Why would Paavo Ogren leave SLO County?

May 10, 2014
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker

OPINION By JULIE TACKER

Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) is set to hire Paavo Ogren as its general manager this Wednesday night. Ogren has experience managing a community services district, but fails to mention it in his resume.

He worked as interim general manager for the fledgling Los Osos Community Services District (LOCSD) for eleven months in 1999. He assisted the LOCSD board in hiring their longest serving General Manger, Bruce Buel. Ogren likely chose to skip his stint as the LOCSD manager because in a sworn statement Buel admits Ogren directed Buel to back-date a contract that ultimately landed the district in court and was integral to the district ultimately filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

In 2011 a tryst between, County Public Works Director Ogren and sitting LOCSD Director, Maria Kelly, became public knowledge. From the couples cell phone records and minutes from LOCSD board closed sessions, it appears Ogren was advising Kelly regarding decisions she was making as a board member.

Ogren is a bean-counter, a former CPA; what Ogren will quickly find is that the OCSD is flat broke. The only way to afford his exorbitant salary is to raise rates and/or sell Oceano’s most valuable asset – its water. Earlier this fiscal year the OCSD borrowed more than $850,000 to fund its water department from other district funds, depleting its reserves.

The water fund continues to run at a deficit. Plagued by mismanagement and books in disarray, the OCSD has been an easy target for opportunists with little to no government experience. OCSD has been the place where careers crash and burn. Ogren has considerable governmental experience, making one wonder why he is leaving the prestigious county public works director position.

The news of Ogren’s hire comes as a surprise to this OCSD board watcher. The OCSD last met in closed session on April 23rd and there was “no reportable action” taken. Somehow direction was given to legal counsel to negotiate and draft a contract. A tremendous amount of work went into finagling the formula in which to pay this kind of salary. How was this direction given by a majority of the board if there was no reportable action on the 23rd? The result smells of the all-to-often Brown Act violating practices that OCSD board members believe they are immune from.
Ogren’s $1 million, four-year contract exceeds his current county package by 2.5 percent, so the staff report states. This salary is roughly ten times that of the average Oceano resident. Ogren will likely be out of touch with its citizens. The contract has no probationary period and contains a one-year, $196,000 severance, which binds the next board to Ogren for the contract’s duration. Should a new board want to go a different direction, the contract requires the payment of severance in a one lump sum which could be the fatal blow to the districts solvency.

District legal counsel, Jeff Minnery, the contract attorney from Adamamski, Moroski, Madden, Cumberland & Green, calculates Ogren’s employment package by combining the inflated salaries previously paid to GM’s Tom Geaslen and Lonnie Curtis and the OCSD district accountant – a position that was never approved by the board.

Quietly hired by Geaslen, the district accountant worked just 30 hours a week until she left earlier this year when publicly humiliated by Vice President Mary Lusey. Legal counsel extrapolates the accountant’s salary, at full time and at its highest step to be $65,000 annually, an amount that was never budgeted for or intended to be paid.

For the district to combine these positions, a new job description for the GM must be developed with public review and board approval prior to the hire of Ogren. It’s called “transparency”, something quite foreign to OCSD.

“There’s not any reason why I’m seeking to leave the county,” Ogren told the Tribune. “It’s a lot of good reasons to go work for Oceano.”

Ogren is leaving the county when the $183 million Los Osos Waste Water Project is mid-way through construction; already $10 million over budget and $15 to $20 million in lawsuits and claims for damages are lining up. He masterminded the Paso Robles Ground Water District that is already embroiled in litigation. As these projects become more complicated and controversial due to rising legal costs, perhaps now is a good time for Ogren to jump ship. Deflecting blow-back from Board of Supervisor’s Chair Bruce Gibson, it is likely Ogren is being asked to leave, making him the scapegoat when the sewage hits the fan.

In Oceano, Ogren’s work as public works director at the county has been unsuccessful at getting a Habitat Conservation Plan in place for the Arroyo Grande Creek. Over a decade has passed, millions of dollars spent, with nothing to show for it. In 2010, his county crews failed to open the Sand Canyon flap gates on Meadow Creek and the “perfect storm” flooded the sewer plant and island neighborhood with 300,000 gallons of untreated sewage, triggering a $1.1 million fine from the water woard that is yet to be paid.

Ogren is as a former employee of the Wallace Group. It did not go unnoticed that the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, under the leadership of John Wallace, failed to hold the county responsible for flood-waters rising and pouring off the county owned airport contributing to the cause of the massive sewage spill.

Ogren’s departure from the county is welcomed. His arrival in Oceano will likely bankrupt the community services district and he needs just four years to do it. The board is foolish to fall for Ogren’s puffed up resume and overinflated price. The board can expect collateral damage to be left in his wake, similar to the last two GM’s. However, this may be the final blow to a district that will be left only with the possibilities of bankruptcy or dissolution.


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falconbh

The real question is should the Oceano Community Services District pay $ 196,000 + Benefits to any General Manager, when they have so many structural financial problems and debt ?


I also have a real chain of command problem when the General Manager is also directly handling the books. It just opens the door for more fiscal mismanagement when internal checks and balances are lost.Mr Geaslen, was removed for stealing ratepayers money and past audits have never been fully resolved.


In this structure the OCSD Directors or any board, will not have any idea of the level of the financial problems until it is way too late.


Local residents did not support the last FCFA Tax Increase and I do not believe we support this kind of excessive spending. Our elected directors seem to be in a state of denial and isolation to their own community, the people that live here, and their financial responsibilites as elected represenatives of the people.


hijinks2

Julie,


Great piece. You forgot a few significant factors: Pavlo’s sex scandal with a Board Member, the Naci-Pipeline or that is the pipeline to a mud-hole, and the total mismanagement of county personnel under his leadership.


judith

right on, Lynette!


miles archer

“In 2011 a tryst between, County Public Works Director Ogren and sitting LOCSD Director, Maria Kelly, became public knowledge. From the couples cell phone records and minutes from LOCSD board closed sessions, it appears Ogren was advising Kelly regarding decisions she was making as a board member.”


Hmmmm….”it appears”…obviously you missed the story here at CCN:


http://calcoastnews.com/2011/10/slo-county-finds-no-conflict-of-interest-with-ogren%E2%80%99s-relationship/


Julie

And you trust the County to investigate itself? Just as was done with Gibson/Aispuro.


Pelican1

You nailed it!


Pelican1

Perhaps we should talk Eucalyptus trees and how one determines whether it is considered ESHA or not.


Pelican1

Los Osos trusted YOU…and look what they got, enforcement actions, fines, loan defaults, grant refusals, bankruptcy, maleficence, and NO sewer.

So…do we trust YOU, or the county…kind of like picking the cream of the crap.


kayaknut

But were Tacker and Edwards collecting from the taxpayers?


miles archer

As far as this piece of fiction (that’s why it is in the opinion section)…Ms. Tacker offers too many red flags: “…it appears”, “…it is likely”…nope, not buying a glance into her crystal ball.


Not interested in CCN helping to promote her personal ax-grinding against Ogren either…unless of course, she is actually campaigning for something other than her personal agenda.


Judging by her own past, the folks in Oceano would be better served by someone who offers input (from Oceano residents) that is not clouded by a personal vendetta.


Until then, this will go along with her previous offerings…directly to the bottom of my birdcage.


info

Agree. TOTAL FAIL


Julie

Miles, you don’t have to read or agree with what I write. Do you believe that Oceano can afford $196,000 + benefits for Ogren without raising rates or selling water? Good luck with that.


miles archer

You dodged my point(s) Julie, but that’s okay.


Easier to dodge than to address I suppose!


kettle

Especially easy to dodge if your commenting anonymously.


Easier to hide than put your name to your “opinion”.


Julie

Are you suggesting that using phrases such as “…it appears”, “…it is likely” is something I should apologize for? My opinions are based on years of study and participation.

You study their financials and get back to me.

I guess I could have speculated that the district would win the lottery or Santa Clause will bring bags of money, but that really would be fiction.


Pelican1

Wait a minute, back up the sewer truck. You cost Los Osos over $6,000,000.00. His salary doesn’t hold a candle to that.


falconbh

The Mary Lucey,White,Guerrero Cartel continue to drive the small Oceano Community Services District into financial and moral bankruptcy.Most of us in Oceano are in shock and awe over this latest irrational fiscal bomb shell.


Again, we see Excessive Compensation Packages, promises that we cannot keep ,as the center piece in this problem that we find not only in Oceano, but all across local government on the Central Coast.


When you carefully review his professional history and personal legal problems, one has to wonder did anyone do a background check on this individual? He brings a lot of baggage with him to Oceano.


Next we plant the seeds for our next fiscal crisis; Water Rate Increases, Sanitation Tax Bailout, Local Sales Taxes, Road Taxes, Building Taxes, and the list only grows and grows with fees for everything. This plays like a “old B movie” from Paso Robles, to Los Osos and then to Oceano. Old story, same costly ending!


We need to re-balance local budgets; eliminate some programs, reduce excessive compensation levels, and make those funds available for water, sewer,infrastructure,and safety programs..


As a Independent Voter, I plan on Voting Against all Incumbents In November who Support Excessive Compensation packages and Tax/Rate Increases Without A Democratic Vote.


Julie

Sadly Falconbh, as I pointed out in the opinion piece, the severance package binds future boards to Ogren. There is no way to fire him unless his commits an egregious offense without ponying up $196,000, plus any unpaid leave. This clause in the contract is devastating.


Pelican1

And here it starts…just as expected.


SuperDave

He went to them, named his own price, and they gave it to him? To be paid more than in SLO to watch over just six employees shows just how bad things have gotten over there. It seems this sewer flows both ways.


Lynette_Tornatzky

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!! What a pile of horse pucky!! And all this from someone who bankrupted a community and then applied to be the GM of Oceano herself!! What gall to write this speculative, inaccurate, ridiculous stuff!! However, Julie knows well about Brown Act violations, having committed them herself.


kayaknut

No more gall than having the taxpayers pay for your mistress.


SLOBIRD

Lynette, can you be honest and tell us about the role Marie Kelly played in the Los Osos sewer mess as the mistress with Paavo. Please, be honest about the whole story, not just the parts that suit you. Honesty is a virtue, something Gibson, Paavo, Hill, Kelly, Aspiruo, etc don’t demonstrate and yet you continually defend and support these people with one single word of misdeeds. At least you are loyal, no matter the sins of your friends.


MaryMalone

Oh, for heaven’s sake.


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