Oceano employee’s claim leads to changes

June 29, 2012

Oceano Manager Tom Geaslen

Shortly after receiving a claim for wrongful termination that detailed a supervisor’s porn use, Oceano district officials placed the supervisor on leave and changed the status of all district employees from tenured to at will.

In December, Oceano Community Services District Manager Thomas Geaslen and Field Utility Supervisor Dan Silveira fired Steven Langstaff, a tenured utilities service operator.

In his June 6 claim against the district, Langstaff contends he was terminated because of a disability and that district officials violated California’s labor laws. Upon his termination, management did not provide Langstaff with the reason he was fired in writing, the proper appeal process, or documents detailing his rights to receive COBRA benefits, the claim says.

According to the claim, Silveira, Langstaff’s supervisor, would order employees to his desk to watch pornography on government-owned computers. The claim also accuses Silveira of making sexually explicit comments about Girl Scouts.

Two days after receiving the claim, Geaslen placed Silveira on paid administrative leave. He resigned on Thursday.

Within a week of the claim, the district implemented a resolution that changed the status of all employees from tenured to at will.

On Wednesday, the district board met in closed session and denied Langstaff’s claim opening the door for a lawsuit.

Then on Thursday, the board met in a special closed session to discuss a cure and correct letter from Julie Tacker asking the board to resend its resolution and return employees to their previous tenured positions. The board did not comply.


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29 Comments

  1. falconbh says:

    My concern continues to be the financial mismanagement of the Oceano CSD.

    First let me say, I do not agree with the conduct of a few individuals at public meetings.
    Second, we do need to put the past behind us, and move forward in a postive direction.

    I like the new General Manager and will continue to support the Directors.

    When I talk to my neighbors and friends in Oceano we are concerned about some of the financial actions taken by the Directors, and believe it needs to be correctedW We need to restore confidence in our Public Officals.

    Concerns:

    1. Excessive Pay and Contract of General Manager.
    2. Water Rate Increases. [ Mix message-need funds-then give big salaries]
    3. Process used to gain Water Rate Isncrease.
    4. Fire Merger
    5. Proposed New Fire Tax.
    6. Need to Revise Pension-Benefits-Salaries In OCSD and Fire Department.

    As we complete the Audits, hopefully the General Manager and Directors will work together
    to correct and adjust past mistakes and place the needs of the people they serve first.

    Many of us are excited about the turnaround, and improvements in our city. We can see a bright
    future with a lot of potential.

    Now it is time, to focus on “action” and not just words. Do you have the courage to make changes
    and build a new foundation of broad based citizen support and give the rate payers a Fair Deal ?

    (-1) 19 Total Votes - 9 up - 10 down
    • cry-me-a-river says:

      The General Manager and Directors are working together.. The past mistakes and mismanagement were huge and this General Manager has had his hands full with putting Oceano back on track and has done a remarkable job under extremely hard circumstances. With all due respect, you express excitement about the turnaround and improvements in our town and see a bright future with potential, then say it is time to focus on action and not just words? I don’t get that, the focus has been on “action” and this Board and GM have accomplished a lot and continue to do so. When the former GM was let go and the two troublemaking board members left (one of which is still trying to undermine the town), the remaining board and incoming board members stepped up to the plate and kept the town running until they hired our current GM. I could not have been prouder of them. Now they are still working for the community and good things are happening, inspite of the negative influx of crap from the Los Osos loser duo. So I guess what you are hoping to happen is happening!

      (-3) 21 Total Votes - 9 up - 12 down
    • cathy says:

      1. At present t ime I don’t believe it is excessive pay. I have see remarkable progress that has had to take at least 120 hour weeks. A lot of money lost has been recovered.

      2. I agree and have personally suggested the water rate increase be done away with. If we have the money for large salaries then we can go back to previous water rates. My view has always been the biggest majority of Oceano residents do not have a lot of money and struggle to survive. If we need more money then it needs to come from other sources not on the back of struggling residents.

      3. I believe the process was done as legally outlined. Unfortunately, the poorer part of the population doesn’t stay informed and didn’t protest the increase. I argued the information be sent out in Spanish and after fighting for this it was finally done but was only available at the office, which was useless. I was fought tooth and nail on sending it out in Spanish and it didn’t get done. I believe if it had gone to everyone in the mail there would have been enough protests to stop the increase. And I believe that is why it was fought not to send it out in Spanish. The board is there to do what is best for the people of Oceano. A rate increase, regardless of the facts we hadn’t had one for years, was not best for the majority of Oceano residents. The poor are always the ones who suffer the most.

      4. I believe it was a smart merger.

      5 and 6 I don’t have enough knowledge to comment on.

      (-9) 17 Total Votes - 4 up - 13 down
      • blacksmith says:

        cathy,

        120 hour weeks? Given that the GM works 5 days a week, that would mean he spent every waking hour working. (5 x 24 hours = 120 hours) Go to oceanoocsd.org and look at all six pages and tell me this is someone who has stayed up all night on a budget.

        A lot of money has been recovered? And recovered from where? Please enlighten us.

        Can you tell us where you believe this progress is being made. (taken from your other posts) Please cite examples.

        I for one am still looking for an audit for the last three years. How can you possibly create a legitimate budget without an audit. People should look at the OCSD website, and the 2012-2013 budget to understand this farce.

        I believe that the recent crackdown limiting public comment is just one of many indicators that this district is going backwords instead of forwards. How do you justify these actions, if only a couple people show up at the meetings. This is not about orderly meetings, this is about stifling opposing opinions.

        Real people welcome comments. They may hurt, they may not be what you believe, but if you start limiting this type of input you are in deep trouble on a personal and professional level. That is exactly what this board and GM is doing.

        (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
        • cathy says:

          Sorry, I meant 60 hours a week 120 for two weeks work period.

          Recovered from the false figures provided by the previous GM. Money owed to OCSD not realized or collected previously.

          If you can’t see progress from the meetings where the board spent 3/4th of the time sniping at each other and a GM who didn’t have a clue what he was doing then there isn’t anything I can say that you care to hear.

          The comments made by Tacker and Edwards are the same thing over and over and over. This takes up time and time is money. The legal fees devoted to this is counter productive. I don’t believe you want to hear this nor what I say will make a difference in how you feel. Let’s just leave it as we have different points of view.

          There has to be give and take on both sides. I have watched the board listen to the same thing meeting after meeting and be very patient. Yes, they have their rights to their views and to express them until it becomes disruptive as it did at the last meeting. This is more than public comments. They disregard the guidelines for public comment and make direct, by name,personal attacks. This is about orderly meetings. Opposing opinions are welcome when given in a respectful and proper manner. I find this unacceptable you find it acceptable. Again, a different point of view.

          Residents have made it very clear they don’t show up because they don’t want to be subjected to this. The board is responsible for listening to the residents and providing an atmosphere where the residents feel comfortable to attend. The room is full when residents have issues and disagree with the direction of the GM and Board. At the present time the residents are satisfied with the direction the board is taking and frankly don’t want to listen to these two people.

          Mr. Edwards may dislike the person he directed the cruel personal remarks to but it shows disrespect to her and others present. Your statement of being in deep trouble on a personal and professional level works both ways.

          I believe I have made my feelings clear and I understand yours, lets leave it at that.

          (3) 17 Total Votes - 10 up - 7 down
  2. msminiver says:

    In the private sector you can fire an employee simply because it is Tuesday, but expect a lawsuit. Now government employees usually have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or may fall under one of the numerous rules that protect government employees’ rights. So, if the District fired the employee without cause and without specifying the actual act, failure to take action then they have likely violated the MOU with the employee, thus in effect a breach of contract cloaked under labor laws. However, the typical cost to dispute a wrongful termination is just over $220,000 and it is cheaper for the agency to pay some mediocre labor law attorney for a couple of years rather than settle a legitimate claim. How many blue collar workers have a cool quarter of a million dollars to litigate to correct the wrong done or harm done? The answer, less than 1% of our population has that kind of cash.
    So, big surprise the employee revealed the misconduct of a supervisor upon his termination within a claim against the agency. The real concern is that governmental agencies monitor computer usage all the time, simply to stop morally inept usage of a computer at work that may be discovered by Joe Citizen via a public records act request. The real concern to all of us should be that this pervert’s conduct had to have been known by his supervisor and thus, why he wasn’t or she fired also. So while on our dime this pervert gets his rocks off and neglects his job duties. Sounds to me like the manager should be fired also. If the employee has never been written up, never reprimanded, never counseled about some action or failure to act, then he has a legitimate claim against the agency and should file an FLSA claim. I wonder if the employee was simply fired because he didn’t participate in the manager’s deviate conduct.

    (12) 18 Total Votes - 15 up - 3 down
  3. doggin says:

    Silvera is as useless as tits on a bull. He once told us he spent rainy days at home while inside watching TV and the OCSD truck hidden in his garage.

    (18) 20 Total Votes - 19 up - 1 down
  4. MaryMalone says:

    I don’t think OCSD management can declare their employees are immediately made “at-will employees.” There are exceptions to employees being “at-will employees.” One of the exceptions if there is an implied contract between the employer and employee. Something like an employee pamphlet, policy manual, etc., especially if it states steps that must occur before a person’s employment can be terminated, is considered an implied contract. Therefore, under those conditions, the employees cannot be changed to “at-will employees” at the whim of management.

    I think Gleason has just made what was already a bad situation into a much worse situation.

    (5) 27 Total Votes - 16 up - 11 down
  5. justme says:

    Cheezy crap like this reminds me why I moved here from down South, strictly the geography.

    (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
  6. cry-me-a-river says:

    “The Board did not comply”…… Are you kidding me?? Since when does the board have to “comply” with anything Julie Tacker demands of them. What a joke. She needs to “”cure and correct” the behavior of herself and Jeff Edwards. They showed a complete lack of respect and common decency at the last OCSD meeting when there was a presentation to an Eagle Scout who refurbished a little park in Oceano. During the presentation they were in the back of the room making catcalls and rude remarks, which went on throughout the whole meeting. Jeff Edwards also made fun of and taunted an elderly disabled woman, actually making fun of her disability. Just the usual classless low life behavior that got them booted out of Los Osos politics.

    (10) 36 Total Votes - 23 up - 13 down
    • justme says:

      I’d have to hear conformation of that from others. Aren’t you “fluffing up” what happened and not “just a little”?

      (-2) 20 Total Votes - 9 up - 11 down
      • cathy says:

        I was there. I confirm it. Trust me it not only isn’t being fluffed up it doesn’t nearly describe how awful it was. Not only were they rude during the presentation when everyone else in the room applauded this young man they didn’t. I guess they don’t appreciate someone who actually did something constructive and good for Oceano. The family got up and walked out when they started in on the board again. It was embarrassing.

        Jeff did exactly that to the woman. What a big brave man he is to harass a disabled older woman. How low can you sink? BTW he did that during a break and when the cameras were off. The previous meeting when the GM was explaining how a staff’s husband had critical injuries due to a car accident and someone else was out ill he made nasty remarks how these were poor excuses. No compassion.

        Sheriff’s deputies had to be called in to get them under control. That didn’t last very long and they finally (thank goodness) left when they were told they were going to be called again to remove them from the room.

        Does anyone out there have a clue why they are attacking and disrupting our community? I’ve said it before. Why don’t they put this energy toward really helping people. People have made it very clear they don’t appreciate their monopolizing and disrupting the meeting. We the residents don’t support selling the airport and are soooo tired of hearing about it from Edwards. The more he pushes it the harder it makes us push back.

        When we had the illegal appointment, the illegal purchase of the Tyler software and things being run into the ground by the previous GM and the people had to fight to keep the board from selling our water rights where were they then? Hmmm, could it be they had friends on the board and received money for something they would now characterize as wasted money (which it was then).

        Bored watcher, give me a break. The only person Tacker wants to protect is herself. I have no doubt they are angling to file a lawsuit against OCSD which means against the people she claims to want to protect. They go on and on about the OCSD budget. Did they go to Sacramento to harass the state government about their budget?

        You are correct Oceano had years of bad behavior. So this is an excuse for them to continue it? It is finally progressing and the board is working together. More importantly the vast majority of the RESIDENTS of Oceano are very happy with the progress and strides being made. It took years to be ruined and it isn’t going to be made perfect overnight. We are going forward and progress is being made. Yet they waste our time and money and wreck havoc week after week hurting and fighting against our progress. Could they please give us a break and leave us alone? Actually, me even acknowledging this behavior is part of what I believe they want. Attention, attention, attention and fodder to get paid to write opinion pieces.

        The people of Oceano have come together to fight bad boards and GM’s in the past. They are not going to sit by and allow the progress we have made to be destroyed by these two.

        (7) 33 Total Votes - 20 up - 13 down
        • Karen Velie says:

          Cathy,

          CCN does not pay for opinion pieces or sources. This was a lie started by a public official angry about a story. Matt Guerrero heard the rumor, did not verify it, and repeated it as fact while setting as president of the board. He will correct his error at the next meeting.

          A public official has sent out hundreds of emails to CCN advertisers, public officials and others in the media making numerous untrue claims about CCN.

          (6) 22 Total Votes - 14 up - 8 down
          • cathy says:

            Thank you for the information. I should not have repeated it without verifying it with CCN. I apologize. I normally do verify things and let my irritation cloud my judgement. Karen, I don’t know if it is possible but the statements made by Julie Tacker are not always correct and should be verified before printing.

            (7) 25 Total Votes - 16 up - 9 down
            • Karen Velie says:

              CCN does not verify facts in opinions. If an opinion is obviously untrue to the editor, it would not be posted. Many opinion issues are grey or have two sides.

              Hearing the president of the district say something would lead one to think it is accurate. Thank you for your apology.

              (1) 19 Total Votes - 10 up - 9 down
              • cathy says:

                I think if things were reported and written that were more fair and balanced it would make a difference.

                Everything Julie says is negative and attacking. She has nothing positive to say.Very few things are all bad or all good. When you are too far in one direction people do not pay attention to anything you say so it is self defeating. As a long time resident I am over joyed at the progress being made for the first time ever. I see the things that need improvement and know there are still flaws and I question these things. But I also see the vast improvements and give positive feedback for those things.

                Things have a way sometime of working themselves out. It was not right Mr. Searcy was appointed to that board. The people had made their wishes clear on that when they did not reelect him when he was previously on the board. He had to resign and we had wasted months when someone else could have been there.

                Oceano is certainly not perfect. When more roadblocks are continually thrown up the time and resources it takes to respond takes away from the important work and progress being made.

                (0) 16 Total Votes - 8 up - 8 down
                • cry-me-a-river says:

                  Very good post Cathy. Says it all.

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

                  Cathy: While I cannot speak to how Ms. Tacker carries herself at these meetings or any other of your well written points, I do have a small bone of contention with this sentence: “I think if things were reported and written that were more fair and balanced it would make a difference.” Enough with the “fair and balanced” b.s; a well written report by an investigative reporter does not need to be “balanced” or “fair”, it needs to be a presentation of the facts using evidence to substantiate the facts reported. Facts don’t have “sides”; a fact is: “something that actually exists; reality; truth: something known to exist or to have happened; a truth known by actual experience or observation”. A reporter can distort facts, they can alter them, they can omit them, they can falsify them; however it never bodes well for a reporter to use unsubstantiated facts, unverified assertions as fact or uncorroborated testimony as being completely factual unless they are not worried about their reputation as a reporter. Karen has made changes to stories that she has posted here before, but it is usually some small matter that doesn’t really alter the impact of the whole story.
                  If a news report contains the truth, a true accounting of what happened, there is no need for “balance”, just the facts, period.

                  (2) 10 Total Votes - 6 up - 4 down
                • cathy says:

                  Point well taken and I agree Bob.

                  I am sorry I don’t make myself very clear at times. I wasn’t being critical of Karen’s reporting. In fact she was the only reporter who investigated the stories on Montemurro and his firing from his job in Wisconsin. This information was sent to all newspapers and tv stations and she was the first to look into it, investigate and report on it. I credit her for essentially forcing the board into acknowledging things they already knew and finally terminating him.

                  I was trying to say I would like to see opinions or reporting on the positive steps that have been taken by OCSD. Every dog deserves a bone thrown at them sometimes.

                  (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
          • Disgusted says:

            Thank you for the correction. I heard this on the TV and thought it sounded wrong. As for the public official hounding advertisers, I can guess who he is. I hope he’s exposed…..

            (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
        • cry-me-a-river says:

          Thank you, Cathy. You are 100% right on. Oceano has come too far to allow those two to stop us and they won’t succeed.

          (9) 21 Total Votes - 15 up - 6 down
    • Bored Watcher says:

      Sounds like Tacker was trying to protect the remaining employees from losing their tenure. That’s rather admirable, she’ll take heat while the hard working folks lose their protection. From the sound of it the employees could file a class action suit against the district for taking away their rights as public employee’s.
      Geaslen should tread very lightly, he is in uncharted water (like most days).
      Haven’t seen the replay yet — but would guess that any disrespect for the Boy Scout is nothing like the disrespect Silvera and the boys(will be boys) have for Girl Scouts.
      Don’t you remember when OCSD gave an award to Bill Senna (2005ish) and the audience members turned their back on him? Now that is disrespect.
      Oh, cry me a river, Oceano is no stranger to bad behavior from the audience or its Board members. Board members misbehavior outwieghs the public’s 10:1. What would they do without self-inflicted drama?

      (-4) 26 Total Votes - 11 up - 15 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        ITA, BW. An employer cannot, at whim, turn their employees into “at-will employees.”

        I think they need a new general manager. Again.

        (4) 24 Total Votes - 14 up - 10 down
      • cry-me-a-river says:

        The audience and board member misbehavior is a thing of the past. The trouble makers on the board are gone and now OCSD has a board that works find together, with respect for the audience . staff and each other. The meetings were going fine until the outsiders Edwards and Tacker started showing up. They are being coached by a very disturbed person that wants OCSD to fail. The only bad behavior from the audience is from the Los Osos castaways Edwards and Tacker., The Bill Senna incident was disrespectful and those people are long gone, except the one who is coaching Edwards.

        (4) 24 Total Votes - 14 up - 10 down
        • Bored Watcher says:

          Mary Lucey is the only person left who turned their back on Senna. Now she’s on the Board and Senna now has her pay station business. Do you really think Senna and Lucey are coaching Edwards?

          (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
        • Disgusted says:

          “The trouble makers on the board are gone”

          I have to take exception with this comment. Lucey was a huge troublemaker in the past, but has now changed her attitude, thankfully. She now contributes something to the meetings. And I’m sure Dahl and Dean are doing just fine without dealing with the OCSD. Hill? Who knows.

          (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
          • cry-me-a-river says:

            Not talking about Dahl and Dean. Hill and the other one who was appointed and went to I think one meeting and then quit with him.

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

      A “cure and correct” is only used in violations of the Brown Act. This has nothing to do with one individual.

      Why are we even talking about Tacker and Edwards? This article has nothing to do with them. Could it be that you are continuing to try to deflect any negative press from your man Geaslen as you have done with all your comments in the past.

      Oh, and who made the presentation for the Eagle scout. You failed to mention it was Linda Austin and Barbara Mann. The same two who petitioned Texiera on day one to put in a new GM. His campaign manager.

      Why would you want to do that? There is big money in controlling a GM of a government agency thats why. Here is one scheme you have used in the past. Set up a non-profit. Most non-profits can’t qualify for the majority of federal grants. Of course if you have a government agency that is acting as a pass-through agency, you can get all of this public money. That’s what the Oceano Depot did. How about your dollar lease for a large tract of Oceano property. BTW, Is that raging alcoholic Rick Searcy (OCSD director that rolled his truck and resigned) still on your board at the Depot.

      Now I’m OT. Sorry. I would tend to agree with MaryMalone, in saying the Geaslen made matters far worse by trying to change the status of tenured employees during this episode. I didn’t think Langstaff had much of a chance with his lawsuit before but his attorney is going to latch on to this lastest action, and use it to demonstrate how this was an attempt to cover up an illegal action, and he may well win. This is one expensive GM.

      (-5) 19 Total Votes - 7 up - 12 down

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