Oceano manager refuses to disclose phone records

November 27, 2012

Julie Tacker

OPINION By JULIE TACKER

Oceano Community Services District General Manager Tom Geaslen entered into a contract with the OCSD last April. The contract included his $126,000 salary through the end of the year, mileage reimbursement and health benefits and a $69 monthly cell phone allowance he said wouldn’t take.

The district failed to remove the items he said he “wouldn’t take” from the lucrative contract and you guessed it, on October 10, the cash disbursements presented to the board of directors revealed a request for $414.00 for six months of Geaslen’s cell phone.

The board could have fought Geaslen’s request, the statement made in public and to the press saying he wouldn’t take cell phone reimbursement constituted a verbal contract that the board should have held him to.

Despite the record, on video tape and comments to the press, when asked why he had reconsidered the reimbursement, he said, “because of all I’ve been through.”

Insinuating he’s entitled to it due to the pressures of his job. Many “pressures” he clearly brought upon himself. Geaslen then claimed the record is “personal,” going on to say that the $69.00 was “just a stipend” and didn’t cover the entire cost of the cell service. Geaslen suggested that the records were not public if the entire cost of service was not covered and went so far as to tell me he had “checked it” with several attorneys.

Geaslen apparently didn’t “check it” with anyone versed in the California Public Records Act. Section 6252(e) defines “Public records” as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.”

Since the district has paid for the cell phone, the calls are now a matter of public record. Several records requests were made for the cell phone records, these requests were promptly denied. Sixty-nine dollars a month should be adequate for cell phone service, any ‘bells and whistles’ that would escalate the monthly bill to $220.00 per month, as he claims it is, would not be reimbursable with public funds anyway.

Simply put, cell phone records include “information relating to the conduct of the public’s business” and they should be accessible to the public. More importantly, they should be accessible to his Board who Geaslen is answerable to. They need to monitor his work and just exactly what “business” he has been up to.

 


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Human Reason

Cell Phone Bills for privately-owned devices do not automatically become public records just because the devices are used for work-related purposes, even if an employee or official is reimbursed with public funds. The status of the bill itself depends on whether the public agency has a copy of it. If the public agency obtains copies of private cell phone records in order to calculate or justify the amount of the reimbursement, then the bill is a public record. Under this scenerio however, personal calls, and any calls that relate to matters exempted under the public records law could be redacted. If the public agency does not require employees or officials to submit copies of phone bills, in the case of a monthly stipend, then the public agency would not have custody of those records and would not be required to provide them. Just because the public agency pays the public official or employee a monthly stipend does not mean it owns the phone. The same could be said about monthly car allowances/stipends. The public agency does not then on the car.


MaryMalone

Exactly. The GM needs to produce the bill before he is reimbursed.


What kind of fool board of directors would cut a check for hundreds of dollars without a detailed record of what they are paying for.


They already had one unfortunate employee use of distract resources for access to porn. Really, I don’t think the BOD should risk another one. They’ll start to look like pervs if they keep funding porn hunters.


MaryMalone

P.S. No, “the agency does not own the car.” They do, however, own the records that justify the agency’s expenditure for the car. If an agency was ever begging for a full-on state audit, it is OCSD. They better have all of their ducks in a row when it comes for reasons for records for expenditures. You know, that is one of the reasons City of Bell’s ex-Mayor Rizzo got nailed by the state.


MrM

Julie,


Nothing in your story of any interest or concern; and this silly issue will quickly vanish. Oh, there will bea little ‘blah-blah-blah’ and fist shaking; then all will be fine in the world.


You know Julie… I believe you need to take a very close look regarding your own spending-of-public-funds behavior when you served on the LOCSD Board. You know, throwing rocks in glass houses and such.


The way you and your board went through public money was astounding. You did not even follow your own adopted budget.

In the first three months after the recall the LOCSD budget allowed for $275,000 in expenses for that quarter…….which your board promptly overspent by $1,175,000 in that same quarter. Amazingly short sighted of you to spend over $1,450,000 in public money when the district only had revenues of $275,000 to pay them. That is why the LOCSD bankruptcy was no great surprise when announced.


You claim to be a champion of the Brown Act and governmental transparency….yet to this day you andyour ex-board have stonewalled the community of Los Osos as to where you guys spent all that money.


I think the word hypocritical is the proper word to define your actions (past and present).


MaryMalone

Speak for yourself, MrM.


I find public officials who pitch a fit about producing records per the PRA to be extremely interesting. In fact, even if I was never really interested before, I become fascinated by a politician who balks to produce records under the PRA.


And you know what? I don’t think I’m the only one who reacts this way, either.


danika

MrM, ask the administration in Paso Robles how long “issues” can last when the public steps in to request info concerning their spending of our tax dollars. Just because your attention span is limited to 2 weeks does not mean that holds true for others.


Your use of this forum as a personal attack against the person writing this opinion piece makes me wonder if you are worried she had info that will shine YOU in an unfavorable light.


If you don’t find the opinion here interesting…fine. Others do. I do. What you call “misadventures” are relevant to others who question the spending of their taxdollars. For those of us who step forward and question boldly, your attitude makes us just that more determined to turn over every stone.


catdude

Agree!


danika

What about his mileage logs? Didn’t he have to keep detailed records as to where he drove, dates, distances, times, who he went to see, etc….


Having been “reimbursed” for mileage, those might be PRA as well.? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see in detail just where he’d been on the taxpayer’s dime?


MaryMalone

HA! That’s our Danika!


Hey, maybe he did some funny stuff with his insurance, too.


slocyclist

Is this article serious? He is given a stipend to go towards his cell phone bill but the calls are obviously made from his own personal phone. You think that because of that stipend his phone records (business and personal) are now public records?

Julie, I don’t know you or Mr. Geaslen, but honestly you sound like you need to focus on more important things in life…..


Babak Naficy

It is funny how the whole premise of this comment is that somehow the record of the phone calls is a public record, but the quoted language of the statute defines “public record” as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” So not any phone bill is a public record, unless it is a writing that is “prepared, owned, used or retained” by an agency. The CSD certainly does not prepare any phone bills, does not own it and apparently does not retain it. So apparently there is no public record to disclose, even if phone bills relate to public business.


MaryMalone

If the agency pays for it, they own it. Even if there is an agreement where personal calls can be made on the phone paid for by the agency, the record of who was called is still public record.


StatusQuoJoe

What fool has a $220 cell phone bill?


kayaknut

One who’s phone bill is paid by the taxpayers, don’t you know.


MaryMalone

One who likes to call 1-800-NUDE-QTE.


Stunned

You “allowed” him $69 per month for his phone…..either pay it or dispute it but, it never was “our” phone so we need to get away from that as well. Many larger fish and contractors to fry in that arena!


kayaknut

Ok then, just once I would actually like to see one of those “bigger fish” actually fry, instead of always being covered up and protected by those who were elected and/or hired to protect the taxpayers


MaryMalone

Well, we don’t know what “bigger fish” Geaslen is trying to hide, do we?


That’s like ex-City-of-Bell’s mayor whose sycophants kept saying “stop investigating Rizzo, we have bigger fish to fry.”


The thing is, once the investigation was done, there were freaking WHALES of illegal activities and financial fraud that “needed to be fried.”


But we never would have known that if the investigation had not been accomplished.


MaryMalone

He said he didn’t want the phone stipend. Either he is a man of his word or he isn’t. If he isn’t, then everything he does is suspect.


If the agency pays for it, they own it. Where it is located is immaterial.


The request is just for the phone records. They aren’t asking for a transcript of what was said.


And his comment of “because what I’ve been through” is just stupid. The oh-woe-is-me BS can be checked at the door. He is a big boy. He can quit if he doesn’t like the job.


cry-me-a-river

Last time I checked there were 5 board members and you are not one of them. Are you board member #6 or just working with one of the 5 to undermine this community. What do you think you are going to gain by this constant requests for public records? How are they supposed to get anything done, it seems like you think the GM and staff at OCSD work for you. Let them do their job. Why don’t you disclose your motives in your interest in Oceano?


No_More_Anger

Julie is addicted to the media and refuses to acknowledge that her 15 minutes expired long ago. Just press the “ignore Thacker” button is my advice


MaryMalone

And how does that change the GM’s requirement to perform to the PRA?


He can’t have it both ways. Either he pays his own phone bill, or he deals with the fact that the records related to the phone is open to the PRA.


mrcyberdoc

Cry-me… I’m happy she moved on from trashing Los Osos. After Oceano goes the way of Los Osos she will move on. All I can say is Julie, keep moving south. You might make it to Mexico in this lifetimej!


Justducky

Julie, if you are interested in watching any new activities connected with Mr. Geaslen try attending the Nipomo Community Services District meetings. They will have a newly elected member of their Board as of December 8, Bob Blair. Bob, Geaslan and Supervisor Texiera have a long time relationship that might be fun to explore.


StatusQuoJoe

Saw a “Thank You” note from Dr. Bob in the Trib today. So here’s a couple of questions after reading his platform planks…if he’s against the pipeline AND against a moratorium where will Nipomo get their water? Is Geaslen in Oceano to line up a water supply?

What are friends for?

Now I’m curious, what’s in the cell phone records? Water negotiations?

Maybe Geaslen is not a dumb as I thought.

Maybe CCN is on to something really big!


Justducky

Yep, could be you’d find a lot of calls to “Uncle Bob” and “Honest Paul.”


MaryMalone

I think she is doing just fine with Oceano. Don’t distract her when she is on a roll.


Bored Watcher

We are all the 6th Board member.

Thanks Julie for reminding us that we need to watch our local governments closely as they burn through our money.


r0y

Heh, sure, just keep watching – and they’ll keep burning.


…and nothing will ever change.


MaryMalone

That is what they said about Paso Robles. Yet with just a bit of public focus, an incumbent was voted off the city council.


Change can happen. It just doesn’t happen overnight, and you may not always like what has to be done to produce that change.


danika

The public is an essential part of change. It can and has happened. Imagine the possibilities if even twice as many people involved themselves and participated in the implementation of change.


MaryMalone

BTW, Danika was the one who led the efforts to inform the public about the candidates for city council. The result of those efforts led to an incumbent being handily voted out of office.


MaryMalone

Check this out….


This is a sloshank (www.youtube.com/user/SLOshank/feed?feature=context-cha) political video, which actually gives the group CPRN2012, which hosted the first Paso Robles City Council Candidate Forum in October 2012, a big shout-out, several times.


Sloshank has created many videos about San Luis Obispo politics, and quite a few about Paso Robles politics, as well.


Here is the URL to the latest one which acknowledges the impact CPRN2012 has had on Paso Robles politics.


/www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5PjiLDemIs&feature=plcp


MaryMalone

Any citizen has a right to request records. Your attempt to switch the blame for the GM’s refusal to comply with the PRA to the author is obvious, and speaks to a hidden agenda.


CcPR

Sounds like the District screwed up to me. Where is their accountability in this! Cart before the horse, perhaps? Not saying manager is right . . . just sayin’ ~