Did a Morro Bay councilman game the system?

February 6, 2014

George LeageMorro Bay City Councilman George Leage voted to provide money to an event that he was then paid to cater has caused some to question if he is financially benefiting from his elected position. [NewTimes]

On Jan. 11, Leage along with other members of his family catered the Morro Bay 50th birthday celebration kickoff dinner. About 200 attendees paid $50 to attend the dinner catered by Leage’s Great American Fish Company.

Leage is a member of the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee which organized the event. Along with fellow City Council liaison Nancy Johnson, he battled to get the city council to donate $50,000 for events related to the city’s birthday.

“We gotta realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I think this event, it’s a community thing,” Leage said at that meeting. “But you are still going to attract a lot of people from out of town, and it is going to put a little money in the coffers. It’s going to take at least $50,000 to get this going, there’s not doubt about it. I’ll just leave it at that. We gotta do this. I mean, come one, once in a lifetime.”

In the end, League voted for the city to award $15,000 to the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee for events though he failed to mention his restaurant would be catering the event.

Still unanswered are question of how the funding is being dispersed and how much of the $50 a person charge for the dinner went to Leage. Leage says he was provided $15 a plate and claims that he lost money catering the event.


Shocked in MB

As usual, everyone goes over the top on some article that fits their agenda. If anyone here was at the dinner please tell me that you would not have paid more for that dinner. If Leage got 15$ a plate, he gave money away just on food costs, never mind labor, prep, etc. The dinner was not meant to promote “tourism”. How many tourists come to town for a dinner? Yes there are some things planned for the 50th celebration which help bring people to town. That helps all of us.

Some of you should read that letter in the Bay News yesterday to see where those business dollars end up going. It seems to me that money spent in MB is a win-win.

When you here where the proceeds went from that dinner, you will be embarrassed.

Lately MB reminds me of a video I watched where a piece of meat is dropped into the amazon river and all you see is churning water as the Piranha go into a frenzy to eat the meat.

Lately I am seeing a lot of churning water!


It’s simply the Iron’s led Politburo further attempting to purge the city of those who refuse to pledge their allegiance to the new regime.


This is absurd!!! Because I’m outraged by the lack of human decency in our local political scene you automatically toss me into the Pro-Irons/Anti-Irons shenanigans. WTH is that all about?!?! I’m neither! I am, however, a MB citizen concerned with the constant palm to the face George Leage is giving us.

How is this guy still an active council member? It seems like every time I turn on my computer there is yet another embarrassing story about how he’s doing something wrong and not giving a damn. Can he just resign and save us all the headache of watching him nap at the council table?

fishing village

what are you talking about ‘promoting tourism’?

This was a Chamber of Commerce dinner, and those attending were mostly people who bbenefit from tourism, not tourists. It was a get together and only a fringe suggestion that it was 50s celebration. The City gave away the facility and lost money because of fixed costs (the director of P&R and his crew). The City money used for what, is the question everyone gets to ask? Where did the $50 go is the question. As it was labeled ’50s celebration’ is where the problem came in. If it was just a chamber dinner for them and their friends, no problem. City money is what people need to know about. We need an accounting for the money collected, and paid out! That’s all anyone wants to know.


Shocked’s post seems to be an attempt to divert attention from the real issues. Shocked said, “The dinner was not meant to promote “tourism”. How many tourists come to town for a dinner? Yes there are some things planned for the 50th celebration which help bring people to town.”

OF COURSE the tourists to not come to town for a dinner. The very clear concern is that a small number of people got together for a dinner to discuss plans for turning our 50th anniversary celebrations into ways to attract tourists who will spend money in their businesses, and they evidently intend to spend our $15,000 in tax money to help them do that.

Do most people see that as the main purpose of 50th anniversary celebrations? Probably not. If the Chamber wants to bring in more people to get more business for its members, the Chamber should be paying for that, and asking the rest of us to subsidize their project.

Regarding Shocked’s claim that bringing people into town benefits us all, that is clearly true to a point Tourism is the major industry here. However, I don’t believe that means that we should always be striving to get more and more tourists to come to town.

How many tourists are too many? When we reach the point where sales tax and TOT no longer cover the added costs that tourists generate (water, sewer, roads, police, etc.) the only ones who benefit are the business owners, who are then being subsidized by the rest of us.


Oops – should have said,

Do most people see that as the main purpose of 50th anniversary celebrations? Probably not. If the Chamber wants to bring in more people to get more business for its members, the Chamber should be paying for that, and NOT asking the rest of us to subsidize their project.

fishing village

We should have know this would be twisted into, ‘good to lure people in to MB’, huh?

Shocked in MB

If anyone was at the dinner they would know that the dinner was attended by the Mayor, all the City Council, local charities, county and state officials, etc. etc. Parks and Rec did not do the work. It was done by all volunteers and some paid staff from Carla, George. Mostly volunteers.

The attendees were also Morro Bay citizens who do not have business in town. 20-30 minutes was to celebrate people who have been involved in MB over the 50 years. This was done via video and pictures with a Narrator speaking about the history of MB.

It was not a Chamber of Commerce event. It was a joint event with the Chamber, City, 50th Committee. etc. The proceeds I am sure will be detailed soon I am sure.

If this was such a waste of money, why were ALL of our local political figures there. They sold beer and wine also. Guess what, those cases were DONATED by local business for the event i.e. NO compensation for the beer and wine. Similar to the Food that was provided except for some minimal partial compensation.

“”Proceeds will help fund community projects such as

The completion of the statue “For Those Who Wait” by Elizabeth MacQueen, which will be situated at the harbor entrance. It was commissioned by the Central Coast Women for Fisheries.

Funds will also help cover the planting of 50 cypress trees””. —-Tribune

There they go again, those damn business people planting trees and erecting a statue in honor of wives of fisherman.


Shocked -well said! the event was attended by aprox. 200 community members.

including All your councilmembers. George & Nancy were the ones actually working at the event. If the other 3 councilmembers thought there was something inappropriate about how the event was being put on they never shared that concern. The $$

from the city was NOT used to put this event on, the Chamber handled all the money in and out, as well as sharing in the event. Funny the how things get spun to try to discredit people just before an election starts.


Nobody ever said they thought the event was inappropriate or that the cause was a bad one (especially now that we know there was a cause)… the question is if George Leage “gamed the system”. My thoughts, yes.

Personally, I thought the event itself was a bit of a blown-out facade to honor the old regime and award those that worked the hardest to attempt a recall of Mayor Irons… but hey, that’s just my observation. I also think fairness in government is a thing and that if we dream and work hard enough, we really can be whatever we want in life. I also hate arrogant, egotistical bullies who bark louder than everyone else and think that means power. But these get what’s coming to them eventually.


They not only used it to honor the members of their clique, they used it to honor the guy that has been covering all their great sacrifices over the years. Just think how many Neil Farrell articles these people have in their scrapbooks and framed on their walls. And now the crowning achievement of his career – an article about himself for himself.


Once again, he is beside himself.

fishing village

Funny, how this ‘event’ came just before the election and only those few people in the community attended. $50 isn’t for the average MB resident. It was to insure the select few attended….the Chamber, their friends, the committee and their friends, Nancy/Gary Johnson, Joan Solu, and George and his friends.

It is so obviously exclusive.

fishing village

This was overstepping the line. Wrapping this event in ‘good for evryone’, just won’t work. The event planners knew this would be exclusive , putting a $50 ticket price, was the key, and they knew it!! Excluding most of the citizens of Morro Bay, and giving a party for themselves worked out just perfectly for them, except for one thing the City money was used and any 50s events should be for everyone, not just the chosen few!!

Niles Q

This was also the Chamber of Commerce’s annual installation dinner, the Morro Bay 50th committee joined them to put this on.

They’ve been doing the citizen of the year awards for 30+ years and Living Treasure for more than a decade. Judy Salamacha was Citizen of the Year and Dan Reddell was the Living Treasure. Cookie Crock was Business of the Year.

These people were honored for their many volunteer activities, their charitable activities in the community and yes, it is a popularity contest in some regards. It’s the Chamber’s awards, so why are you surprised that all awardees are members of the organization? Join the Chamber, they need new members. They really are nice people.

And these dinners are always expensive, $50+ a person every year. It’s a fund raiser for the Chamber too that’s why they have an auction. Always has been.

This one was unusual because it was at the community center and not the Inn at MB or Rose’s upstairs and probably had two to three times the attendance.

And frankly, the food was the best I’ve ever had at one of these. Thanks George, I can’t remember the last time I had duck but I think I had to shoot it myself. We even got to take home extra plates off food, and got some terriffic commemorative glasses too.

I don’t give a hoot if he broke even or even made a little money off it (God forbid a businessman should turn a profit!). But I’ve been told that he actually lost about $1,500 for his troubles.

As for whether it was proper for him to do this job with city money having been given to the 50th Committee, I don’t recall the council putting any limits on how that money was to be spent.

And the city has plenty of money. Actually, the receipts for TOT taxes will be several hundred thousands of dollars above what was budgeted for in the 2012-13 budget. So they have a lot of extra money right now and the full amount will come out with the next budget audit.

That money didn’t fall out of Heaven’s pocket, a lot of people worked real hard to earn it.

I for one am tired of this business people vs. citizens nonsense. Business people ARE citizens. We owe them our gratitude. Their hard work enables us all to be able to work and enjoy a great life in this beautiful place.

This division of us vs. them is why Morro Bay will always be a second rate tourist spot and will struggle with its economy to some day reach the point where it all collapses on itself and we get turned back into an unincorporated township under the County’s thumb.

And if you think that might be the way to go, ask yourself how well Los Osos has fared under County rule. All you people who tout “Local Control” should be thankful to the businesses. With the County, you’ll have little of that.


Poor George, so misunderstood. Arrogantly Parks in red zones without fear of local police, who continuously turned a blind eye to his long special parking privileges. Living / lived in an illegal apartment, breaking the law. Always the most outspoken when denying the long standing good ole boys club that he is a charter member of. So thankful that Mayor Irons has begun to clean up the cancerous staff alliances that have guarded and assisted in “alleged” corruption that has plagued The city for years. George, have no doubt. I will never mistake you for the Good Guy.


These clowns should fix the streets before they spend done with my cent on B S like this. Potholes and cracks that are dangerous, some streets look like 3rd world roads. Something is really wrong with this.


Roads aren’t once-in-a-lifetime things.


To be fair to the Public Services people, they did quite a lot of work on the streets in the last few months, but there was a huge backlog of work to be done.

That said, I agree with your general principle. I would prefer an inexpensive, low-key celebration of the 50th anniversary so that our tax money can be used for more important things.

I still suspect that some of the people involved in putting the celebration together are most interested in events to attract tourists to spend money in their businesses – not events that would be fun for all the residents.

An old-fashioned community picnic and parade – the kind with parents pulling their kids in wagons, the high school marching band, and an antique fire truck – would have made me happy.


There’s gotta be some GAFCO cook reading this going “I wish I worked for The Galley.”

fishing village

200 x $50, is $10,000!! That may not seem like a lot of money to the committee, but it is a lot of money to me. I’d like to know where it went.

fishing village

Who collected the ticket money? $50 and $100 bills, was it deposited? Were the ‘bills’ paid in cash, distributed how, was there a deposit made? Does anyone else wonder?


Yes, there was a very good Director of Tourism that the TBID just raked over the coals with those kinds of questions and now we’ve lost her. Maybe Solu will have those numbers ready at her next TBID meeting and the members can all have an emotional orgy over them like they do every meeting.

fishing village

yes, I never understood that. What was reported on TV was something about the money , checks, that the City didn’t deposit in the account? Did anyone understand it?


What are you talking about? I understand that their crass attitudes and bully-antics (cough**Solus***cough) were the reason the Director walked away… after a year of dramatic changes across the board in tourism revenue (smart one guys!).

What is this about money?


You should have that cough looked at, BullyHater. I feel like I’m coming down with one too (cough**Biaggini**cough).


You mean the next Director of Tourism (if cough**Solus**cough still have any sway)? Maybe it’s this cold going around?


OK… brass tax time, who is running the Morro Bay 50th? Is it a board? Who is on the board? Their website doesn’t have a single name on it for who’s in charge. This entire thing reeks of the Morro Bay “Same-old-same-old”, so, who are they? Solus? Carla Wixom? Pierce… Eckles… Fennecy… Nancy & Gary Johnson… Reddell… Glessman???

If our city is handing over $15k then I want to know who’s cashing that check.


I agree with you, Bullyhater. I hope the Council can go back and add some “strings” to the $15,000 of our tax money that was turned over to the 50th anniversary celebration people.

I would have preferred that the Council require very detailed justification for the request for funds, including a budget indicating just exactly how the money would be spent. When you have a budget, you have something to track against to make sure the money is being spent properly.

Goodness knows there are other things that money could have been spent for that might have been much more beneficial to the average resident. Fancy dinners and events are not going to have much, if any lasting value for most of us.


That’s a pretty elite list you’ve got there, BullyHater. I don’t know who scares me most – Solu o r Garry Johnson – but that’s besides the point. More importantly, have you noticed how short Jeff Eckles’ moments of silence are at the beginning of his Harbor Advisory Board meetings? It’s barely enough time to find your higher power or locate your center or chakra or aura or any of those things. I don’t like it and consider it a slap in the face to all non-Christians in Morro Bay. I think maybe Eckles and fellow Christians are getting together before the meeting, praying, and conspiring to cut everyone else’s moment of silence short.


I think it’s funny that we think Joan Solu or Garry Johnson are scary… when it’s obviously John Solu and Nancy Johnson calling the shots from behind the scenes. It will be so nice when Nancy is no longer part of the Council and the Solus are banished from this town (how in the hell did they get so much power?!?!?!)

As for moments of silence… let’s take one now in memory of all the founders of this wonderful community and how they must be raging from beyond the grave over what their decedents are doing to their beautiful town.

Now let’s take another moment to stick our tongues and and repeat neener-neener-neener at the old regime because their time is up… finally. Their temper tantrums will be heard no more, and their lame-o award ceremonies dressed up in the facade of good are done. If there is a family/kid friendly event… I will take my family and celebrate this beautiful town, but I REFUSE to fall trap to their ruse again. Bleck!!!


Don’t forget “Biaggini” – a quiet but very powerful voice in the Waterfront Greed Scene.


Some people don’t consider anything without first considering their possible financial gain. That’s fine, but when it starts getting a little hot in the kitchen and they get questioned about the details, they tend to start crying “nobody loves me” and threaten to take their ball and go home.

I will say though that the Shredder’s piece on this was garbage, as most of them are. The NT’s article about this was pretty good but a few pages later, the Shredder, trying to be edgy again and not knowing how to do that, took cheap shot after cheap shot on Johnson and Leage over the one thing nothing of us can do anything about – age – some real lazy, juvenile writing. Someone needs take that idiot’s pen away.


If Mr. Leage has nothing to hide and feels like he is being “crushed”, why would he answer the question posed to him by New Times reporter the way he did? After all it wasn’t CCN hounding him on the subject, as he, as well as others mistakenly believe that they are out to “get” him.

When asked to divulge his total losses, Leage said, “I don’t want to look like a good guy here, and that’s what it’s going to look like.”

By making a statement such as this, he only exacerbated the topic, just present the proof, get credit and move on, end of story. The only reason it wouldn’t be the end of the story would be; why wasn’t there other local restaurants sought out to assist/donate to this “Once in a LIFETIME event”. Seems to me if you’re celebrating Morro Bay’s 50th Birthday as a community, you would engage community businesses for their support. After all there was a “50th Anniversary Celebration Committee” established for the event.

The other question I would have is that if I intended on catering an event with Prime Rib, Lobster and Duck and only expect to see $15 per plate paid to me, I would know straight away that I’m going to be losing money long before the event occurred. Was the loss he knew his business was going to suffer, his way of donating back to the city? Or was it a trade off for the free advertisement for his business (as the ONLY food caterer) in support of this event.

If his business suffered a loss, and it may well have for all we/I know, he can show said loss when filing his taxes.

As with all public figures, transparency is synonymous to ones integrity.