Black is white and white is black in SLO, city employees say

September 26, 2012

Katie Lichtig


San Luis Obispo city workers, angry about the way the city handles personnel matters, are calling policies that promote employees who break the rules, “black is white and white is black.”

Employees began to vent about the city’s promotion practices following the publication of a CalCoastNews article about city managers promoting and giving awards to employees who are under criminal investigation or who have been written up for anger management and discrimination issues.

On Friday, Assistant City Manager Michael Codron explained the city’s promotion and reward practices in an email to department heads entitled “CalCoastNews article, importance high.”

The email criticized CalCoastNews for publishing the “disparaging article” and explains that employees learn from their mistakes.

“Fundamentally, we know that when mistakes are made, they become valuable learning opportunities for the employee and the organization. Mistakes are not an excuse to punish, demean or reinforce prejudice. I think this is why the article is so upsetting – it is based on the premise that no public employee should ever, ever make any kind of mistake. That is not a characteristic of a high-functioning organization and why we must let our employees know that, true to our organizational values, we don’t operate that way.”

Codron’s response followed a string of employee emails complaining about Christine Wallace’s promotion to the city’s new Neighborhood Outreach Manager position. Over the past few years, Wallace had been ordered to take anger management classes and been chastised for religious discrimination. Even so, she was selected for the management position, beating out other city employees with clean employment records, master’s degrees and longer tenure with the city.

Codron explained to the city’s department heads that promotion, hiring and awards were the result of careful work and review.

“Our personnel processes, including hiring and employee recognition, are conducted with consistency and close oversight to preclude unwarranted bias or influence, and to prevent us from jumping to inaccurate conclusions,” Codron said in the email. “They are aimed at ensuring the highest quality employees are recognized.”

City employees responded by forwarding Codron’s email with the comment “black is white and white is black.”

On Thursday, Derek Johnson, SLO’s community development director, sent an email out to employees saying that City Manager Katie Lichtig sees employee morale as an important issue. To improve morale, Lichtig and department heads are looking for funding resources to add more employees and lessen workloads.

“Two new planning techs will be starting in the next few weeks to provide counter relief,” Johnson said in the email. “These planners are being funded with outside revenues from current development applications.”

Even so, in the past 19 months, 34 full-time city employees ended their employment with the city, according to Human Resources Director Monica Irons.


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I don’t know exactly what management was thinking when these people were promoted or given service awards, because I was not in the conversations nor understand many of the decisions they have made in the past few years. What I do see missing from this discussion is documentation on the actual process of how these things are done (a detailed process and not just a bogus statement saying we are always fair and impartial). How about a public records request on documentation related to recruitments, promotions, and employee awards? If these things are never brought to upper management’s attention maybe they never really knew it was happening in the first place until they see articles like this come out in the paper. Or if they did know maybe they need to recognize that clear steps need to be taken to improve the transparency of how these decisions are made so questions about the ethics of city management does not come under such strict scrutiny. I wonder if the people detailed in the article are actually signing off on these recruitments or award recipients before they move forward? Is there any documentation on why someone is selected over another applicant or award recipient based on clear processes and upper management approval and not just the department head or HR Manager?

I could give you many examples of the City’s failure to follow established employment procedures and their failure to follow legal requirements for hiring, promoting, and terminating employees. Instead, just walk into the City Hall and go in the first door on your right and ask the office help if they went through a recruitment and interview process before they were hired. Answer will be NO. Then ask if they have any relatives or a relationship with employees in the City. The answer will be YES.

I would like to suggest that the reporting on CCN about various “mistakes” made by city employees isn’t trying to “find mistakes”, but instead the reporting is about how those actions, some of them actual mistakes, some of those blatant violations of either laws or serious breech of ethics are NOT being dealt with by city management in any serious manner. The employee who oversaw the intentional dumping of toxic chemicals in nominated as “employee of the year” instead of reprimanded, suspended, fined, or even fired; how was the resolution of that incident NOT a total clusterf*ck?

The problem our city management team has isn’t the reporting by CCN; it is the reason that CCN is reporting; the lack of an coherent, even handed reprimand for city employees who have screwed up in a very serious manner is the problem. I sure don’t expect that all of the employees working for the city are going to do their job in a completely perfect manner every hour of every day; I do expect that if one of them knowingly and intentionally violates the law or any other condition of employment will not be swept under the rug, but will face the music for their actions. City management needs to pull their head out of their @sses and do the job they were hired to do, without favoritism or prejudice.

Very true. SLO City government “management” has yet to realize something very important. Something they would likely already know if they were employed in another county.

Every time they do something galactically stupid or illegal, it’s going to become public knowledge via CCN. They have not yet acknowledged to themselves that they can no longer do as they please. It’s still going to take some time for them to start acting like actual professionals. Until they do, they are going to feel great pain.

The very pain they should have been feeling for decades if SLO would have had an upright and competent news press rather than a swamp gas generator.

The antics of city managers like Katie Lichtig of SLO and Jim App of Paso have led me to decide that my next career should be city manager of a small town. You can be corrupt as f*ck, practice cronyism to the extreme, and run city hall like your own little fiefdom, all while pulling an easy six figure salary for performing very little actual work. While you are raping the city coffers and running it into the ground, you can come up with funny little names for yourself, like Fat Bald Guy, and Don Quixote (App), and spend most of your time in your estate down in LA on the taxpayers dime (Lichtig).

I forgot to mention the best part of all – once you get the job, you are not subject to the will of the voters for re-election or recall. You are in for life as long as you keep the council in your back pocket.

No, but you do need to know how to count to three and keep a majority of the council on your side.

This could be changed. You could do an initiative to rewrite the city charter to make managers have to stand for election. But think it through: Do you really understand what that means? They will then be politicians, who can do whatever they want, and can tell our elected council members to go to he**. That might be an even worse situation than now. A good outcome could be had if we had a council that knew who’s in charge, and behaved as if they were. Lichtig, whatever you may think of her, is a professional, and will do what the council tells her to do. They tell her this stuff has to stop, it will stop. The question is why aren’t they telling her just that?

The has to be the biggest joke for the citizens of SLO and a tradegy for the City employees. Katie manages this City like Hitler. She is :controlling” all levels of the City with the help of Jan Marx. She came on board, immediately relocated Shelly Stanwyck, a native SLOian, an attorney, worked for the Chamber of Commerce before being hired by the City as Economic Development Director, replaced Ken Hampien as assistant city manager when he became manaher, but unable to work with Katie so off she went to Rec (no experience in this field), in comes Codron, an inadapt planner, no management skills or background, a yesman for Kathie, and replaced Shelly. Then you have issues with the fire chief dying of a heart attack after hours with Katie and then Katie assigning worker’s comp for this activitiy, Paramedic Mason pracitically beating a citizen to death and becoming fireman of the year, Christine Wallace violating peoples religious views, using profanity on facebook to descript her fellow employees, anger issues at Rec Dept that required Anger Management class that were ineffective also being made an employee of the year along with Ron Faria who basically manipulated the City in a transaction that benefits him about $2800, and then of course, you have Bud Nance, Wastewater “Supervisor” instructing his staff to dump toxic waste at the Corp Yard and yet the Utilties Wastewater site says their program is to sample, test and instruct on pollutants and wastes being discharged and/or handled by the commercial or industrial user (IU), Then you have a new finance director, police and fire chief, public works, planning, city clerk and staff, attorney, human resources, utilities directors all new within the last few years, some being replaced twice and various outstanding employees either leaving or transferring to other departments, I know several employees at the City and they is such low morale that it is difficult to come to a job that you use to love and not tolerate. Yes, there is a two tier structure at the City, those who cooperate with Kathie and those who do not. I for one think it is time to see how much this recognition program is costing the taxpayers and then desolve it. If this City thinks recogning people like Fario, Mason, Wallace, Coldron are worth spending taxpayers money on, they are wrong AGAIN.

You are so right on with your comments on Shelly Stanwyck and Michael Codron. Shelly could do both Katie’s and Michael’s job. Why doesn’t the City Council do anything about this situation ? All they have to do is pick up the telephone and call the previous finance director, police, fire chief, public works, planning, city clerk and city attorney. Ask them why they left. I have spoken to most of them and they all left for various reasons but a common theme is their inablity to work with Katie and Michael. I for one will not be voting for any candidate that does not make a firm committee to get rid of them.

Shelly is more qualified for those jobs than Parks and Rec. Not fair to Parks and Rec or her that she got “moved”. These Directors positions should be voted in by the citizens.

Actually, she has no qualifications, other than chamber-suck, for any of the positions she’s had. She’s far from the best, and has some really dotty episodes in her history, like lieing to the city council in public when they called for comment from her, and being totally inappropriate and unprofessional in presentations she makes to the council. She’s an advocate for the business community, not a good public servant. She’d give away what little is left of slo’s public riches.

Christine and Katie are an item…so what else would you expect

I was wondering when someone was going to bring this up…..

Two lesbians or is “Christine” a nickname for Christopher?

No…say it isn’t so. You mean to say that Christine Wallace and Katie Lichtig are in a romantic relationship? Doesn’t that constitute a conflict of interest? I wonder what her employment contract states about having a personal relationship with another City employee?

San Luis Obispo, the happiest place in America for sure!

What is amazing is that employees sent Codron’s email to CCN. Shows the utter contempt that City

employees have for him.

Or that they’re just spreading dirt they know will embarrass someone who’s on the side of management against labor.

It seems to me that Mr. Codron doesn’t understand the difference between a mistake and willful misconduct. I always thought that a mistake was something that we didn’t do on purpose. Apart from the obvious, I have to wonder what sort of “mistakes” Mr Codron makes that we aren’t aware of ?

I have to agree with the person that said, forget the best and the brightest, lets just pay average salaries for the competent and the honest. We’ve had a sample of the the best and the brightest. They aren’t worth it, they make too many egregious “mistakes” and spend too much of our money on themselves and their friends.

Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.



“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” ( Romans 13:4)


Assistant City Manager Codron has no business being in a management position. He was terrible planner and has absolutely no education or experience to be a Manager, let alone an Assistant City Manager. But then again, why does the City even need an Assistant City Manager. He is laughed at by all other employees both within the City and in other Cities. He got the job because he is Katie’s “YESMAN”. His main job function is to make sure the City Council meals are ordered for City Council meetings. He and Katie continually violate state employee laws and I am shocked they have not been sued by SEIU. The morale is so bad because of the atmosphere created by Katie and Michael that good employees will continue to leave or retire until all the City is left with is morons like Katie and Michael. It is time to clean house.

I am getting MIGHTY tired of hearing about all these wasted paychecks down at city hall! San Luis Obispo needs true reform!

Lichtig reminds me of David Edge in the sense that from 50′ away you can tell they are toxic humans who have absolutely no business leading people…

HumanReason, I’ve worked in similar circumstances, and I wish you and the other good workers weren’t being subjected to this caustic and ineffective work environment. It sounds like SLO City is in the grips of uncontrolled cronyism, and that is a very difficult thing to change because it becomes entrenched at the upper management, administrative and legislative levels. I hope the good workers of SLO City can find a way to keep their integrity AND effectively start to effect positive change in a cronyfied workplace.

Unfortunately, it is the same situation in many of the local area government agencies in our county.

Another local CSD has gone through a succession of poorly qualified, inept and allegedly corrupt GMs. The latest GM to warm the GM’s chair seems to be mystified by the Brown Act and many other basic education and skills necessary to even start to approach an assistant-manager position. The situation is teetering near the tipping point now as it seems the accounting and other records have been so mismanaged and/or destroyed, and the computer systems so screwed up, that the several years of required annual independent certified audits may never be able to be performed.

Paso Robles is a prime example of how a city can be degraded by inept leadership, management and administration. When the Baby-Hughie-esque City Manager convinces the motleyed city council members and mayor to give a $350,000 pay-off in hush money to a departing chief of police who has been accused by many of her subordinates of sexual assaults and other criminal acts—you know the inmates are running the asylum.

One CSD’s GM resigned several years ago because, according to several newspaper quotes of the GM, the job had become too big for him, and he had no experience in management. A few years later, the economy goes downward, consulting jobs become scarce, and he became magically completely capable of doing the job of GM, even though it had become far more complicated than it was when he previously resigned. He had done nothing to increase his skills in the interim, to the point that he did not even know what he needed to know, and much had changed in the water and sewer services world since his previous contract with the CSD.

Then there is the SSLOCSD John-Wallace-led collapse of the ability of the wastewater plant to do its job, allowing millions of gallons of raw sewage to be discharged into the ocean, and homes in Oceano to be flooded with raw sewage coming out of sewer access points in streets, as well as coming up through their toilets–it is quite evident that the SSLOCSD has become one fetid morass of self-serving corruption. This WW plant has been embroiled in many other Wallace-connected scandals, as well. The failure of the WW plant will probably cost the agency $$$million in fines before it is all over.

All of these local government agency failures results in increased funding spent on fines, fixing unnecessary mistakes on basic issues in policies, paying for wasted staff time trying to deal with an inept and unqualified GM’s junior-league mistakes, and the endless studies that were so poorly thought out before they were contracted out that, by the time the study is complete, the information it contains is near meaningless.

If small-potatoes CSDs can cause so much damage and wasted resources by inept management, I cringe to think of the harm that can be done by inept management on the level of SLO City. I wish the SLOCity staff the best in dealing with this.

Maybe because SEIU doesn’t represent people at the city?

Boy, that is what the City needs, more union representation…..

“If we continue to accept excuses for failure, failure is what we will get”

Gray Davis at his second inaugural. Sounds like our city fools.