and they’re probably splitting the proceeds. No way did she ever outlay $74K. There’s also a little thing called “lodestar” that allows asking for more than your real costs. When the final ruling is published it will be interesting to see. Also, Judge Crandall recently got “bit” by the appellate court in Ventura for not awarding costs in another case, so that probably helped Pamela.

    Anyway, she’s gone and moved to Oregon… good bye! Don’t come back. Thanks for your “service” to the community by suing them for your own screw-up on the board!!

    (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
    • cry-me-a-river says:

      Thank you SLORider for expanding on my previous post.Your explanation covers Ms. Dean completely, tells the whole story.

      “No way did she ever outlay $74K” .Is there a way that she will have to prove the costs and that she did pay the attorney or can an attorney just turn in a bill and the people have to eat it? All her dealings against the people of Oceano for her own gain are just sickening.

      “Except she never wanted to live in Oceano. So she pursued getting on the OCSD board just for revenge and she got that- took it right out of the taxpayers”. AMEN.

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
      • SLORider says:

        First, because of “lodestar”, the attorney bill gets multiplied by a factor so the $74K is probably more than the actual bill. We don’t know what the lodestar multiplier is in this case.

        Second, yes, the attorney turns in a bill and claims hours and rate. A guy that works for $250/hour can suddenly claim that his “normal” fee is $500/hour. It’s also difficult to dispute the hours if the attorney doesn’t go crazy. But certainly one could double the amount.

        To dispute the amount would cost the district even more in litigation so it’s not worth it. Bottom line is $74K is inflated for sure, and it appears Pamela Dean is friends with the guy so I bet she was never personally out more than $10K, if that. Like I said, I’d bet she is sharing in the profit. Nice departing gift–taking money from an already distressed community.

        (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
      • oto says:

        Any person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of this chapter may sue therefor in any appropriate United States district court and shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee, … The exception contained in the preceding sentence does not apply to an action against any person that is criminally convicted in connection with the fraud, in which case the statute of limitations shall start to run on the date on which the conviction becomes final…

        An excerpt from another one of those “stinkin’ laws” which may explain the damages and attorney’s fees.

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

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