Oceano’s non-existent general fund

May 4, 2013
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker

By JULIE TACKER

In the wake of the termination of General Manager, Tom Geaslen, the Oceano Community Services District is fielding questions from ratepayers and activists for spending district funds to advance a Cinco de Mayo celebration and a farmers’ market in the seaside community.

As a longtime Geaslen critic and informed countywide activist, I have repeatedly explained to the district board that the district is not a chamber of commerce or service club; it’s a government agency formed to provide vital services to the community, contrary to Geaslen’s philosophy.

The district is primarily made up of enterprise funds, enterprise activities are financed entirely or predominantly by user fees set at a level to cover costs to provide services such as water, sewer and street lighting. The district also collects property tax, some of which is retained for administrative costs, but the majority is passed through to the Five Cities Fire Authority for Oceano’s share of cost for fire and emergency services. All funds received by the district are “designated”– leaving very little discretion as to how they are spent.

Unfortunately, the current board was misled by Geaslen’s inexperience, incompetence and unwillingness to learn the ins and outs of special districts. The district has no “general fund” for discretionary use.

Last fall the board and community became engaged in a San Luis Obispo County/Cal Trans “Revitalization” planning process for Oceano’s Highway 1 downtown corridor. The enthusiasm led to overwhelming support to start a Farmers’ Market.

A committee was formed by the OCSD under the guise of the OCSD Parks and Recreation latent power, an authority that has been dormant due to lack of funding for some time. The committee, made up of passionate volunteers, has met at least twice monthly hoping to open their market this spring. The committee’s ideas morphed to include events to be held in conjunction with the market some four times a year, the first being a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

With Geaslen at the helm, repeated assurances were made that “underwriters, grants, personal contributions, from him and Supervisor Teixeira,” were forthcoming and worries about funding were unnecessary, he had it “handled.” Asserting his political prowess, Geaslen said, “You know the network I run with and I all need to do is say, hey, I’m trying to do this. I’ve never been turned down for support before.”

Having some success Geaslen asked for and received a fee waiver for nearly $5,000 by the county planning department for the districts minor use permit for use the Oceano Community Center property for the market and events. Geaslen went to his board for $5,000 in seed money to fund insurance and incidentals including, promotional materials, legal oversight and licensing.

When asked where the $5,000 would come from Geaslen explained that since the Five Cities Fire Authority was established in 2010, saving the district money, that revenue from renting the districts old fire station for community uses was “excess taxes.”

Hearing him use the phrase “excess taxes” on several occasions, I cringed and pictured anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis is rolling in his grave. There is no such thing as “excess taxes” and if there were, any such excess must benefit the taxpayers by either reducing taxes and/or applying funds to benefit the intent from which came.

The rental revenue from the old fire station must be put towards maintaining the fire buildings, reducing costs to the taxpayer, or applied to increasing the level of fire services. Alternatively, any “excess funds” should be kept in a restricted sinking fund to accumulate for necessary improvements of the fire facilities. If these funds are not needed for building repair and maintenance, in light of the fact the fire authority is looking to impose a fire tax it would be prudent to contribute any “excess” to defray the increase as it applies to Oceano.

When the dust began to settle after Geaslen’s abrupt departure and May 5 rapidly approaching, it became abundantly clear that little, to no, work had been done on the Cinco de Mayo celebration. At which point, committee members rallied, reaching out the Latino Outreach Council, where they obtained $1,000, together have put the wheels in motion to overcome the broken promises. The celebration will take place Sunday, May 5, at the Oceano Community Center from 4:00-6:00pm, with strolling mariachis, delicious food, face painting and information on the community’s upcoming certified farmers market, all are invited.

The district was warned not use public funds this way, yet they have allocated a total of $6,442 to start up farmers’ market and the Cinco de Mayo celebration.

In an attempt to make things right, I have requested that directors forego their stipends for a time to fund Cinco de Mayo and the monies advanced to farmers’ market be restructured into a loan. Once up and running the market should do well, with the ability to repay the fund from which the money came.

Sadly, this is just one of the messes left by Geaslen; the OCSD board will spend a significant amount of time and money cleaning it and others up. Any challenge to recover these misspent funds will cost more in legal fees than the funds at issue. It is my hope the board will find it in their hearts to make things right and move swiftly on to more important things, like repairing infrastructure and find a suitable general manager with experience and expertise in special districts.

 


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WiserGuy

Five thousand dollars seems an exorbitant amount of money to spend to get a farmer’s market going, assuming there is even a need for one.


If there truly is an interest for this kind of thing in Oceano, why aren’t the people who would have booths there selling things volunteering their time to make this happen? If it takes thousands of dollars to round up people to participate, i question the interest or viability of the project.


The OCSD can promote a farmer’s market for little or not cost by mentioning it at the televised Board meetings and in the OCSD newsletter mailed to residents. After that the local newspapers and TV stations would likely be willing to do stories on it.


If there is a good justification for spending more than $100 by the OCSD on this, I would like to hear it.


LAH

I agree WG! And don’t the Vendors pay a fee to have a booth at a Farmers market? Even with the Cinco de mayo celebration, its under $150 to rent a bounce house…Good that Ms. Tacker is questioning, (someone/everyone should be watching) but her own handling of Los Osos funds was questionable.


MaryMalone

The OCSD is trying to use rate-payer money to buy back the reputations they lost due to the string of poor choices they made.


CSDs are not in the entertainment business, and they certainly are not supposed to act as a chamber of commerce. They are supposed to provide vital services, not fell-good rate-payer-funded parties.


If it is for a common cause, such as providing an information booth in an Earth Day event, that is one thing. But an alcohol-inducing party is not part of their powers.


I think a few members of the BOD want to buy back the favor of the rate-payers. The really sad thing is that they are charging the rate-payers to do it. So the rate-payers get screwed TWICE by the OCSD BODs of directors.


MrM

Hi MaryM,


Attacking Ms. Tacker?

How? I agree with her; and that the OCSD BOD best review the expenditure.


Ms. Tackers qualifications to point out possible governmental misappropriation of taxpayer funds is excellent due to her own experience gained on the LOCSD BOD as documented above, and by LOCSD pubic records. Just stating fact.


kayaknut

Didn’t the LOCSD file bankruptcy? If so and if Ms. Tacker had anything to do with this or with them having to file then her “qualifications” would be questionable.


MaryMalone

Tacker has not brought in her LOCSD’s position on the BOD as evidence to support her opinion.


That means you are creating a strawman argument to try to make a point.


Her op-ed is chock-full of opinions and facts. Why don’t you make an honest challenge to her opinions by attacking the opinions and facts?


MrM

Hi Mary,


I agree with Ms Tacker. Best to revisit the expenditure as she suggests.

Where exactly is the straw man argument as Ms Tacker and I agree?


Never has Ms Tacker used her valuable experiences gained from her term served on the LOCSD BOD to support her position; nor have I asserted so. If Ms Tacker wanted to use her experience to support her argument she would have done so; and she is free to use it if she later decides to do so. I believe the OCSD BOD would welcome her experience as it is a rippingly amazing testament as to good intentions going seriously wrong. The OCSD BOD should take notice of Ms Tackers experience so that they can avoid trouble by taking her lessons learned to heart.


hijinks

Can anybody explain why Los Osos Julie and her boyfriend are so involved in Oceano’s business? He sues, she writes about it. Hey, what’s the deal, anyway.


MaryMalone

Who are you to criticize political activists for participating in local politics?


It is a shame that MORE people aren’t involved in local politics, in and out of the community where they live.


If it wasn’t for publications like CCN, and activists like Tacker and Edwards, the corruption that runs rampant in our county would be far worse than it is now.


It was because of Tacker that Tom Geaslen’s perjury was outed, and the $36,900 Geaslen apparently took without board approval was returned.


The OCSD BOD just sat there like stumps and let Geaslen do whatever he wanted. Geaslen would STILL be at it, too, if it wasn’t for Tacker and Edwards.


msminiver

Julie’s article has the underlying theme of advocating for change. However, in all likelihood the OCSD will hire someone marred and mentally institutionalized in the highly corrupt and dysfunctional aspects of local government. And by local, I mean an anyone from a governmental agency. They won’t want a rule follower, they will look for someone who knows how to work around the rules and then five years from now we will see the same mess.


MaryMalone

I have hope for the OCSD board of directors because, once they became aware of the significant conflicts of interest with their initial hand-picked (and only) candidate for OCSD’s Interim General Manager (wrongfully hired Jocyln Hodson, currently serving as inhouse accountant for OCSD), the BOD decided they needed to do the IGM hiring position by the books. They subsequently posted the IGM open position on their website and on the front door of the lobby.


They really need someone with experience as a CSD GM, upper-level manager, or significant time on the board of directors, including multiple rotations through the BOD president position. It is not an easy job, and without the experience, it would be, IMO, impossible for someone to step in and do the job such that it will not create problems for OCSD.


obispan

$5,000 spent for a farmer’s market and community event arguably not a function of government? Stop the presses! Let’s get one thing straight; Julie Tacker is no Ayn Rand and her only problem with the OCSD is that she and her partner did not get the contract to run it. “Informed countywide activist”? What a crock of s**t.


CherieMcKee

In light of the recent events at OCSD, perhaps Tacker/Edwards should apply. J&J warned/informed the slimy management and the Board that there is no General Fund — ignoring the message they proceeded to step on their own… but, then again, look where that manager is now?


Sure enough someone is threatening litigation over the use of these funds. See Wed.’s closed session agenda and a letter in the packet from Goofy Lucey, admitting there’s no general fund.


MaryMalone

Sorry, Obispan, you are wrong on this issue.


There are no fencing barriers dividing one community from the other. The common groundwater basin OCSD shares with other communities is not kept in individual pools so that contamination by one community, or overuse by one community, does not remain limited to the offending community.


Most importantly, corruption in one community tends to bleed over into other communities. This is especially true for the communities of OCSD, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande, which all use the SSLOCSD WWT facility. Each sends a representative as a SSLOCSD board member. The board provides (or, is supposed to provide) oversight of the administration and operations of the SSLOCSD.


All three participants need to be strong, no-nonsense members, with the experience necessary play their role as SSLOCSD board member.


A participant who is constantly going through scandals, mismanagement and corruption is a weak link in the management of the SSLOCSD. This is something NOBODY can afford.


Julie Tacker has been correct on every issue about OCSD, and the OCSD BOD was wrong for not immediately investigation Tom Geaslen. Corruption and mismanagement continued to run rampant because the OCSD BOD did not step in and do its job: oversight of the GM and OCSD operations.


If you cannot see the importance of following the laws, regulations and procedures for spending a CSD’s funds, then I suggest you spend some time getting up to speed with accounting procedures. These accepted accounting stipulations are to ensure, among other things, that taxpayer funds are appropriately spent and, for instance, $36,900 doesn’t end up being mispaid to a fast-talking but non-performing General Manager.


MaryMalone

I’m wondering where the money went. After Tom Geaslen was fired with cause, it came out that, while he kept telling everybody that he was taking care of all of the many steps for creation of the Farmers Market and the project was on track, it turns out he had done NOTHING.


So how much of the $5000 is left? Who has it? What were the missing funds spent on?


MaryMalone

Tacker’s opinion on whether or not a CSD can throw a party or set up a farmer’s market is not the issue. Such activities are not part of the powers and functions CSDs can perform and provide.


Again, Tacker is JUST THE MESSENGER. If you don’t like the message, then start the process of changing the regulations for the functions and services CSDs can provide. Until the regulations are changed, THE MESSAGE WILL NOT CHANGE because the message delivered by the messenger is dependent on the message.


Pelican1

Same old hypocrisy… different day. You, of all people, should not throw stones. Your record speaks for itself.


MaryMalone

Get a clue. Without appropriate oversight–which the OCSD BOD was not providing for Tom Geaslen–Geaslen was able to stonewall the BOD and the Famers Market organizing group, outright lying when he said “I got it handled” and “It’s being handled.” The reality is that he did NOTHING, and the volunteers involved in the Farmers Market efforts wasted time and effort, and missed important deadlines, because of Geaslen and the OCSD BOD.


Maybe you might want to write a check for the legal expenses OCSD will have to pay, thanks to Geaslen’s pi$$-poor performance and inappropriate payout of (at least) $36,900. Or maybe you might want to pay any and ALL of the inappropriately paid out money to Geaslen and others over the years?


Without Tacker and Edwards, Geaslen would STILL be ripping off OCSD, the OCSD BOD would STILL be allowing him to do it, and OCSD would STILL be incurring problems because the GM OCSD hired is such a loser that he could not do the position he said he would do and refused to admit it, allowing blunders and important tasks to go undone.


Pelican1

“‘Without Tacker and Edwards, Geaslen would STILL be ripping off OCSD, the OCSD BOD would STILL be allowing him to do it, and OCSD would STILL be incurring problems because the GM OCSD hired is such a loser that he could not do the position he said he would do and refused to admit it, allowing blunders and important tasks to go undone.”

JUST LIKE THEY DID LOS OSOS!

Same old Mary…different day.


MaryMalone

Tacker and Edwards are just the messenger. They have consistently been correct in their advice to the OCSD BOD, and the OCSD BOD has consistently been wrong in choosing to ignore their advice because it meant the BOD continued to sanction Geaslen’s blunders and pilfering, which simply increased the damages the rate-payers have to pay.


Los Osos has nothing to do with the advice given by Tacker and Edwards. Creating a strawman argument and blaming the messenger for the message does not make your comments any more correct.


falconbh

The OCSD has had different Board Members and GM’s with the same costly results with increased water rates and proposed New Fire Parcel Tax.

Many residents want to dissolve the OCSD and let the County or another City takeover water and sewer.

It is past time to place this issue on the ballot and let the Voters of Oceano decide their own future.


obispan

The County should run everything in all unincorporated areas. Failure to do so creates little fiefdoms; Julie Tackers’ Los Osos CSD formed to kill the sewer project, the infamously Dukes of Hazzard-style California Valley CSD, Oceano. Talk about duplicate unnecessary government!


OnTheOtherHand

Fair criticisms but the alternative you mention is not without problems too. The county has a history of minor league corruption in politics and authoritarian elitism in management. The best government would be the most local IF the local people were sufficiently informed and motivated to look out for community interests first. You have mentioned cases where that didn’t happen but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.


MaryMalone

Agreed about the county–look at the bozos in charge now.


I don’t think it is ever a good thing to consider dissolving a CSD. However, it is clear that the OCSD simply has not been able to obtain, as a rule, qualified members of the BOD to run the district.


This simply cannot go on. Something needs to change.


itneverends

The County Board of Supervisors, through the Public Works Department (then the County Engineering Department) used to administer and operate the functions now run by OCSD. The district name was County Service Area No. 13, and sometime in the early 80’s the people in Oceano voted to form their CSD. There are pros and cons to small communities forming CSD’s.


The local folks gain more local control over certain government services, but they need to be careful what they ask for sometimes (a la Los Osos CSD). They not only get more control, but they also get the responsibility and the liability. They also lose the advantage of the County’s pooled resources, and it is usually more expensive for the CSDs to provide the same services.


Myself

The CSD’s might be a good idea but they should have no control on major big ticket items.

I think they should be an advisory group period, this way you don’t get nutcases like Tacker running the show, all she has has done is postpone the sewer plant in LO for another 4 or 5 years and cost the citizens of this county millions of dollars more.


falconbh

I have to agree that the County should run everything in the unicorporated area of Oceano !


It is a duplication of services that rate payers just can no longer afford in this new financial environment.

The OCSD has become very costly to run and operate.

Lets be honest, except for Water and Sewer, the County provides all the services for Oceano.

Even fire is provided by a outside agency so that we can pool resources.

I have been very happy with all the services and the profeesional resources that can be provided

by the County.


I believe our best solution is to work with the County who is much better prepared at providing water and sewer to Oceano.


tomsquawk

And sadly this occurs at the state level. It’s disconcerting that propositions can be voted into law and then subsequently ammended while we’re not looking.


MrM

Ms Tacker,


You are correct….most OCSD funds are from enterprise fees and property taxes collected for a specific services (fire and emergency). The OCSD BOD should revisit the money allocated to the Farmers Market just to make sure that all is legally proper.


I respect your looking into the matter as you are very aware of the fiscal responsibilities of a BOD member as you served on the Los Osos CSD BOD from 2004 to 2008; and you have definitely learned from that experience. On the matter of misappropriation of taxpayer funds, the BOD you served was was somewhat lax in its fiduciary responsibilities. As examples, your BOD;


1. Diverted $249,000 in State SRF loan money (specifically slated for construction of the sewer) to settle lawsuits the LOCSD had already won.


2. Diverted $275,000 out of the Water Fund (which was earmarked exclusively to resolve water management issues of the water basin) to Ripley to produce a dead-in-the-water WWTF Plan.


3. Diverted $750,000 in 2005-2006 property taxes collected exclusively for Fire and Emergency Services to pay for the additional LOCSD administrative personnel (which were not funded for in the 2004-2005 budget). To pay the March 2006 fire fee, the BOD directed that 95% of LOCSD reserves be used instead.


4. Diverted over $790,000 in 2004-2005 property taxes collected exclusively to pay off the 2001 WWTF Bond payment to pay for the above state LOCSD personnel…..and forcing the LOCSD to ‘borrow’ the September 2006 Bond Payment from bond reserves (forcing taxpayers pay off the additional $790,000 ‘loan’ sometime in the future.)


5. The BOD spent $30,000 in taxpayers funds to pay for a lawsuit filed by private citizen (having nothing to do with the CSD)…. a lawsuit that was eventually dismissed as seriously flawed and incoherent.


So when you point out possible misappropriations of taxpayers funds, I believe you as you know what such misappropriations look like.


obispan

6. Tacker/Edwards scheme to take over the OCSD in order to close the airport and turn the property over to Edwards to develop.


obispan

http://calcoastnews.com/2010/02/pilots-want-oceano-airport-kept-open/ Tacker/Edwards retained a law firm that specializes in closing airports at the behest of developers. Jeff Edwards is a parasite who specializes in gaining business advantages through political machinations. This is his forte, not competing with above-board developers for opportunities. That Julie Tacker is his sidekick makes perfect sense.


MaryMalone

I have NO conflicts of interest regarding the airport, except for the fact that it is a waste of property which goes to serve as a vanity prop for the very few who own aircraft and can’t access other airports.


Why should the few elite have control of that property? Why cannot the community benefit from it?


Myself

What do you care, your most likely against anybody having any type of fun or social life.

The community’s around the airport do benefit from the airport a sit is, I would guess you’d like to turn it into another new Avila beach.


MaryMalone

That’s the best you can do….a personal attack?


Attack my opinions, not me personally.


Now, regarding your post: How is it that the “community’s around the airport do benefit from the airport a sit is…” And what is it that you meant by “airport a sit is”?


I’m not being picky about spelling or whatever…usually I have no problem figuring out what people mean when their minds run more rapidly than do their typing fingers, and, lord knows, I make mistakes, as well.


WiserGuy

I don’t own an airplane, but I like the airport. I consider it a benefit to the community, in a way similar to the way a park or open space can be considered beneficial even though they don’t generate revenue.


For some people, there are more important things than money.


MaryMalone

While it may be true that for some people there are more important things than money, generally people who claim a chunk of public property for their elite aircraft-based activities are not those people.


An airport is in no way similar to a park or open space. You cannot play ball or have a picnic on a runway.


The reality is that public property is being used for the pathetic elites of south county. Nothing says “class” like keeping your vanity next to a leaking sewer.


WiserGuy

You are wrong again, Mary. Perhaps you are trying to mislead the public or are simply ignorant because you don’t live in the community. There have been MANY community events held at the Oceano Airport including memorial services, a professional “big-top” circus, a huge go-kart race, etc, etc. The go-kart race was literally held on the runway.


So, I think it is safe and fair to say you literally do not know what you are talking about.


WiserGuy

Insinuating people are “elitist” because they own, rent or get rides in an airplane or take flying lessons is unfair and inaccurate. I suppose some bigoted people in third world nations may consider all Americans who drive automobiles as being “elitist”, but that would be an unfair generalization also


Mary, do you have to continually try to denigrate Oceano residents for such unfair reasons? Won’t you please stop as it is doing nothing to benefit our community and only spreads animosity, some of which is now being directed back at you.


You needn’t continue on this way.


veritas

So, are you Tacker or Edwards? Obispan’s comment was pertaining to Tacker/Edwards…You state that you have NO conflicts of interest as a way to defend yourself. Clearly, therefore, you are either Tacker or Edwards…

Thanks for the information…That explains your sycophantic allegiance. It’s just narcissism!


MaryMalone

Veritas, you are nuts. I simply made a disclosure, since you are so hepped up on blaming people for your the evil fantasies you entertain about their intentions.


WiserGuy

And I suppose you deem parks and open space “a waste of property.”


MaryMalone

Tacker wrote a quite lengthy, fact- and opinion-filled op-ed, and the best you can do is attack the messenger?


unlisted

Context and motivations are often more important than the actual words.


Spirit Filled

We alkis call that smoke and mirrors.


Blessings


MaryMalone

“Context” is important.


The personal motivations of the person stating the opinion is not.


You would have to make a separate argument proving that the opinion source actually has personal “motivations,” and then make another separate argument proving that those motivations actually have an impact on the contents of the opinion.


Absent making those two arguments, and providing sound proof, trying to knock down an opinion by denigrating the opinion-maker because of unnamed and unproven “motivations” is simply an ad hominem attack.


WiserGuy

Mary, this is NOT a high school debating contest. I and most wise folks do absolutely consider a person’s motivation to be an important factor. You might not, but the whole world does not revolve around your particular view of the universe.


A person’s motivations and goals are highly relevant and important, especially when they claim to be doing something for another’s benefit.


MaryMalone

Your posts are judged by the soundness of the arguments you present. This is true in life, as well. If you want to win a point in an argument, you must make a sound logical argument.


CCN has made quite clear their intentions for the use of their message boards.


Answering an opinion with the equivalent of “your mother wears combat boots” is clearly not what CCN had in mind.


If Tacker and Edwards motivations and “goals are highly relevant and important, especially when they claim to be doing something for another’s benefit” then:


1. Name their motivations.

2. Prove that they have those motivations.

3. Prove that those motivations impact the validity or invalidity of their opinions.


Finally, I’ve not heard or read Edwards or Tacker claim their political activist work is to benefit anyone. Provide a quote and source for that. Otherwise, that part of your claim is immediately dismissed.


Message-board participants are assumed to be adults, and adults should be able to make a sound argument. If they can’t, and must sink to the level of “your mother wears combat boots,” then they need to be prepared to be called out on it.