FEMA supports Atascadero earthquake expenditures

December 14, 2012

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Ontario office reaffirmed its previous decisions to fund $8 million in San Simeon earthquake-related repair projects for the City of Atascadero in a response to an audit report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that contends the city received the money illicitly.

The same FEMA office that previously approved the funding, evaluated the OIG’s report and its recommendation that $8 million in funding be returned and determined that funding was appropriately allocated and costs were justified for all but $1,312.

In April, nearly eight years after the San Simeon Earthquake damaged the Printery Building and Atascadero city hall, the OIG recommended that FEMA ask the city to return $8 million in relief funds because of issues with conflicts of interest, unsupported requests for monies, and expenditures for a building the city fraudulently called an active youth center.

In its report, the OIG questioned city staff requested for an “improved project” to build a replacement youth center. The city went on to say, “The youth center is currently located in the … Printery Building that was severely damaged during the San Simeon Earthquake,” the state agency acknowledged the city’s claim in a May 12, 2005 letter to FEMA officials. However, the Printery had not been the city’s youth center for several years.

FEMA objected to the OIG’s request that the money be returned noting that a month before the earthquake portions of the printery building had been rented by local businesses for weekly or monthly classes within a month of the earthquake. The FEMA response does not look into the false statements the city made almost 10-years-ago about the building being an active youth center at the time of the quake.

OIG Investigators also found numerous questionable acts in the city’s use of funds to transform a former bowling alley into a temporary city hall building while the former city hall was slated to be renovated.

In its response, FEMA said it disagreed with the OIG’s finding that several transactions were not done at arm’s length and that time extensions were invalid.

In a press release, Atascadero city officials said that while the FEMA is not a “final determination and closeout on the OIG report, FEMA’s affirmation of previous funding decisions is supportive of the City’s efforts.”

“This is wonderful news,”Mayor Tom O’Malley said. “FEMA and CalEMA have been terrific partners in helping the City recover from the devastating San Simeon Earthquake damages. We worked hard to keep our community informed during the entire audit process and are pleased to hear that FEMA has reaffirmed what we always believed to be true. The Council is very appreciative of our staff ‘s good work. ”


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The below excerpts were taken from the council meeting minutes May 23, 2000, three years before the earthquake. Pay particular attention given to Mr. West question.


1. Atascadero Masonic Temple/Printery Building Options

* Fiscal Impact: Undetermined saving of staff time

* Staff recommendation: Council direct staff to prepare the necessary agreements and documents to return ownership of the Atascadero Masonic Temple/Printery Building to the Atascadero Masonic Temple Association and to initiate the process to allow retention of ownership of the George C. Beatie Skate Park [Community Services]

Assistant City Manager Brady Cherry gave the staff report and answered questions of Council.

Mayor Johnson asked Lon Allan, president of The Atascadero Historical Society, to explain to the Council the status of the Printery building’s registration as a historical building.

Lon Allan stated the Society is taking the steps to have the Printery building registered as a historical building.

Mayor Pro Tem Arrambide asked what usage is allowed for the building and what are the retrofit requirements. Mr. Cherry stated that the original usage intent was as a Youth Center and other miscellaneous uses, but it would probably be best if it was discussed again with the Masons. Mr. Hanley agreed with Mr. Cherry regarding the usage and stated that regarding the retrofit, it would be our responsibility.

Council Member Scalise asked what the year-to-comply is for retrofit. Mr. Cherry said the deadline is based on the City’s own timeframe.

Council Member Luna expressed concern that we would give back the building when we do not have any solid uses for a Youth Center. He asked staff what grant opportunities we have. Mr. Cherry responded that Atascadero Recreation Center Committee (ARCC) hired a grant writer to apply for the California Youth Authority Grant; however, they were unsuccessful.

The Council discussed the options available to them.


Bill Berry, representative of the Masonic Association, stated the Masons were concerned when they heard the City is considering another alternative for a Youth Center. He said that they are aware of the financial concerns the City is dealing with but would like to know what direction the City is heading on this matter. He expressed concern that if the building is classified as historical it may restrict their liberty with building usage.

Council Member Clay asked Mr. Berry if he would approve of an ad hoc committee to provide the direction. Mr. Berry said, absolutely.

Mayor Pro Tem Arrambide asked how much of the second floor space the Masons use. Mr. Berry stated that they only use the lodge room.

Council Member Scalise asked if prior to the agreement with the City the Masons applied to have the building registered as a historical building. Mr. Berry said, no.

Bob West,, asked if the City has earthquake insurance on the Printery building. Mr. Cherry responded the City was unable to acquire earthquake insurance as no company will insure an unreinforced masonry building for earthquakes.

Mayor Johnson closed the Public Comment period.

There was Council consensus to direct staff to develop an ad hoc committee of service organization representatives to review alternatives for the future of the Printery building.

OMG, can this be spun any different!!?? The building was rented out months prior? Really? I would LOVE to see who that was. Let’s get that in writing. That building was delapitated. The Gym floor was shot.

And the bowling alley? The city would not let the previous owner fix the part of the building settling into the creek because of enviromental issues. Then the earthquake hits and it was perfectly fine for the city to go ahead and do what they prohibited the bowling alley from doing!!!! Wake the F*CK up people of Atascadero!!! I have a good memory and have been in that building numerous times before, and after the quake. The city is full of shit!!

I hope the OIG keeps up the presure and ignores FEMA. Lets remember this is the same FEMA that managed the cleanup of New Orleans. NUFF SAID!!!

Amen! McKinney and O’Malley are a hard to team to beat. In due time they will be caught. Like Capone it will take time and some strong person to keep the pressure on. I support Brennler and his efforts to reveal the truth, unfortunately he may not be the best messsenger but he is telling the truth, something you can’t say about O’Malley and McKinney.

Remember the 70+ page report Brennler prepared on the Marty Tracy episode? In it he claimed that they all lied, some under oath-none of the accused ever denied the accusations. Who is guarding the hen house? I gues it’s O’Malley for now.

Well maybe everyone can now realize the only real problem Atascadero has had in recent years is back stabbing brennler trying to stir the pop. No surprise he was never serving on the city council with the best intent of the community members.

RU Serius the only real problem Atascadero has had for many years now is the same old bunch of ignoramuses keep getting reelected, so the citizens deserve the mess they have.

RU Serious RU An Idiot? The only real problem Atascadero has had in recent decades in the same old ignoramuses keep getting re elected. The citizens deserve the mess they have.

so what was in the best interst of the community, stealing tax paid money? Letting Gearhart continue with business as usual? Allowing McKinney to build up his treasure chest of accrued vacation against the personnel rules?

RUserious or RUcrooked?

It’s cheaper for them to pay than to admit there errors.

O.J. was found “not guilty” to, but they eventually got him to. We still have the Gearhart indictments to wait for.

Another Obama victory!

That’s quite a stretch there, BCP.

The date when the earthquake occurred, the FEMA funds were committed to Atascadero, and the contracts for engineering and other services awarded to Mike Nunely Engineering were during the Bush/Cheney administration.

Mike Nunley Engineering is part of the John-Wallace/Wallace-Group crony affiliation. Indeed, Mike Nunley Engineering subsequently subcontracted a portion of the Atascadero-FEMA work to John Wallace/the Wallace Group), as well as to Fugro–another member of the engineering crony puppetmasters of SLO County. This is a type of “subcontractor laundering”—where a contractor who has become tainted by scandal can continue to do the same work it did before by subcontracting from a contractor (such as Nunley) who has not yet been tainted by cronyfied contracts which benefit the contracting cronies, at the detriment to the taxpayers.

Mike Nunley (while working as Mike Nunely Engineering, as well as while being part of other engineering corporations) also controlled the majority of the work for the Nipomo CSD as it steadfastly marched towards selecting the Santa Maria water pipeline project as the method to bring supplemental water to the Mesa, despite the consistent Nipomo residents’ statements that they did not want supplemental water to be supplied by the Santa Maria pipeline project.

All of these cronyfied operations were started during the Bush-Cheney administration, not the Obama administration.

However, it was under the Obama administration that the investigation into the fraudulent use of FEMA funds by Atascadero was done.

Loafers at FEMA dont want to admit sleazes at A-town city hall got over on them. Someone will get a spanking at OIG for bringing it up in the first place. This is government at its best!

Well, I’m guessing you intended the “best” to be in sincere sarcasm. Regardless- it certainly is an example of government at its most typical.

Smiley, I think it might also be an issue of FEMA basically stamping its foot and declaring to OIG, “You’re not the boss of me!”