Oceano manager terminated

June 1, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

Oceano Community Services District’s general manager was terminated by the board following an almost four-hour closed session on Tuesday.

“I was accused of something I never did,” Raffaele Montemurro said. “When I said you have to treat everyone in an arbitrary and non-discriminating manner, the lawyer looked uncomfortable. Then they asked me to leave the room.”

Even though Montemurro, 59, said several times during the meeting that he believed directors Lori Angelo and Rick Searcy would vote to retain him, in the end, the board voted 5-0 to fire Montemurro.

Director Matt Guerrero said the details surrounding the board’s decision will be discussed at the next public meeting on June 8 because of closed door session rules.

On Sunday, Guerrero said several directors were investigating Montemurro because it appeared he had simultaneously paid himself for working full time and for being out sick, information uncovered exclusively by CalCoastNews.

“CalCoastNews turned us on to this problem,” Guerrero said. “I don’t think we would have found this without you.”

If terminated for cause, Montemurro won’t be entitled to severance pay, according to his employment contract.

However, if terminated in good standing, Montemurro is contracted to receive three months salary.

Montemurro earned $87,500 a year for managing the district, responsible for serving about 7,600 residents and business owners in Oceano and Halcyon with fire protection, street lighting, sewer and water services.


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Paperboys

If he gets severance pay he won’t sue. If they try to deny him the money, then he will sue. Either way he’s not walking away with nothing.

It becomes a matter then of which path would be cheapest for the district?

As for any prosecution, I would assume the DA would have to bring charges. So, no, I doiubt anyone is going to jail in Oceano.


MaryMalone

Well, it’s ABOUT TIME Karen V. got the gratitude she deserves from the LAG boards around here.


“On Sunday, Guerrero said several directors were investigating Montemurro because it appeared he had simultaneously paid himself for working full time and for being out sick, information uncovered exclusively by CalCoastNews.. ‘CalCoastNews turned us on to this problem,” Guerrero said. “I don’t think we would have found this without you.'”


MaryMalone

Out with the bad in Oceano….


In with worse in Nipomo:


http://ncsd.ca.gov/Library/Agendas/2011/A%2006-02-11%20SPECIAL.pdf


Looks like Karen is going to be a pretty busy lady in the future.


Dave

Karen Velie will be interviewed on KVEC 920 AM Wednesday at 4:05 p.m.


r0y

…please don’t be a phone-in… please don’t be a phone in…


Either way, it will make for great radio.


TacomaRose

Wow … Cambria throws out their manager and now Oceano throws out their manager.


I hope the next two stops are at the San Luis Obispo City Hall and the Atascadero City Hall.


All aboard ….. the gravy train is about to leave the station !!!!!!


Keep on em Cal Coast News


mbactivist1

I’d like to see Morro Bay on that train route too!


racket

You must mean, “ditch Smukler, and the last of the infiltrators will me handled.” ;-)


MaryMalone

Tomorrow morning, 9:30 AM, NCSD is going to have a “special meeting” about making the interim general manager a regular general manager.


Now that Tammy Rudock isn’t the top earner, it will be Michael LeBrun, at –from what I hear–$137,000.


Spirit Filled

Next we’ll see the the CM from Cambria in Nipomo and the CM from Nipomo in Cambria. It will save relocation costs and etc.


Spirit Filled

I thought Oceano was Nipomo……….Guess I had a senior moment.


hotdog

“CalCoastNews turned us on to this problem,” Guerrero said. “I don’t think we would have found this without you.”


That should be worth a lot of donations.


r0y

True, but it should also illuminate that proverbial “light bulb” above Oceano residents’ heads… why did it take the crack reporting of CCN to get this, and no one in the OCSD had any clue?


MaryMalone

My favorite professor EVER, Dr. Ruehr at CPSU-SLO, used to say:


“People usually don’t find what they are not looking for.”


That’s the next question that needs to be asked. What about the three board members who remained on the board after Hill and Henson resigned made them neglect their duty of fiscal oversight…FOR THREE MONTHS!?


WakingUpInOceano

FOR THREE MONTHS!? ……….. Dahl and Dean were pointing out his (Monte) illegal activities to the rest of the board by November 2009 and they wouldn’t listen. Instead they gave him a raised and allowed him to start fleecing the funds way back then. They (Hill, Lucey, and Angello) knew within a month of him being hired he was dishonest and incompetent.


MaryMalone

You are comparing two dissimilar things.


“…pointing out (monte) illegal activites to the rest of ghe board…” is not the same as “… after remaining constant for months, following the March resignation of Jim Hill, the only board member who regularly examined the district’s financial records, Raffaelle Montemurro’s net pay appears to have increased above his contracted amount, according to district records…..”


——————————————-

“Oceano General Manager Under Investgation,” (http://calcoastnews.com/2011/05/oceano-general-manager-under-investigation/), May 31, 2011:


“…However, after remaining constant for months, following the March resignation of Jim Hill, the only board member who regularly examined the district’s financial records, Raffaelle Montemurro’s net pay appears to have increased above his contracted amount, according to district records…..”


———————————————


MaryMalone

Catnip, I don’t know what your problem is, but mischaracterizing what I post is a bad reflection on you, not me.


I did not say Hill was a hero. I did not imply he was a hero. I don’t happen to think that someone doing what they are charged with doing is being a “hero.”


However, I do think a government board member who does not carry out responsibilities with which they are charged IS negligible.


I said, out of all of the board members, according to Karen’s article, Hill was the only one who regularly reviewed the financial records of the board. Once he was gone, the remaining three did not.


Hill performed his duty to provide financial oversight. Therefore, he met the requirements of his position.


The remaining three, after the Hill/Henson resignations from the board, did not do their duty to provide financial oversight. Therefore, they did not meet the requirements of their positions on the board, they were negligent in their duties, and harm to the district occurred because they did not do their duty. Had they done their duty, the harm would have been limited, and they would not have to experience the public humiliation of having a journalist tell them what they should have already known and stopped.


It appears that the board had been struggling with Montemurro for a long time. In Hill’s position at the SSLOCSD, at least in the time I have been closely following this issue, he was often the lone board member pushing for accountability from John Wallace and the Wallace Group. The majority voted against him, and in favor of nonaccountability many times.


The same may have been the situation at OCSD.


I don’t think we can criticize someone for limiting the liability to which they are exposed by being a member of a board that appears to be covering up criminal malfeasance by staff or a contractor.


The condition with Montemurro appeared to have been static for months when Hill/Henson quit. Montemurro continued to thumb his nose at the board by nonperforming on the requests for information, especially financial information.


I’m all for public service, and have been involved in it myself, but no public servant should ever feel they owe anyone to put themselves at liability risk by staying on a board that appears to be covering up wrong-doing.


I also know that, as my mother used to say, “Life is short and the grave is deep, and there’s no time for this *hit.”


Alice

Board members have known for months that he was fired from his job in Wisconsin.

Board members have had people in the community tell them how he lied to them and was rude to them almost from day one.

Board members knew for months he was refusing to give information to other board members.

Board members knew he manipulating board members against each other.

Some board members have protected him.

The question is why?


WakingUpInOceano

You’re right Alice. It was for 19 months (day one). I don’t know the answer to why they were protecting him. These are the dynamics I can tell you. Before he was hired, Hill spent a bit of personal time with Monte. Once Monte was hired, Hill (and his wife as I understand it) would spend about half the day every Friday with Monte in his office. They went out to dinner with him a lot. At this time Hill and Lucey were buddied up. If you will remember, Hill and Lucey spent a lot of time together running from house to house when they were running for office in the 11/2008 elections. Then, in the fiasco partially caused due to Monte’s incompetence, Angello illegally ended up on the board. This happened due to some cozying up the Hills and the Angellos were doing at that time. Remember, Searcy is in the background at this time but still long time friends with both Angellos and Monte. Now Monte has his three votes from the board to stay employed. Now he plays their game and does whatever the three want. What Monte didn’t realize, is that Hill has turned on everyone he has ever buddied up with. Move this forward….. Hill and Lucey break up, Hill and Monte break up. Lucey starts to wise up now that she is away from Hill. Hill is on to his next relationship with Hanson. Dean doesn’t run for re-election and this leaves Hanson and Angello (now legitimately) on the board. Dahl is elected to the school board and you now have a 4-member board. Guerrero is appointed to Dahl’s former seat and he is an unknown as to his relationships with any of the board members, so it is a wait and see. Then Hill and Hanson go and Hurdle (who understands the problem) and Searcy are appointed. So this is why Monte said he thought Searcy and Angello would vote to retain him. The question on the board was Guerrero. If I were to guess what happened in the closed session, the consensus was a 3-2 to get rid of him. Once Searcy and Angello saw that they could not win the vote, they went with the majority so that they didn’t have to face the wrath of the public.


MaryMalone

Great post. +^ ‘ed.


Thanks!


MaryMalone

From my experience with two CSDs in SLOCo (excluding LOCSD, which is in a time and space dimension all of its own), unless there is a specific hot-button topic of interest, very few customers/residents in the district show up. A district may have a few activists, often the ones with lots of time and either have an axe to grind, or are looking for an axe to grind.


Comparing Oceano to other SLOCo CSDs, there is a difference in the socioeconomic resources of Oceano residents, compared to other CSDs, making a smaller pool of potential activists to draw from.


Finally, the only time the residents of a community should not be blamed for the malfeasance of the community’s government leadership. The blame for any wrong-doing should lie on the shoulders of the person/s who did it, and on the board if the board did not put into place adequate protections to avoid obvious possibilities for harm, or if the board was negligent in its duties.


The three remaining OCSD board members did not, for months, due their job of overseeing the district (specifically, overseeing the financial transactions being done on their behalf by staff).


Problems with Montemurro have been going on for a long time, and he has a history of such issues (including financial improprieties) at a prior employment by a utility. Therefore, the board should have been extra vigilant about Montemurro, especially since he was so resistant to fulfilling requests and so evasive about providing financial information.


It sounds like Hill, before he resigned, was the only one who was not negligent. After he resigned, the others should have stepped into the breach and ensured the board was providing proper financial oversight for OCSD.


They didn’t.


It’s not the residents’ fault. It’s the fault of the board.


cry-me-a-river

I don’t think Mary Malone is Lin Hill but I must say that this is the best description of Lin Hill I have heard. She is the most vile person this town has had to deal with EVER and I really think now that her and her husband are out of OCSD things will get a lot better. Good riddance Lin…..


MaryMalone

I hope so. They certainly didn’t improve in the short term, but once they got two new members, who reviewed the financials, things changed. However, OCSD lost money to fraud before he was terminated.


I wonder why the three remaining members of the board didn’t review the financials for those months in between Hill/Henson resignations and the appointment of the new board members?


WakingUpInOceano

In my opinion, I think you are probably right.


whosays

cry-me-a-river’s posting is the perfect example of what’s not right with Oceano CSD. Sharke’s in the water.


MaryMalone

I have to hand it to Guerrero to acknowledge CCN/Karen’s work in bringing this to light. I don’t hear of politicians doing that very often.


Alice

OMG. Accused of something I never did. How about accused of not doing your job? I wonder if the office staff felt they were treated in an arbitrary and non-discriminating manner?


Thank you Cal Coast for being first to investigate and check his bogus background. Thank you for forcing the board to quit looking the other way. It is encouraging to see Angelo and Searcy do he right thing and the board have a united front. After all Monte wanted to be treated in an arbitrary way.


WakingUpInOceano

He had is favorite person on his office staff.


MaryMalone

His “poor-me” Deputy Dawg (http://www.vectorjunky.com/gallery/d/Droopy-002.jpg) impersonation, while he is telling flat-out lies, is pathetic and disgusting.


MaryMalone

Sorry, that’s “Droopy Dawg.”


pasoparent5

I don’t get the picture accompanying this story…was it taken through a window of the closed-door session? The 2 female board members are smiling & smirking…not too professional when a guy’s job is on the line.


pasoparent5

That being said, good job CCN for investigating this crooked public servant.. I wish more county news sources were doing REAL reporting like this.


rtor481

I’ve given a donation to CCN. Grateful that their reporter did such good investigative work.


Typoqueen

Your eyes are better than mine, I can’t tell if they’re smirking. We don’t know what happened in there. People even manage a smile at funerals and it’s not always in bad taste.


r0y

You’ve never heard of Transparency in Government? That’s what we get: a window in the door (technically known as a lite).


MaryMalone

I think it may be illegal to discuss personnel issues for a specific person, even contracted staff, in public. They are required to report what was discussed and the basic outcome, if any, but on personnel issues, most boards keep public information to a minimum. I think that is a good thing.


willie

pasoparent5

“2 female board members are smiling & smirking”

I would not say it is unprofessional, I say it was nervousness.


MaryMalone

It may have been “relief,” as well.


MaryMalone

LOL. The mental picture of Karen peering through a window with a camera pressed closely to the window is priceless.


r0y

Think we’ll ever see any charges brought against him? Or is it one of those “technically not illegal” things that just look really bad (like public safety people double- or triple-dipping)?


ds_gray

Nah, he’ll walk. It’ll cost the city too much money in legal fees to go after him. Plus its unlikely they’ll recover any money from him if they did investigate and prosecute. The council will cut their losses and terminate employment without cause, to avoid any backlash from the ex-employee. That would probably derail any wrongful termination suit as well.


WakingUpInOceano

For criminal activity it is not the district (Oceano is not a city) that would go after him. Cities have policing powers and can. The agency that would pursue charges would have to have it brought to their attention by having a complaint filed along with the evidence. In these budget times, that agency would probably also have to be prodded along in order to get them to act on it. In the case of him paying himself more than what he was entitled to, he would probably THEN start claiming his incompetence and ignorance say that he made an honest mistake or he didn’t know he couldn’t get paid for both. It might be hard to prove he actually knew he was stealing.


MaryMalone

is his contract available for review? If the contract OR the OCSD Personnel Policies spelled out the conditions under which his pay can be increased, or the conditions under which sick days can be used, then it will be very easy to show that he violated the terms of the contract, at the very least. I would be surprised if his contract allowed him to create positions and give pay raises, especially to himself, without board approval.


WakingUpInOceano

You should be able to get a copy of his contract by requesting it from the OCSD. The personnel policies will spell out those conditions and I beleive that it is spelled out in state law as well. Personnel Policies should also be available from the OCSD. You might have to pay a small photo copy charge to get them. The board absollutely is the only one that can create a position and the only one that can set the pay scale for that position. The board is also the only one who can say if that position is to be filled or not. ALL pay raises must come before the board to be approved. Much of this is done when the board approves the budget.


WakingUpInOceano

We might, but not for all the things he has done illegally. Some of the things he has done illegally only put the district in jepordy. Those things only the district is liable for and only the injured parties (private individuals) can (or would) file a law suit against the district. If they did, only the rate payers would pay for his illegal activities, not Monte himself.


MaryMalone

Again, +^ ‘ed. Great post.


WakingUpInOceano

Thanks