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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fishing village

Maybe he got sick of Los Osos.!!


NorthCountyDude

Oceano needs to consolidate or incorporate. Either way, this town needs a planning department, elected city council members, and police. Perhaps AG would be interested in consolidating with Oceano. AG can have it’s own beach finally and Oceano will get services needed to rebuild the nice ocean community it should be. It’s time to redevelop the Oceano airport into a hotel and a retail center.


falconbh

Great idea ! You have my vote and many others in Oceano.


falconbh

Arroyo Grande consolidation , will help both areas.


Julie

And Steve Adams could manage it all for the same low price of $136,000 annual salary.


Julie

Or Paavo could manage it all adding Steve’s salary to his, for a cool $332K


falconbh

Two Questions:


1. How do you formalize request to consolidate ?


2. We live on the border with AG. Can our community area request the change for just our area.


To be perefectly honest our community development wants out of Oceano. Just upset with waste, rate increases that were wasted and now way excessive compensation.This just not me speaking we have a whole development that feels betrayed and not represented.


veritas

I was unable to attend last night’s meeting, so I’m listening to last night’s meeting. Thanks for the link, Julie.

Listening to the recording, I can’t believe how many times that President Guerrero had to stop the proceedings to have you keep quiet.

I have it on good authority that you and Jeff were being very rude at the meeting, speaking in the background, trying to overwhelm people who were at the mic. Who do you think you are? What gives you the right to infringe on someone else’s right to speak?

I’m also told that you brought your child to this meeting…Wow! That is a sad commentary…There are things to expose your children to in the name of education, but there are other times when children should not be present. I’m embarrassed for you, and I feel badly for your child.

There is such a thing as civil discourse, but you and Jeff refuse to participate in that…You seem to know better than anyone else and you feel the need to talk down to them.

As the old saying goes, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”…You both are spewing vinegar and it’s a shame, because, with a tiny amount of decorum and tact, you just may be able to sway some people to your side. In your current mode of operation, you look like spoiled children being refused your cookie and are kicking and screaming on the floor in a toddleresque fit. Grow up, please…I think you may have some things to offer, but until you change your tact, it’s all just noise and whining. You set a horrible example for civil discourse and, more importantly, for your poor child whom you drag to these meetings. Children of that age should be at home, in bed at the hour of this meeting, not watching Mommy and Daddy in hysterics. Shame on you…It’s a new low, even for you.


Julie

Hey thanks for your concern about our son “veritas.” While it’s absolutely none of your business, he was watching Spiderman on his DVD player and eating healthy snacks in the back of the room. We were home by 9:10pm. This child has been to many meetings since he was just 10 days old, this is part of what our family does and it’s really none of your concern. Some families take their young children to WWF wrestling matches and Huckfest; which we would not do. Local government meetings are pretty tame by comparison and our 6-year old son (as well as our older children) has a grasp on democracy because of his experience. This little boy knows Paavo (they go way back), has a long history with him and they are on a first name basis.


Mr. Guerrero enjoys calling me out for others outbursts, but I will admit calling from the audience when mics are off, Board member voices are too low and glaring misstatements are made by anyone on the Board. One such example was a few meetings back when Mary suggested the “CHP” was necessary for a permit to clear the creek. She meant “HCP” and actually thanked me for correcting her from the audience. If you weren’t there, the only context you have is from watching the replay.


I’m guessing from your comment the other day that the outcome didn’t go your way. Jennifer Blackburn is the shining star for the people of Oceano, strengthening some of the contracts language and pushing for more. Recognizing that any so called savings had by combining the two jobs are lost by year 2 of the contract, no one else paid attention to the details. The rest of the board is starstruck and says things like, “Let him figure out how to pay for himself.” Now that’s excellent leadership! (Sarcasm intended).


Moderator

Anonymous attack deleted.


If your only reason to comment is to attack another, then don’t.


? or ! moderator@calcoastnews.com


kettle

veritas says: “I have it on good authority” “Who do you think you are?” “You both are spewing”


“President Guerrero” LOL you mean the same on who is participating with the “shut down CCN” crowd on facebook etc? No he would never treat Julie unfairly because of who she is, would he?


“example for civil discourse and, more importantly, for your poor child” An example, like yours?


Shame on you veritas…It’s a new low, even for you, all personal attack, not a single fact or actual CSD issue. Just a anonymous multi prong personal attack, fact free spew indeed.


wolfhound

Why oh why is he leaving his SLO County job to go to a risky near bankrupt dysfunctional CSD? It just doesn’t make any sense.


Where will the rest of the story come out?


falconbh

” Have The Courage To Say NO


Have The Courage To Face The TRUTH


Do The Right Thing Because It Is RIGHT ”


– W. Clement Stone


veritas

For those of you without the desire or iron gut required to read yet another diatribe from Ms. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do”, let me take a little artistic license hear and paraphrase this article. It is LIKELY that, if given a truth serum, Ms. Tacker would write something like this:


I want to be the OCSD GM for the good of the community I so dearly love (from afar…in Los Osos) oh, and also there’s a SLIIIIIIGHT possibility that my partner Jeff Edwards would benefit greatly from development of the Oceano Airport. Regardless, conflicts of interest are for OTHERS, not for me. Anyway, back to what I was saying…I want this position and will do all that I can to shout down, obstruct, inundate with Public Records requests and public policy/Brown Act violations until either I get this position OR the OCSD folds.


Julie, with your only CSD-related experience being a complete failure in Los Osos, PLEASE leave us alone…You are not wanted, respected, appreciated or welcome.


I, for one, think that the combination of the incredible experience in two very relevant fields, both Public Works and Accounting related, Paavo is an ideal hire. Yes, his salary is too high for starters and I agree with Mitch C’s ideas for an incentive based contract, BUT I think in the long run, given the opportunity to complete the four year contract, OCSD will be better off in 4 years than they have been for the last 5-6.


Lastly, given his experience with Los Osos and SLO PW, Paavo has seen the very worst that Jeff and Julie can offer and can handle them with aplomb. Bottom line, Julie is upset because A.) She didn’t get the job and B.) They’re hiring someone that she will be unable to obstruct/bully until they leave.


Go away now, please…


kayaknut

Regardless of one’s opinion of Ms. Tacker and Mr. Edwards, and we certainly understand how you feel about them, to pay Mr. Orgen $196,000 is way out of line no matter his experience. The job should pay a certain amount or range, the max likely to be no more $126,000, and if you feel you have to much experience for the job don’t apply or take what the job pays. Perhaps in a few years, and after you have don’t an exceptional job, you might receive a reasonable raise.


kayaknut

“have done” it should be, darn no editing allowed


SloHeadInTheSand

Please don’t freak out where these telephone numbers came from.


They are directly copied and pasted from SLO Counties own website.


http://oceanocsd.org/main/?page_id=33


I am sure they can’t wait to hear from those that are footing the bills!


Oceano CSD Board of Directors


Matthew Guerrero, President 805-473-9264


Mary Lucey, Vice President 805-474-4685/805-704-1812


Lori Angello, Director 805-489-9766


Karen White, Director 805-489-2245


Jennifer Blackburn, Director 805-377-3585


falconbh

This $ 196,000 question impacts all our communities and pocketbooks. It is not just a problem that is isolated to Oceano.


When you have 70-80% or more of budgets made up with excessive salaries, early pensions, and four star health, dental, life, insurance plans, you have little left to provide services to those paying taxes.We all have a civic, ethical and moral stake in rebalancing budgets and reducing the tax burden on residents.


We do have a crisis in local government. It is not a crisis of not having enough resources, it is a crisis in failed leadership across the county and state which will not address the core issue of excessive compensation and early retirement benefits levels in our budgets.


More local sales tax extensions, pension bond bailouts, sanitation tax increases, water rate increases, road taxes, fire taxes, police taxes, college building taxes, and visitor taxes will not eliminate this structural problem. We need elected represenatives to be more fiscally responsible in these difficult economic times in our country.


I hope the Oceano Community Services Directors ,Ask themselves just ” One Question”

If they placed this $ 196,000 + Benefits Contract On The Ballot

Will Voters Vote yes Or NO on this contract ?


When you truthfully answer this question, then you know exactly what you need to do on Wednesday Night.


itneverends

I, respectfully, don’t think this question is valid. Each individual voter in Oceano can not be expected to understand all of the technical, legal and financial issues of the District and whether paying this amount of compensation to this unique individual is warranted to solve the district’s many problems and effectively provide the services for which it is charged. That is the job of directors–to act on behalf of the individuals.


I believe that small special districts such as OCSD should be under the County umbrella, where the cost of expertise and other resources can be leveraged to benefit numerous special districts. OCSD should not have gone independent in the 1980″s when it did.


falconbh

You are absolutely correct in theory. I respect and appreciate your helpful comments.


Unfortunately, the OCSD Directors do not uderstand the technical, legal, and financial issues of the District. Some nice people that are just way in over their heads.


I trust my fellow community members in Oceano on this $ 196,000 + Benefits Contract.


Register- Run For Director- Vote


kayaknut

Another big case of pension spiking and as much as the powers to be decry the practice and call for change they continue to play the game, why?, maybe because one day they will get their chance to spike their pension or a friends and family members. Why worry it’s not their money, and they can always call for a new tax increase on like SLO city claim they need to continue Measure Y