Oceano troubles persist

March 14, 2012

Julie Tacker

OPINION By JULIE TACKER

Oceano residents and District Board members of the Community Services District seem enamored with Interim General Manager, Tom Geaslen, so much so that they rushed to hire him last June.  Admittedly the district was in need of new management after a tumultuous relationship with the previous General Manger, Rafeale Montemurro.

Mr. Geaslen sold himself and his plan of action to “right the ship” of the fledgling Board (made up of mostly newly appointed members).  In a series of Closed Session interviews with several qualified candidates, Mr. Geaslen prevailed.  In their haste, the Board overlooked California Government Code provisions requiring a public process and the public’s ability to view and comment on the new IGM’s employment contract.  Worse yet, Mr. Geaslen has worked for more than six months without a contract.  Written contracts are entered into to protect both parties and to spell out the job description; tasks, scope and measurable expectations.  With no such contract in place, both the district and Mr. Geaslen are at risk.

Additionally, Mr. Geaslen never took the oath of office; swearing to “protect and serve the District from enemies foreign and domestic, etc.” Government code section 1367. No compensation nor reimbursement for expenses incurred shall be paid to any officer by any public agency unless he has taken and subscribed to the oath or affirmation required by this chapter.  Should the code be applied, Geaslen should not have been paid until doing so.  This simple omission in process is symptomatic of Mr. Geaslen’s inexperience and has exposed the district to possible litigation on this and other matters.

In public discussions prior to Mr. Geaslen’s unusual hiring, it was understood that the cash- strapped district would offer the position at the salary that had been budgeted; $87,000 per year.  It appears Mr. Geaslen is receiving considerably more; again with no public review or opportunity to comment on the salary.

Mr. Geaslen and his personal attorney began renegotiating his new contract in January, mistakenly posting negotiations to an open agenda one week Jan. 15, then allowing his Board to take action in closed session the next Feb. 8.  The report from closed session announced a $10,000 a month salary in spite of limited accomplishments.  Mr. Geaslen’s budgets are abbreviated and reflect continued deficit spending.  Leaving the public to ask myriad questions; how can the district afford an increased salary?  How does it compare with other districts of similar size?  What qualifications and experience do other General Managers have that Mr. Geaslen doesn’t?

Regardless of the procedural misstep, the Board and public have continued to show support for their IGM.  He appears to have fixed or repaired things in the District that have been neglected for some time.  But, Geaslen’s “can do attitude” has led to mistakes in running the small governmental entity.  Gealsen may have experience in the private sector, but government has checks and balances that are absent in the private sector.  For example, these checks and balances are to ensure qualified contractors get a fair opportunity to work for government and the public gets the most for its dollar.

Another recently revealed Geaslen oversight is the repair, resurface and restriping of the District/Sheriff’s Dept./Fire Dept.’s shared driveway and parking lot that was completed in January.  The OCSD’s bylaws state in Section 1.6 A roll call vote shall be taken upon the passage of all ordinance, resolutions, and other matters established by Board policy or state law require solicitation of bids, and upon all matters involving more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) expenditure by the District.  At a minimum this matter should have come before the Board and public with a Request For Proposal and bid process let to available/qualified contractors.

It appears Mr. Geaslen’s unfamiliarity with the District’s own bylaws led him to sole source a contract for $11,690.00 by Toaste Paving.  Toaste Paving has a good reputation, but another, equally qualified paving firm may have been able to do the same quality work at a lower price.  The IGM’s failure to follow process puts the district at risk for litigation from another paving company that could challenge the process.

Mr. Geaslen, as the representative of the district, signed a letter to the County Public Works Department from the Northern Cities Management Area Technical Group that perpetuated the Oceano sweater intrusion myth.  Saying, “I wouldn’t have signed it if I’d known it would go public,” flies in the face of his continuous claims of “transparency and sunshine.”

The OCSD Board directed Mr. Geaslen to bring a draft letter to them addressing the seawater intrusion anomaly.  Over the course of several agenda’s, Mr. Geaslen failed to do so and in a “dog-ate-my-homework” moment, Geaslen claimed the districts computers had been “hacked” rendering him unable to draft that letter and other work expected on that agenda.  The Board President ultimately had to write the letter himself during the meeting.

Mr. Geaslen, should know more than his Board about process and procedure including the governing laws that the district is bound to uphold.  The Board has strayed from the Brown Act provision. For instance, Mr. Geaslen required public comment take place before he had presented staff reports and recommendations, leaving the public at a severe disadvantage for participation.   The board corrected this error only after threats of litigation from famed Brown Act authority, attorney Terry Francke, of California Aware.

Just last week, Mr. Geaslen, as the district’s “go to” representative, inappropriately represented (former OCSD Board member Barbara Mann) in her appeal before the Board of Supervisors of the proposed Medical Marijuana Dispensary (MMD).  The OCSD Board never broached the MMD subject and as a district that has no land use authority rightfully shouldn’t.  Mr. Geaslen’s mere presence and advocating for a former OCSD board member, gave the appearance that the Board was in opposition to the dispensary.  Did Mr. Geaslen deploy any district resources in his opposition to the proposal?

In an attempt to discourage access to public records, Mr. Geaslen has implemented a new policy (without Board/Public input), claiming he needs confirmation or a return receipt for records furnished.  Refusing to supply records in electronic format that would have little to, no cost to the district; he began sending replies via certified mail, costing the district more than 200 times the cost recovered in copying charges.

Yes, I’m from Los Osos, so  why do I care?  As nearly a lifelong County resident and longtime government watchdog, I see many parallels between the Los Osos community and the community of Oceano.  While some issues are very different, others are uncannily similar.  The more I learn, the more I care about those who are misplacing their trust in local government.  Those who are underrepresented; 47 percent of households who make less than $35,000 a year, 47 percent of individuals who are Hispanic (not necessarily the same population) who often don’t participate in government.   These residents are busy with their lives and expect government will properly conduct the people’s business.  In the instant case, government is not taking care of them — it’s taking care of itself.  Mr. Geaslen has spent more time on his own contract than on other matters of the district.  Sometimes it takes an outsiders view of what is going on right in front of one’s nose, I hope to offer that perspective.

It appears Mr. Geaslen’s employment arrangement is back on the OCSD Board agenda March 14, 2012, but the agenda is unclear and there is no staff report to explain.  Again, the board appears to not be following proper protocol, without the ability of the public to see a contract or opportunity to comment on salary or other terms.

Mr. Geaslen’s inexperience in government and pattern of errors, omissions and oversights should color his consideration for the permanent General Manager position.  A search for a qualified GM who may better serve the District is in order.  Coincidently, Geaslen promised the Board a broad search for a permanent GM in his plan of action presented last June, the only search has been in the mirror.


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13 Comments

  1. SewerHeightsRez says:

    In the current social environment of no accountability, everybody is a winner, 3rd 4th 5th and 6th chances it is not surprising that most people are unfamiliar with natural consequences. Look it up. After decades of public behaviors and actions which are self-interested, massively conflicted, dishonest and resulting in personal, environmental and community destruction that one simply walks away from with no sense of remorse or shame and leaving the wreckage for others and younger generations to clean up will indeed destroy ones reputation.

    (6) 14 Total Votes - 10 up - 4 down
  2. Gordo says:

    Bomb throwers like Julie Tacker and her husband Jeff Edwards do nothing to help create honest efficient government. I’ve sat through their public comments at various forums and it is always the same old song, “You are screwed up and you need me to save you.” Considering where Oceano was a year ago I think the OCSD and their interim manager deserve a pat on the back from the residents of Oceano and Tacker/Edwards need to focus on following their psychatrists instructions..

    (18) 40 Total Votes - 29 up - 11 down
    • mrcyberdoc says:

      Julie,
      Los Osos will gladly loan you PERMANENTLY to Oceano to be their new watch dog. I have their sympathy, but have the joy knowing you can no longer destroy what is left of Los Osos.

      (19) 27 Total Votes - 23 up - 4 down
    • cathy says:

      The biggest trouble that currently persists in Oceano are the invading parasites that want to embed themselves like ticks into the OCSD so they can suck a paycheck from them. What kind of desperation drives a person from being a pariah in Los Osos to becoming one in Oceano? Their psychiatrist would tell them they want so desperately to feel important they are engaging in this destructive behavior. Again, if they are doing this because they are benevolent and care about people please volunteer to help at the People’s Kitchen or bring food to the 47% of the population (Ms. Tacker’s statistic) who make under $35,000 a year. They will appreciate that a whole lot more than pontificating at meetings.

      (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
  3. slotired says:

    This appears to be a yet unexplored avenue of serving ones personal financial interests by directing all of the attention to complience with the law. I don’t care who she is or where she came from, we have to clean up our own house and follow the law in order to gain some level of respect and the trust of the community. OCSD either needs to clean up its procedural act or disband returning the duties back to County government.

    (-4) 24 Total Votes - 10 up - 14 down
  4. CalCoastOutrage says:

    Julie, thanks for such a well written article. I agree with you wholeheartedly that what is going on in South County is symptomatic of the corruption that runs throughout the county and something needs to be done about it. The trouble is, honestly, what are we supposed to do? We go to board meetings where we are told to “shut up,” we find out after the fact that decisions were made without public input, and the cronyism there in appointing public officials to certain posts is so ingrained they see nothing wrong with it.
    I know you are merely a citizen, as am I, but do you have any ideas what we can actually do?
    Also, for those who feel Ms. Tacker’s comments are inappropriate simply because she isn’t a Oceano citizen or she’s got some business potential in the Oceano area, I say so what? The whole South County area needs someone, ANYONE, to stand up and fight this fight/ lead this charge. I would agree she was “meddling” is everything truly was sunshine and roses down there but it’s not. We’ve got flagrant violations of all sorts of statutes and laws, a laundry list of of offenses pertaining to intentionally deceiving the public, engineering companies (yes, YOU Wallace Group,) getting away with self-directing work, (apparently at the cost of local governmental employees their own jobs, if I remember correctly,) and, despite being held accountable by the authorities of environmental crimes, still being allowed to continue working for South County public agencies. This political situation is a nightmare.
    …And to be honest, I don’t see many other people standing up, putting their own names on the line to battle the disease that is crippling our county.

    (-8) 60 Total Votes - 26 up - 34 down
    • WiseGuy says:

      CalCoast:

      Since this discussion is about “transparency”, something that I heartily agree is woefully lacing at the OCSD and most other government agencies, perhaps you would answer THREE questions to put this in a clearer perspective and satisfy my personal curiosity:

      1.) Are you an acquaintance of Julie Tacker?
      2.) Do you live in Oceano?
      3.) Do you own property in Oceano?

      These questions are particularly relevant these days as we see an increasing number of people from outside of Oceano trying hard to figure ways to profit from Oceano’s many precious resources, the danger being that some of these schemes look to be at the direct expense of Oceano’s residents, both financially and aesthetically. A Pismo Beach plot to scam water rights from Oceano is one example. Arroyo Grande is looking to do the same.

      So, maybe there is a reason people want to keep the Oceano Community Services District a mess, so they can come in and “fix it”.

      So, heck YES, I am all for transparency!

      (23) 43 Total Votes - 33 up - 10 down
      • CalCoastOutrage says:

        WiseGuy,
        I do not know Julie Tacker
        I do not live in Oceano, but I DO care about the rampant corruption throughout this county.
        I do not own property in Oceano, but again, I DO care about the rampant corruption throughout this county.
        And I sure as hell want to make sure the corruption does not spread to my neck of the woods, here a little further north.

        (7) 39 Total Votes - 23 up - 16 down
        • WiseGuy says:

          Thank you for your reply!

          I don’t think it is a matter of corruption spreading from Oceano. It seems most towns around here have plenty of home-grown corruption of their own, although most of it has not come to light yet. So, in some ways Oceano may be ahead of other towns in rooting it out.

          (3) 27 Total Votes - 15 up - 12 down
      • cathy says:

        I so agree. These outside people are not interested in anything but how it would benefit them.
        If they truly cared about the real people of Oceano we would see them volunteering in the many, many areas and capacities needed to really help people. The only people they want to help is themselves.

        I am amazed they continue on when we the people of Oceano DO NOT WANT them taking up our valuable time at OUR meetings. They are completely embarrassing themselves. I would actually feel sorry for them if they weren’t such pains in the ass.

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

    Ms. Tacker makes some good points, but I’m troubled by the fact that she seems to have deliberately obscured the fact that she and her husband, who both live far outside of Oceano, have been trying to manipulate the community into giving up its airport and turning the land into a shopping center, a project that they both hope to profit mightily from.

    Of course Ms. Tacker has the right to pursue her real estate development dreams, but we mustn’t be fooled into believing that her motives are strictly altruistic. In fact, I have observed a consistent pattern of deception on her part and that of her husband. The third from the last paragraph of Ms Tacker’s above article is further evidence of this deception.

    (33) 51 Total Votes - 42 up - 9 down
    • Myself says:

      Wise guy you took the words right off of my fingers, I was going with the same thing, if Tacker is so involved in scandle and corruption and such, where was she at when the Paso Police Chief was being raked over the coals for wrong doings, this is just retaliatiion for her failed attempt at the Oceano Airport.
      I’m kinda surprised that Karen or Danial put this piece of nonsense on here.

      (14) 20 Total Votes - 17 up - 3 down
  6. racket says:

    Pronounced “toast,” spelled “Toste.”

    Otherwise, a reasonable line of inquiry.

    (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down

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