Los Osos terminates general manager

January 4, 2013

Los Osos Community Services District’s general manager was terminated by the board following a one-hour closed session on Thursday.

Though the board reported Susan Morrow was terminated without cause, her performance as the district’s general manager has been heavily criticized by residents since she was hired in May. Morrow was the ninth general manager who has overseen the district since its inception 13 years ago.

As part of her contractual agreement, Morrow will get two months severance.

Margaret Falkner, the district’s utility manager, will serve as general manager until the board fills the vacancy. The district provides water, drainage, solid waste and emergency services for residents of Los Osos/Baywood Park

Los Osos filed for bankruptcy protection in 2006. The Bankruptcy has been appealed to federal court with a hearing slated for late 2013.


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Forming the Los Osos CSD was a HUGE mistake from the get go! There has been too much damage to the citizens (primarily of the “Prohibition Zone”) by this disastrous group…going all the way back to the beginning…It’s time to get rid of the CSD….we cannot AFFORD them & ALL their costly blunders….Paavo, Bruce Gibson, Pandora Nash Karner, etc. etc. have cost us BIG TIME! We (Los Osos) NEVER had the “infrastructure” to EVEN SUPPORT A CSD…

Do you live here in Los Osos RU4Real where the CSD serves water? If so, you must really love for the County more to take care of raising water rates, repairing water infrastructure and solving drainage problems to want to be rid of the CSD. The County might even consider selling the water department to Golden State if the CSD went under. Then you’d be voicing your complains on rate increases to the PUC, not our local government. I think the costly blunder department lies with the Lisa board in 2005 when they stopped the old project and lost all of that cheap money. But we have moved beyond that disaster now; maybe you just didn’t notice?

“But we have moved beyond….” You??? hardly.

You’ve run out of available reply space Lynette, but I wanted to conclude our discourse by saying perhaps you are right, maybe things are improving for some, but I’m not sure not for all.

Thirteen years ago, the community of Los Osos was not mature enough to take on the task of forming an effective CSD. While their intentions may have been good, it quickly became clear that the much needed experience, knowledge, and community cohesiveness was severely lacking.

Reflecting back, it was indeed a knee jerk reaction to the elephant in the room…the cost of the county’s proposed sewer. It took a lot of courage for the founding CSD to forge ahead and attempt to undertake such an unknown (at the time).

I can only hope that all the pain, sadness, suffering, discontent, lost lives, lost friendships, and eroded community fellowship will in no way have been in vain.

Exactly to the contrary. Los Osans came outa the woodtwork and revealed themselves as retired experts in the field. It was amazing. It was they who were able to bring even more knowledgable, in fact world-renowned, folks forward. The meeting rooms were packed consistently. They fought hard and came close to their goals. And these folks no longer had jobs to protect so full exposure of the county’s Shenanigans were exposed by….county retirees, contractors, etc. All retired now and well-informed.

Although it is fun to pretend you know what your talking about by judging the past events here in negative terms, which infers you see all, know all, don’t trample, by re-writing history, on the gallant efforts of those who fought a corrupt system and lost.

So what town would’ve been MORE “mature”? Grover? Oceano? Paso? AG? Morro Bay? Paso Atas.?

Get your bearings, Pelican. We don’t exactly live in the brain trust of the the western world.

Wrong! Amateurs at best. of course you had your Al’s, and your Gail’s, and your Tacker’s and Schicker’s, and your Joey’s and the all the usual suspects who failed the community miserably…but then, they were indeed YOUR experts.

History will show that The LOCSD FAILED the community in a most embarrassing fashion, hopefully never to be repeated.

Why didn’t more people vote against the CSD way back when?? I did……….Knew it would be nothing but a good ole boy’s club just like everything else in SLO county

Three words Cheaper Better Faster The PROMISE of a $28.50 a month sewer rather than the counties 90/ month sewer (Which by the way was a bald assed lie and the solution group knew it before the election)

The Solution’s Group estimated cost was $38.75/mo, the County’s plan then was estimated to be $100-$150/mo.

Speaking of bald lies, the Recall board’s promise was for $100/mo.

Here’s something to consider. The Los Osos CSD contracts with Shipsey and Seitz for legal matters. Shipsey and Seitz’s Mike and Jon Seitz are responsible for the burden upon the Sanitation district by defending Wallace’s corruption instead of looking out for the public who pays their wages. One has to wonder if Amparo Haber the Los Osos CSD’s accountant is any relationship to Mathew Haber who was recently hired by Wallace and company as the Sanitation Districts book keeper.

Matthew Haber is the best thing to happen to SSLOCSD in a long long time. I hear great things about his Mom, Ampy, too. (She was a County bean counter for a very long time before going to LOCSD).

With Wallace and Seitz in the game at both district’s, it’s the Haber’s that give their respective agencies any ounce of legitimacy.

Well all due respect to Mr Haber for being an honest public servant. Hope he’s submitting applications at other agencies as Wallace will NOT have any part of a subordinate telling him how it should be done right or wrong. The Districts former Lab Director and Shift Supervisor are examples of that one. The proof is in the pudding as Wallace’s Employee handbooks notify employees you will be fired if you go over his head to advise regulators,board members or otherwise.

Maybe Matthew can apply to be Dist. Administrator (and rewrite the handbook) once the new SSLOCSD Board let’s Wallace & Co. go. Haber would actually work at the plant, along side other staff, verses dropping by for a weekly meeting that lasts an hour to pick up a “time and materials” paycheck for both he and his firm…sometimes as much as $80K!

Observation: While all other private engineering firms suffered due to the downturn in the economy (no new construction), Wallace was able to cash in on the public sector contracts. He simply morphed his customer base to ream the taxpayer in nearly every community in this County.

Ampy has been a godsend to the district. She has ironed out so many problems with accounting that piled up over the years, she must be a genius to make sense of all that. I can’t praise her abilities enough, she is a real pro.

So, now we are going to promote the second in command of an agency that has been floundering for a decade. We have changed top management (1 person) over and over again and apparently we can’t realize that we need to change more than the top dog. We need to change the underlings who have truly been running the show in Los Osos for a decade. Numerous key upper level managers at the district run the show. They work together as a team and subvert any effort that the new General Manager attempts to do that may shed light on the questionable actions that have been going on for over a decade. The district is in bankruptcy, not because of the action of one man or one person, but because of systemic problem that exist throughout the organization within the top ranks. These people hid the truth from the Board, until it was too late and then the Board was afraid to admit that they were duped. So now we are promoting one of the most inept people known throughout the county. Just brilliant or maybe this is Board’s way of putting the second idiot in charge so that they can now terminate her.

Do you live here msminniver? Do you attend meetings? You are making stuff up and being disrespectful of people you don’t even know. “Key upper level managers!” How big do you think staff is anyway! Hilarious!

The district is in bankruptcy ONLY because the fall 2005 board stopped the sewer project.

You must be referring to the democracy thing. The board was recalled by the voters who obviously were not happy with what they were doing in Los Osos. Any elected official with even a small amount of ethics would have stopped that project until after the results of the recall election. If blame is going to be cast for bankruptcy, cast on 30+ year of corrupt county and local governments. The people spoke. They did not want the sewer.

So why is this sewer being shoved down our throats? Because the pro-sewer forces got smart. The next election was rigged so that your vote was not private. Also, they said if you don’t vote for the sewer, we’ll fine the living @#$# out of you. The people were afraid to speak that time. So much for democracy.

My, my jimmy_me. If you live here, we can see what side of the sewer issue you supported! How’d that recall work out for ya?

The ” we’ll fine the living @#$# out of you” was put on the newly elected CSD if you think back, they were under the gun from the year 2000. and it continues to this day.

In any case, it is not up to us to “want” or “not want” a sewer. We are polluting the waters of California and we must fix it. How the County got away with the amazing amount of building with no infrastructure is quite puzzling, but I suspect the “no sewer” crowd played that out as long as they could. At the time, there weren’t the water studies to put the lid on buildout as we have now, so maybe they did us a favor, we only got to 14,000 in population, not 28,000.

No rigging was done surrounding the vote being public. It was legal. People just woke up to the fact that refusing to clean up the pollution wasn’t going to fly any more and agreed to end the battle.

Democracy doesn’t get to trump the pollution we have wallowed in all these years.

Lyn, I believe jimmy_me’s comment, ”we’ll fine the living @#$# out of you” was attached to both the 2001 and the 2007 218’s that forced the homeowner to lien their homes for the cost. As I recall, the Water Board was saber rattling during both of those elections, leaving the homeowner no choice. Those elections were not about location, systems, or whether or not Los Osos wanted a sewer. Those elections were squarely about paying for a project.

Hey, jimmy-me, look what’s currently happening in Nipomo, we voted down the 218 for the inter-tie project and the NCSD is still trying to proceed. They will just find another way to pay for it.

Yes, I believe you are right Bored Watcher. The Water Board was adamant that the problem be fixed. But why would anyone pay for fixing a problem if you don’t have to? Sewage clean-up out of the good of your heart? No choice you say? What other choice would there be if you intend to live with toilets, sinks, bathtubs and washing machines?

I think the Water Board just had enough of the inaction. There were grossly, negligently lenient when the County dropped the ball, finally grew some teeth and went after the new CSD. A project does not get built if you don’t pay for it.

The Water Board wanted one thing; it never mattered what the people of Los Osos wanted. In this case, might makes right. The Water Board was adamant about having it done their way; they weren’t doing anyone in Los Osos any favors. The Water Board and the county government got their way. There was never any issue regarding affordability for Los Osos residents; after all, the “rich” areas of town and the large properties in the PZ aren’t paying for the monster.

There are many other options for handling waste water, including cheaper and sustainable options. Yeah, I got the flyer the other day. The county wants me to “repurpose” my septic tank and divert water from my rain gutters into it. This is nothing more than the county trying to hide the fact that their approach to the sewer is going to fail. The truth is that the sewer is going to allow salt water intrusion into the ground water. Great! It’s just a matter of time before we have to pay a ton more money to cover that mistake. Desal plant? Pipeline to import state water? Take you head out of the sand.

The Water Board wanted one thing – clean water, it’s their job. They did not dictate, nor do they ever, the TYPE of wastewater clean-up to be employed. The “cheaper” options touted by salesmen turned out not to be so. The price for either what we are getting as opposed to the more so-called “sustainable” ones is roughly the same, only with those “sustainable” options, more of the costs would be coming out of your personal pocketbook, not spread out onto the project. The people voted, that is why we are getting what we are getting in case you were absent the past four or five years and didn’t hear about it.

The “rich areas” as you put it, have large lots, they are not the Prohibition Zone where 8 – 12 houses were allowed to be crammed onto an acre with no infrastructure required for building, by very foolish county regulators. It is too bad, but that is what happened and that’s why our houses in the zone were so comparatively cheap.

The sewer does not allow salt water intrusion, we already have it and it has been caused by pollution. This is because we have been over-pumping the lower aquifer (where the intrusion is coming in) due to the upper aquifer being too polluted to drink, and the upper one, is spilling water out into the bay at the rate of 300,000 gallons per day, overfilled by the residue of the septic tanks.

Repurpose your tank if you want to help save water. The water companies are going to be using ion exchange units to clean up the upper aquifer water and we will be drinking it soon, plus blending it with the lower aquifer water. We might not be wasting it out into the bay much longer and we don’t want salt water intrusion in that upper one either.

Well at least they didn’t hire Katie Lichtig!

…or Paso City Mgr Jim App.

I would run from that job opening. With its troubled history, how is LOCSD going to attract a truly qualitied general manager? It seems like an endless downward spiral. The district can’t get a good GM because of its seemingly insurmountable problems and its seemingly insurmountable problems can’t be properly addressed because of the revolving door of GMs.

Actually part of the problem with CSDs and other small government agencies is, they tend to hire people with public agency experience. Instead perhaps they should focus on business acumen, organizational management, finance and accounting, and problem-solving skills. These abilities are the bread and butter of business majors and successful business owners but agencies continue to hire people with backgrounds in public service or degrees in urban planning.

There are a lot of retiring baby boomers with these very skill sets who would probably love to move to the central coast for a one or two-year contract to turn this around. There are many companies and other government agencies that have had problems like those facing the LOCSD tha, through tough decisions and backbone, have turned around. It’s not insurmountable, but it is going to take some skill sets and determination that are sorely lacking right now.

Like Tom Geaslen at Oceano CSD? Give me a break!

Managers at small districts like LOCSD don’t do the type of day to day work that is taught in business school or even in private business. Someone from private industry is not likely to take over on a one to two year contract and learn all the ins and outs of the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, public contracting law, and the byzantine laws that apply to the provision of water and sewer service while running daily district business at the same time. Private business experience is not the cure to all public problems.

“the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, public contracting law”.

This is very easy stuff Old Ned. The reason it seems so complicated is because our servants frequently misquote laws and misuse it for the purpose of avoiding public scrutiny and operating outside the transparency laws. They do it all the time and it takes watch dog groups with loud bull horns to keep our servants honest. When we catch them, nothing happens thanks to public complacency.

In all fairness, the problem isn’t that all the mistakes surrounding these laws are self serving, sometimes they just aren’t very bright in fact I find public servants to be highly incompetent as compared to the private sector.

More GM’s than Lindsay Lohan has had arrests.

The little town who couldn’t.

Rather it’s the “little town that wouldn’t.”

Perhaps, but more importantly the concept of a CSD has failed Los Osos. The community could not, or would not allow responsible self governance to prevail.

Rather, it’s been 13 years of chaos, misunderstanding, disagreement, divisiveness, polarity, and failure.

Well said, thank you

Often times, the truth is painful.

Like so many problems with government, it is more like an uninformed voter goes to the polls and votes by emotion, or on the advice of an equally uninformed neighbor who seems confidant and knowledgeable, rather than making the time for some clear thinking after a solid learning period covering the issues from several unbiased information sources and biased ones too, for perspective.

In the case of Los Osos, this problem would never have happened if there had been good governance at the county level 30 years ago. Allowing so much building here with no infrastructure was just dumb and the easy way out. Thankfully, the County of now is doing an excellent job rectifying that mismanagement from the past.

On CSDs in general, they have very little oversight by any other governmental body and it is up to the voter to benefit from one run well by voting in qualified people to the board. If more people in Los Osos would become involved now that the sewer issue does not dominate the meetings, I’m sure the current knowledgeable, hard-working board would be happy to see some new faces and positive energy enter the room. That goes for the local board that advised the Supes too, LOCAC.

Lynette, who in their right mind would want to get involved in a process that that no only failed it’s community, but has vilified every legitimate attempt to bring not only a sewer to Los Osos, but a sense of sanity to a community who is devoid of any kind of leadership?

EVERY attempt has failed

Perhaps there’s something in the water…or waste water.

Pelican1, you are saying then that all boards are the same? This is hardly the case. Do you attend the meetings or watch them on Channel 20, or check them out from the CSD or the library? If you have not seen the board we have now in action, how do you justify that statement? The current board is trying very hard to patch up the holes that the fall 2005 board dug for the community. They could use some community support and a second chance in the public’s view.

The County has had the project since 2007, so in fact, there were but two attempts by a CSD to build a sewer prior to that date, although the second attempt didn’t actually have a project, just a protest.

I would argue that giving a CSD the job of building a very, very expensive public works project in the first place was probably a bad idea, but I only arrived in 2005 and can only speak from the vantage point of the mess I walked into.

Lynette, can you honestly say that since the inception of the CSD, Los Osos is any better off today?

I have watched this progression since 1980, long before the CSD was formed when self governance was just a dream. A dream that soon became a nightmare. From the very beginning, no one was prepared for the the challenges the community would face, both internally, but externally as well.

The first CSD tried to take on the sewer project, unaware of the discharge requirements were unattainable with their design plan. So they opted for the TRI-W project only to find a substantial number of opponents, who would eventually form a new board and send the community into a state of complete chaos.

Lawsuits, enforcement actions, bankruptcy, lost revenue, and a reduced credit rating ans well as a divided community, all part of the collateral damage.

I regret that I can’t remain as positive as you regarding the current CSD, only time will tell. This most recent firing of the General Manager tell me that not all is well yet today in the little town that couldn’t.

Pelican1, I have only lived here since spring of 2005 so really don’t know if Los Osos is better or worse off overall than it was before the formation of the CSD. But what local control has done, is allow for our citizens to take control over certain aspects of how life goes on here through voting in boards that do, or in some cases do not, function well. It is a learning process to see close up how government works and we are still learning. But we are improving, especially now that the sewer is off our CSD’s plate.

Here are some positive examples:

• The part of Los Osos under the county’s water district had a very poor water infrastructure due to county neglect. Through the efforts of LOCSD board and staff, much of that infrastructure has been replaced and repaired and is now functioning very well. This also has the added benefit of increased fire protection. I do not believe that the county would have done this for us.

• There is another benefit, our ability to work through an LOCSD committee to have a very close working relationship with the excellent fire crew at Station 15 to make our needs known and to vote money to improve the fire crew’s working lives with improvements to our fire station. Perhaps part of the reputation they have earned for giving us the best emergency protection in the county is due to that very close relationship.

• Part of the CSD’s mandated function is drainage. Our utilities crew works extra hard to lessen the impacts of rain events. No disrespect to county crews, but they could not give us the knowledgeable and pinpointed help with the historical knowledge that our own crew can. Our guys know the details and quirks of the pumps.

I am worried about the bankruptcy and still lament the ignorance that caused it. We will know more at the end of 2013 how we will fare, but overall the community is coming back together slowly and I do have hope.

Really? I see a park where a huge stinking sewer plant was to roar away forevever.

Ohhhhh, don’t say “park” as at least one resident is plenty PO’ed that those in the PZ are paying for that restoration and ANYONE, PZer or not, can enjoy it!

Anyway, the old project had a park there too, with a lots of amenities that actual people, not just snails, might enjoy. Plus, the building for the plant was mostly underground with interior air at a constant negative pressure so that no odors would escape. But hey, have it as you like to think of it, don’t let the anti-sewer rhetoric cloud your thinking or anything.

What we have today is a real park. Not a sewer plant pretending to be a park, genius.

Every plant the various CSD’s visited, stunk the surrounding area up, you knew that.

Quit re-writing history, Tornastry. How’s yer buddy, Maria?

Genius? Oh no, that would be you I’m sure. You are the expert here on misinformation and history distortion.

We do not have a real park, there are no benches or any amenities. It is a path through a habitat restoration project as mandated by the Coastal Commission. The path is there so the native plants don’t get trampled by the humans who will walk there, path or not. The snails are gonna love it, and you too apparently.

The CSDs visited? You mean the trip the County invited citizens to attend don’t you. No, it was one sewage plant (Scott’s Valley) and Discovery Bay Solar Sludge Drying Greenhouse (near Stockton). No MBR fully enclosed and odor scrubbed plants were visited. But go ahead, think what you like.

So, if it doesn’t have a bench or a sewer plant, it’s not a “real” park? But if it does have a bench and a sewer plant, it’s a park. Got it. That’s makes perfect Tornatzty sense, nothing changed there.

I’m sure you AND “Kelly” especially know my “disinformation” and “misinformation” is frightfully accurate.

Ahhh come on..just cause they cant agree on shit….lol…