Oceano board members use Brown Act as toilet paper
February 6, 2015
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
As he has for the last several years, Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) Past President Matthew Guerrero serves as the OCSD representative to the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District (SSLOCSD) in violation of code.
It was reported in an interview on the Dave Congalton Show with former Grover Beach Mayor and SSLOCSD board member Debbie Peterson that Guerrero struck a deal with then OCSD Vice President Mary Lucey that he would support her as president of the OCSD if she let him stay on the SSLOCSD Board. At the Jan. 14 OCSD meeting, Lucey was elected by her peers to the OCSD president seat. Section 4730 of the Health and Safety Code requires the “presiding officer” from the participating agencies serve on the sanitation board.
Thwarting the law, Oceano CSD’s General Manager Paavo Ogren and District Legal Counsel Jeff Minnery concocted a scheme in which Lucey would be appointed the SSLOCSD board as the OCSD representative, but Guerrero would actually serve on the SSLOCSD board under the guise of being Lucey’s “alternate.”
Minnery cautioned Lucey that she should not attend SSLOCSD meetings, or she would be expected to sit at the dais and represent Oceano. In fact, the OCSD bylaws expressly state, “An alternate member may be assigned by the board in advance for those meetings where a regular member is unable to attend.”
Yet, Lucey continues to attend SSLOCSD meetings. She has gone to the podium and stated her sexual preference, but hasn’t made it clear if she’s speaking as the OCSD board president or as Maryjane Q. Public in her attempts to influence the board. Clearly, neither Minnery nor SSLOCSD Legal Counsel Michael Seitz is policing the situation, nor enforcing the Health and Safety Code or the OCSD bylaw.
Both Lucey and newly elected OCSD Vice President Karen White attended Wednesday night’s meeting of SSLOCSD; their presence along with Guerrero constituted a quorum of the OCSD board.
The three OCSD board members in attendance at this meeting where interests of the district they serve were discussed was a recipe for a Brown Act violation. Lucey and White sat close enough to whisper to each other throughout the meeting and both directors took notes and made gestures that were participatory in the proceedings.
Also, while in the audience Lucey passed notes to a girlfriend seated near her. The two women went outside for a time, came back and when the friend went to the podium to speak and she referred to the notes she had collected during the meeting. This too is a violation of the Brown Act. The string of incongruent words read aloud was a dead giveaway as to whose thoughts were actually being spoken — classic Mary Lucey.
When White stepped to the podium; she failed to disclose whether or not her comments were her own or if she was speaking on behalf of the OCSD board. Her speech attempted to dissuade the SSLOCSD board from proceeding on the previously approved vote to perform a forensic audit.
Curiously, White is a resident of Halcyon whose waste is treated by a septic system and her home is served by an onsite well; she is not a ratepayer of either OCSD or SSLOCSD, so perhaps she was speaking on behalf of the OCSD?
What’s more interesting and perhaps most concerning, is the recent change in position Lucey has made since hiring Ogren at the OCSD.
Ogren, who has a long standing relationship with former SSLOCSD Administrator, John Wallace, was seen sitting with Wallace at a County Board of Supervisors meeting for a groundwater management item. The two men were friendly throughout the item and left the meeting early together. It would not surprise me one bit if Ogren has coached Lucey into backing down from her longstanding position roasting Wallace at every opportunity.