Audit catches $36,000 in overpayments to fired Oceano manager

July 29, 2013
Tom Geaslen

Tom Geaslen

By KAREN VELIE

Tom Geaslen, recently terminated for cause as Oceano Community Services District general manager, paid himself more than $162,000 a year even though he was only contracted to make $126,000 a year, an audit of the district’s finances discovered. The audit also detailed significant increases in spending at the district under Geaslen’s leadership.

Shortly after the overpayments were discovered during the audit, board officials reported the payments to law enforcement, sources close to the investigation said.

Geaslen’s contract places his base salary at $126,000 a year. He should have written himself checks for $10,500 a month but instead paid himself a salary of approximately $13,500 a month. The extra payments were not discovered because Geaslen stopped placing payroll disbursements details in the board packages, the audit noted.

The district had made such disbursements public for years, but Gealsen stopped the practice, which helped to hide the overpayments.

Geaslen did not request or receive board approval to increase his salary above his contracted rate. Because Geaslen’s budget for the district “was not presented in sufficient detail,” the board did not know when “resources have been overspent in certain areas, thus not being available as needed in other areas,” the audit says.

The district is a multipurpose special district with a focus on water, sewer, garbage and lighting. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors makes planning and development decisions for the district.

Under Geaslen’s management, spending increased because of higher consultant costs, salary overpayments, the creation of two new positions bringing the staff from seven to nine employees, and additional spending on items such as shirts for staff and office painting.

In the fiscal year ending June 2012, the district had $1,360,558 in operating expenses, an almost $100,000 increase in spending from 2011.

During his almost two-year tenure, Geaslen, repeatedly told the board that the district was in great financial shape and that the district’s previous manager Raffaele Montemurro’s claims of impending financial shortfalls were inaccurate. However, under Montemurro’s leadership the district had almost $100,000 a year in excess revenue. Even with an increase in water and sewer rates in 2012, under Geaslen’s management the district had only $8,600 in excess revenue in the fiscal year ending June 2012.

The yearly audit completed by Caliber Audit& Attest, LLP notes that the inaccurate reports of financial health were attributable to Geaslen’s “understatements of liabilities and overstatements of assets.”

On April 16, the district board voted to fire Geaslen for cause.

As part of a settlement agreement, Geaslen paid the district back $36,962 shortly after he was fired. The board and Geaslen also agreed to not discuss the nature of the dispute or make disparaging comments about the other party. Board officials have not returned requests for comment.

Geaslen first started working for the district in June 2011, a month after his predecessor Montemurro was terminated without cause and provided a severance package.

In his application for employment, Geaslen said he was the head of Titan Lending and also a tax preparer with an IRS enrolled agent status. That credential indicates special skills in tax matters. He boasted that because of his financial background, he could help the district reach financial health and finish three out-of-date audits.

 


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29 Comments

  1. DemandTransparency says:

    There are two things that still bug me about this whole issue:

    1) According to the Trib story, the absence of payroll data in the board packets came after GM Montemurro’s tenure but before GM Geaslen’s hiring.

    Who then, exactly, pulled the bi-weekly payroll information from the Board’s view back then?

    2) How does the OCSD Office Manager Marie McGrath fit into all of this? She lives way over in Morro Bay. She gets a job at the very place her nephew-in-law is the Board President. She was hired to a position that the public didn’t know was available. She’s paid at a higher rate than her position and length of time warrant. She is the one that actually processed payroll so Tom Geaslen’s ‘overpayments’ happened right in front of her.

    There is so much the Oceano Community Services District Board either doesn’t have the real-world business experience to ask about . . . or . . . there is so much the OCSD Board doesn’t WANT to ask about because it will highlight how inept they are at the job the people elected them to.

    Oceano. Where the county drops their load and where their elected officials bend over to receive it.

    (17) 23 Total Votes - 20 up - 3 down
    • Willow says:

      Are you suggesting that OCSD is involved in nepotism?

      I thought Director Lucey was against nepotism when the Davis’ were both working there. Is this another issue where Lucey’s flipped, or is it flopped? And wasn’t she suppose to be for transparency and more public input in all things having to do with the public? Interesting how now she doesn’t want to hear the public’s take on anything, which is why they’ve limited public comment to one minute. Geez. It seems corruption is incestuous over there. What a disgusting “community services” district!!

      But then, the people of Oceano put up with such disgraceful treatment, as if they have absolutely no honor, not even for themselves.

      (12) 12 Total Votes - 12 up - 0 down
      • StatusQuoJoe says:

        The reduction in public comment is down to 6 minutes for the whole meeting, comments can be broken into 1 minute segments to speak to each item (i.e.1 minute public comment). This practice was implemented because J&J were using as much as 30 minutes of the Board’s time telling them things they didn’t want to hear. Now they use 12 minutes total, as if another 18 minutes would kill the Board to hear from people who study the issues and have experience. Mary Lucey and Tom Geaslen were using 18 minutes each just patting themselves on the back.

        Mary Lucey is a double-speaking blanketty-blank.

        The Board members appear to show up for their stipends ($100 a meeting). Remember when Jim Hill was there and things got tightened? The Board forewent their stipends, showing staff (who was going without raises and being laid off) that even the Board was working for free.

        Geaslen’s claims the district was in great shape just added more and more meetings, more and more stipends, more and more deficit spending. The Board convened last December for 3 minutes, all got paid $100 each, just to pass the warrant package that didn’t have Tom’s payroll list in it. How much was that Christmas bonus? Oh yeah, it was time off. The office closed for 10 days straight from Christmas Eve through New Years Day.

        (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
    • StatusQuoJoe says:

      Great observation DT. What the heck is wrong with that Board?

      (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
  2. SLOBIRD says:

    Again, The Tribune is two days behind this story. What a sad rag for a local newspaper. I am getting my neighbor’s paper free everyday to put my dog poop in.

    (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
    • danika says:

      I once took the H&R Block tax prep school classes. Does that make me have “special skills in tax matters” too? LOL!

      (11) 13 Total Votes - 12 up - 1 down
  3. CherieMcKee says:

    Baby Bell.

    (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down

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