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.



john ryan manson mason nominated for employee of the year in 2012…musta been doing some REALLY NICE desk duty while waiting for his impending doom….laughable…they don’t call it SLO Town for nothin!


You so Silly.

Mason being nominated was a frustrated workforce being sarcastic.

The fact that the city mentioned he (ryan) was in the running (and may have won) shows that someone has a sense of humor.


I gave you a thumbs up because your explanation is the only one that makes sense.

It must have been a joke! :)


How funny that we are so ready to believe anything that is written. It seems to me that Ms. Velie has a vey big bone to pick with the city. Plus, I’m don’t understand why she mentioned

Gearhar? Yes, he maybe a scumbag, but he does not even work for the city of San Luis. And the city

employee’s vote for employee of the year, not Katie Lichtig.


drunk or stupid…can’t tell which


Did you miss the flow of the story?? Nance who it says is a former friend of Gearhart and was himself involved in some questionable behavior, just help Gearhart’s stepson get a job of few months ago. So WHY do you believe this has nothing to do with????


These people are idiots!!


Does this story surprise anyone? It certainly doesn’t surprise me. San Luis Obispo deserves better. Here are my own thoughts on the matter.


SLO isnt the only local agency run by crooks who reward corruption,theft and the refusal to cooperate with investigations by upper level regulators. Wait and see what comes out of the Sanitation Distict’s black hole in the coming months.


At least the photo in the article and the opening paragraph highlight the culture of corruption that has flourished since Katie Licktig took the reigns as city manager. Since she was hired as the highest paid employee in the history of SLO, during a time of serious budget reductions, cutbacks, and service cuts, the train has slowly started to come off the tracks. The train wreck is coming and when it happens the losers will be the residents and taxpayers of SLO. Katie will ride off into the sunset with a $200K pension. The others who should be pictured are the five members of City Council who continue to allow this type of thing to happen. In fact most of them have their hands in the mix too with the recent actions against the homeless which has cost the city over $250K in legal cost alone, with more on the horizon. The recent pay raise for our esteemed City Attorney which was approved by council at a time of serious cuts to the line workers. The massive attrition of tenured and honest employees who have left and gone elsewhere, our former CIty Clerk Elaina Cano to name one, who was likely too close to the inner core of corruption to stay. Many others have jumped like rats from a burning ship and many more will follow before Katie and Council are done. All because the people are apathetic to what is going on. Go ahead SLO voters and re-elect the same politicians who continue to enable this to continue. Don’t forget this is the happiest place in america. Make sure you stop by our downtown and swipe your credit card in one of our new parking meters and take a stroll on the million dollar 1/10 mile of downtown beauty .


Maybe our little town should stop paying the highest salaries around for the Best and the Brightest; and simply just pay a reasonable wage for the Competent and Honest. San Luis Obispo might save more than just money.


Even after paying the most SLO has certainly not received the best. SLO gov’t needs serious compensation reform. If anyone tries to use the excuse that “we have to pay more in order to hire good people” they should be immediately released from employment.

The Gimlet Eye

Good point, Crusader. Why bother to pay the big bucks if you are going to get a police/gangster state for your money?

It seems that paying top dollar just throws gasoline on the fire.


The people who are doing the courutpion have no integrity.. Bruce Blair saw a senior with money..who was trusting.. Fidelity title now has this check in their legal department ,as an honest agent Gregg W saw what happened and said..They covered for the agents. So who is wrong here. Board of realtors.. decided my mothers cancer were to blame. Makes sense? Guess how much of her savings she lost due to Board of realtors ethics board Cindy Doll. ? close to $800.000 and still counting.. As she had to pay cash, condo was never sold as KW blacklisted all others to not touch it.. as Kate Carson would lose her integrity to keep screening for the builder for seniors with money so they can scam you one way or another. Others have complained.. I am not alone. I will expose all of this. as I have tapes.. If you do anything in this town.. record it.. and never ever talk to cops.


I am stunned that Ron Faria wasn’t arrested for what was basically all out fraud at the tax payers expense. If he sold the mower for $3,000, that money should go straight back to the city. He is obviously a man with zero integrity and belongs in jail.


Good story Karen thus far….but I hope you contact Litchtig and other council members for their comment on this article. Up to now, you only have half of this story. A good reporter, which you are,

would bug city officials for their side.

I’m waiting to hear how the “officials’ will attempt to put a positive slant on it.

Go get ’em…..