Oceano board to meet pre-Christmas after manager plagiarism charge

December 22, 2013
Lonnie Curtis

Lonnie Curtis


The Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors will hold a special meeting two days before Christmas to discuss the performance of its general manager, who is accused of plagiarizing part of his job application.

Since longtime engineer Lonnie Curtis took over as district general manager on October 15, the board has had to direct him to follow the California Public Records Act and Ralph M. Brown Act and has twice reviewed his performance in closed session. The board is now faced with choosing whether or not to discipline Curtis for allegedly plagiarizing a PowerPoint presentation he submitted as a writing sample while applying for the job.

For two months, Curtis withheld delivering his job application and writing sample to Los Osos resident and Oceano board critic, Julie Tacker, who requested them under the Public Records Act. He withheld the same documents from CalCoastNews for nearly a month, claiming the district computer system crashed and he was unable to properly redact the documents.

Curtis released the documents on Dec. 11, just prior to a meeting in which the board reviewed his performance. The writing sample he released was a PowerPoint presentation on water usage, entitled “The Road Ahead — An Agenda for Sustainability.”

The presentation was nearly identical to one prepared in 2007 by Timothy Brick, the former board chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Curtis told the Tribune that Brick gave him permission to use the presentation. Brick said to the Tribune that that he did not mind Curtis using the presentation, but he was surprised that Curtis used it as a writing sample in a job application

On Friday, the district announced a special closed session board meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday. The meeting will mark the second review of his performance in twelve days and the third in six weeks.

The first performance review resulted in a formal Brown Act violation complaint from Californians Aware attorney Terry Francke.

A day after the meeting, district staff reported that during the closed session evaluation the board discussed planning measures with Curtis relating to water sewer and other district business. The Brown Act prohibits agencies from conducting general planning sessions during closed session.

During its most recent meeting, the board narrowly avoided violating the Brown Act after Curtis added a hearing without placing it on the agenda. Board President Matt Guerrero called for a special meeting simultaneous with its regularly scheduled in order to provide proper noticing for the hearing.

Monday’s agenda states that the board will review Curtis’s performance under section 54957 of the Brown Act. The section cited allows the board to discipline or terminate Curtis.

The board hired Curtis after terminating ex-general manager Tom Geaslen, who over payed himself $45,242 in district funds, according to a district audit. In 2011, the board terminated previous general manager Raffaele Montemurro after CalCoastNews reported that he had paid himself for working full time and being out sick simultaneously.

Montemurro earned $87,500 a year, but Geaslen raised the general manager salary to $126,000 yearly, which Curtis is currently making.


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Julie asks- “why didn’t the board do their own research?”

Because the reality of it is…no one really cares as long as the job gets done. We have a useless legal system when it comes to politics in SLO County. A great example is the current board in California Valley. No one cares because the job of making sure the locals who work the system keep getting handouts by the current district board, who are all living on the government ‘dole’ too. The only person who is supposed to have some job experience & a clean background is the General Manager. In Cal Valley, the General Manager is the woman who sat as President of the CVCSD when the embezzlement of $250,000 was done by the G.M. who she hired & trained. When the GM was sentenced to jail time & no restitution (??), the board simply quit & refused to answer questions from the Grand Jury. Today….almost every person involved has been back on the board to serve. And the county & legal professionals do not care. Unless it effects them.

I just love how many ‘donations’ have been made by the Solar Farms to the CVCSD…..and no one knows how the money was spent or where it went. Just ask the CVCSD board. New cars, vacations, home remodels. None of those members has had a legal job in over 10 years. How are they affording all of these new purchases if they didn’t have the money before? The lottery? Wealthy family members die? Of course. Because that is where the private rich of California reside…Cal Valley & its koi ponds.

Writing samples!?! We would be happy if the G.M. of CVCSD could just read what she writes.

Does telling lies necessarily mean you’re a bad or good politician or just “another” politician?

I’m waiting to hear what Mr. Curtis has to say.

Oh, you don’t have to wait. His response is readily available, actually.

“In response, Curtis admitted that the presentation wasn’t his own . . . ” . . . if you will . . .

This guy has had no less than 5 news stories written about his multiple missteps during the 12 short weeks (WEEKS!) he has had on the job.

In those 12 short weeks (WEEKS!) though, he has earned almost $33,000 in salary and auto and phone perks. This doesn’t count his PERS, vacation, sick, holiday and ‘personal day’ benefits either.

That’s not a ‘rocky start’. That’s a ‘fall flat on your face’ start.






After repeatedly asking for the application packet (including “writing sample”) Mr. Curtis told me over the phone (in the only conversation I’ve ever had with the man) I was “bullying the staff.” I had telephoned and emailed about every 3rd day over the course of 2 months, reminding them all documents requested were public record and the CPRA requires the district to respond within 10 days.

Then, when Curtis was ready to turn it over (after legal counsel “redacted” some of Curtis’ personal information) he was going to charge me $0.20 per page of a pdf. I chose to purchase the paper copy, it was $7.00 of some of the most revealing information I could have imagined. But to tell the truth, I wasn’t surprised.

The real question is…why didn’t the Board do their own research? They could have found that the PP was plagiarized all on their own.

They also could have done the math, the “5 years of governmental experience” they wanted in a candidate was thrown out the window, Curtis only had 2. Much of his experience is in the private sector, just as Tom Geaslen’s experience. The private sector candidate generally speaking is defiant in opening up his life to the public.

It’s always the same 3, 4, 5 or 6 folks that hit the thumbs-down ‘dislike’ button on all stories that shine a bright light on the failings of the Oceano Community Services District.

What real reflection of hating the messenger instead of facing the message.

This board abjectly failed in its latest mission to hire a competent and useful General Manager. 2013 could be called their “Year of Ultimate Failure”, really.

I sat through meeting after meeting after special meeting in 2012 and 2013. Rarely is a goal accomplished. Rarely is an agenda complete for the general public to make an educated comment on. Rarely is ANY general manager worth their current paycheck. Rarely does the office manager function at even a middling level of competence. Rarely does board member Lori Angello actively contribute in the responsibilities of the position. Rarely is board Vice-President Mary Lucey friendly, let alone tolerably civil, to the community participants. Rarely does legal council help the board make sound legal decisions or take sound legal action.

The OCSD is the Island of Misfit Toys, run by a band of defective and unwanted members.

Mr. Curtis clearly misrepresented himself during the application process — giving the Board grounds for dismissal. But, what’s been the real measure of performance is the lack thereof.

I invite all to look at the agenda’s and board packets since his hire, much of the work product is, one, produced by administrative staff, or two, lifted from the Internet (other districts or plagiarized).

The publics first impression was his first meeting 10/23 where he showed up 7 minutes late without a pen or piece of paper in hand; he was getting dressed down the hall when the meeting started. Additionally, while Interim GM Gary Keefe was giving a terrific Strategic Planning PowerPoint, Curtis was distracted with his cell phone, then leaving it on the dais, milling around the Board room — rather than pay attention to the presentation — when the phone began to ring. Mary Lucey, with a frown on her face, got up during the presentation, turned off the phone and walked it out to Curtis who was too far away to turn it off himself.

You only get ONE first impression!

The subsequent meetings have produced little-to-nothing. He’s “out of the office” more than in. Graduated from high school in 1974 and college in 1989. His resume has his last job in 2008, having never worked more than 5 years in one place, suggesting he’s been a “consulting” ever since.

He wrote “n/a” for his answer on “how many words per minute do you type.” Clearly, not intending to type, copy and pasting others work is much easier.

The Board needs to do what is best for Oceano. Say goodbye to Mr. Curtis.

Sounds like a good government employee to me.

I hope all you Oceano residents have been paying attention to a first class, honorable and AVAILABLE City Manager who is finishing her stint in Morro Bay. Just look at the outpouring of support from all members of Morro Bay (citizens, business owners, employees and Labor union officials who she negotiated with). When you get that kind of support, it means you are doing a good job.

Sorry, I forgot to mention her name Andrea Leuker

Thanks for the support, Shocked, but I can tell you what Andrea’s reaction was when I asked her about possibly applying for this position: “No, thank you VERY much!”. Smart woman.

The responsibility for hiring and oversight of a general manager lies with the Board of Directors.

After all of the mess with the last two corrupt GMs, you would think that the OCSD BOD would have applied due diligence to ascertaining Curtis was what he represented himself as being.

However, once again, the OCSD BOD has failed in its responsibilities for hiring and oversight of OCSD’s general manager.

I think it is past the point where we can assume the OCSD BOD is negligent by mistake. This is the third loser GM they have hired, and it appears the problem is the OCSD BOD being negligent by intent.

Give me a break! Since when does a PowerPoint presentation qualify as a “writing sample” (as opposed to a work sample). If his “writing sample” was in PowerPoint, I think the board probably realized that they were picking from the bottom of the barrel.

At least, we should give Curtis the Rand Paul Plagiarism in Government Award for his efforts.

I’m hoping you’re kidding about “writing sample” because in its raw form I believe a powerpoint presentation gives the viewer an opportunity to see how the person communicates and gauges their level of effectiveness.