San Luis Obispo rewarding dubious behavior

September 21, 2012

Katie Lichtig


San Luis Obispo city officials and management staff have selected several individuals for promotions, awards and high-dollar contracts who are currently under fire for either alleged criminal activities or anger management issues.

City manager Katie Lichtig recently named Ron Faria, a San Luis Obispo public works inspector, employee of the year for his “shared vision, mission and goals.” Faria was reprimanded less than two years ago for misappropriating public property.

In 2010, Faria claimed a city-owned bat-wing mower was junk and then sold it to a salvage yard in Arroyo Grande for $150. Without removing it from the truck he arrived in, Faria then paid the owner of the recycle yard almost double what the city had received and took the mower to his home in Atascadero.

He then sold the mower for more than $3,000.

Currently on unpaid administrative leave while he faces felony assault charges related to a 2011 bar brawl, John Ryan Mason also was a 2012 employee of the year nominee.

Several utilities employees, not on administrative leave, also are involved in criminal investigations.

Wastewater collections supervisor Bud Nance is under investigation for illegally dumping toxic chemicals at the city’s corporate yard on Prado Road. Nance is facing several years in prison. His former friend, Kelly Gearhart, is facing 300 years in federal prison for a mountain of alleged financial frauds.

Even though property records provide evidence Kelly Gearhart’s son Jeremy Gearhart helped his father manipulate property values and defraud investors, Nance lobbied to have the younger Gearhart given a job in the city’s utility department, and he was hired several months ago.

Kelly Gearhart and his son would transfer properties between themselves, creating over-sized valuations and funding that helped hide a Ponzi scheme costing local investors more than $100 million.

For example, on November 7, 2006, Kelly Gearhart deeded a residence on Encinal Avenue in Atascadero to Jeremy Gearhart, at no cost. A month later, on December 8, 2006, Central Pacific Mortgage Company provided the junior Gearhart with a $250,000 loan on the property. Later that same day, the property was deeded back to Kelly Gearhart, according to the title profile history.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, councilwoman Kathy Smith congratulated staff for awarding a contract for a water pump station analysis to John Wallace’s engineering company, The Wallace Group.

“Good to see it go to a local group,” Smith said.

Smith said she was unaware, and not informed by city staff who recommended The Wallace Group, that a superior court judge ruled last month that allegations of fraud and mismanagement against John Wallace could lead to criminal prosecution.

In September, a city employee who management promoted several times following anger and discrimination issues, was awarded the city’s new Neighborhood Outreach Manager position.

While serving as a San Luis Obispo Police Department administrative assistant, Christine Wallace called her fellow staffers names and told them where they should go after a department employee asked to have her photo taken off a Christmas tree for religious reasons.

“Hey assholes at my new job, GFY (go fuck yourselves),” Wallace posted on her Facebook page shortly after being reprimanded by then-Chief Deborah Linden.

Before securing her police department position in late 2011, Wallace was in charge of rentals for the city’s parks and recreation department. After several complaints from the public that Wallace was openly hostile during rental negotiations, city officials ordered her to take anger management classes before being promoted.


Smacks Forehead

Damn your good Karen.


Wow, what a bunch of clowns.


You couldn’t make this stuff up! It’s absolutly Kafkaesque.


Good round up.

Thanks, CCN.

eradicate ignorance

WOW…Only in the public sector. All of these people would find themselves quickly unemployed if they followed the same rules and principles guiding most private businesses. How come when I was younger I was led to believe that working in the private sector was much better than the public sector, more money, better future. Sure seems like the other way around. Bloated salaries, tremendous benefits, can’t get fired, and if you hang around long enough you will always get promoted. Once you hit 20 years on the job you can really screw up because you just retire before you get in trouble. Something is wrong.

Mr. Holly

This is a true picture of government transparency. The exposure of the PETER PRINCIPAl. It just starts at the very top and works it’s way down.

Thank you SLO for showing everyone how it REALLY works.


Look at Katie’s history if you want to talk PETER PRINCIPAL which is why it is so alive in SLO City (a “Charter” City). She started her career in Washington DC working for the Treasury Department (great learning experience in PETER PRINCIPLE) and then check out her history at Santa Monica and Malibu before going to Beverly Hills which she called liked her home town when she accepted the Assistant Manager position. According to the Malibu Times, department head turnover at Malibu was an all time high under Lichtig (seems to be a pattern – look at the turnover in SLO which had a reputation of longevity among its employees). In Malibu, at least one long time employee left because of Katie and several department head positions sat vacant for a long time. This was Katie’s first attempt as a City Manager and then she left after 3 years to go back to an assistant manager position in Beverly Hills. When she got the job in Beverly Hills (a “General Law” City) she stated that it was like coming home and she was thrilled with overseeing 750 employees and running a full service City Anyone want to question why she would leave Beverly Hills after 3 years, take a pay cut, leave her “home town”, life style, her husband, etc. for San Luis Obispo and did I mention take a pay cut…. PETER PRINCIPLE! Gosh, any Council person could have read this on line before hiring her and question the WHY are you doing this…

slo Fact Finder

This type of dubious behavior and lack of management oversight would never be tolerated in the “private sector” but why is it condoned and even rewarded in the City of San Luis Obispo?

Local taxpayers and citizens should be outraged with this type of serious city staff problems knowing that the city is running a $ 96 million corporation funded with local taxes and fees. No wonder the costs of running local government keep rising well out of proportion to the regional cost of living increases (The CPI) as the the quality and character of city staff & management has clearly declined in recent years.

The Gimlet Eye

Aristotle wrote,

“EVERY STATE is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good.”

I guess he was wrong.


Is this some kind of joke? Or a way of “paying off” individuals “In on” the misdeeds for their silence?

How could Smith really not know what was going on with that contract. Can anyone say egg on her face?

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