EXCLUSIVE: Former sanitation plant manager tied to racially charged emails

March 30, 2015

Computer trollBy KAREN VELIE

More than a dozen emails laced with racial epithets and allegations of wrongdoing have been sent to the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District over the past six months from an IP address belonging to a supervisor at the California Men’s Colony sanitation plant.

Jeff Appleton, a former chief plant operator at the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, is linked to the 24 emails that primarily focus on his replacement at the Oceano sanitation plant. Chief Plant Operator John Clemons is African American.

The racially charged emails include false claims that Clemons spent more than a decade in federal prison.

“I think the emails are repugnant, absolutely unacceptable and threatening to our employees,” said Jim Hill, Arroyo Grande mayor and district board president. “As a member of the board, I take this very seriously. That is why I reported it to the police to have them follow up on it.”

The emails were sent to Clemons, his superiors, members of the sanitation district board and the state water board. The emails question Clemons’ character, his past and make claims of illegal activity at the plant in what appears to be an attempt to discredit Clemons personally and professionally.

Jeff Appleton did not respond to two email requests for comment. His wife Casandra Appleton said she had no knowledge or responsibility for the emails.

Here are portions of three particularly egregious emails that claim to be sent by the Vine or Trinity Neo of the South County Advisory Group from an IP address linked to Appleton:

(Editor’s note: Although some of the language has been sanitized, the tone will be upsetting to some.)

• So I introduced Sharon to Shoals wife. seems like they’re gonna have a LOT to talk about. Your wife really is the sweetest person and you’re just a big stinky turd for treating her this way. you should be ashamed, but thugs like you have no shame. looks like your livin large in the hood. how’s cleveland? ever think about moving back there? p.s. i really don’t think Shoals is gonna let you be his yard b**** after this.

• You suck, just like the Raiders. Blow Me. I heard that 75% of ex-cons are fags, and the other 25% are liars.

• Hey b****, what’s up? If you want to get respect from your staff you shouldn’t treat us like nig*** b**** ho’s. I hope somebody rams you in the a** like you used to get rammed in the a**. Aunt jemima c*** s****** p****.

The sanitation district, which serves the residents of the Oceano Community Service District, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach, is governed by a three-person board consisting of one representative from each community.

In 2009, while Appleton was still chief plant operator, sanitation district lab technician Devina Douglas and shift supervisor Scott Mascolo began sending letters to the district and community board and council members that reported their suspicions about misuse of public funds and problems with the plant’s compliance with safety and health requirements.

Both Mascolo and Douglas said they first took their concerns to Appleton and then plant administrator John Wallace. Later, Douglas and Mascolo reported the environmental abuses to local and state water authorities.

After a lengthy investigation, the State Water Resource Control Board determined that Appleton operated the plant “using fraud and deception,” according to a letter of proposed disciplinary action against Appleton. The state proposed that Appleton’s plant operator certificate be downgraded, which would have made him ineligible to manage the plant.

In 2013, Wallace retired from the plant and Appleton went to work as a water and sewage plant supervisor at CMC.

On May 1, 2013, John Clemons became the chief plant operator. Within a month of his hire, several anonymous tips claiming misreporting of chemical levels were sent to the state water board. The state investigated the allegations and determined they were unfounded.

Less than a year after Clemons went to work at the district, the plant was operating cleaner at less than 50 percent the cost, according to financial reports obtained from the district.

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61 Comments

  1. Snoid says:

    Plenty of questions remain around who backed who in this mess. Documentation exists
    where Seitz tells Appleton he is on his own with regards to defending himself for his illegal
    activities at the sewer plant, later this changes to they will provide indemnity for Appleton,
    so which is it? Common sense would indicate Wallace made a deal with Appleton possibly
    and tings went sour. There are also documents that exist warning Wallace that Appleton utilized
    work computers for unethical,racist and very questionable website viewing, yet Wallace
    refused to pull hard drives and investigate. With regards to his wife, its two peas in a pot,
    tattoo laden, head banging, death metal freaks, I surely would not want my kids being
    exposed to this as their home, as she was or is a licensed day care provider now working as
    a teacher at so called quality faith based private school.

    (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
  2. ajdury says:

    How ’bout that. Oceano Community Services District Board President Mary Lucey has now labeled all the involved and concerned citizens ‘racist by association’ and has called for our appointed oversight group to be investigated.

    People like Brad Snook, Beatrice Spencer, former Mayor Debbie Peterson, Mark London, Andrea Vergne (a woman who holds an appointment bestowed by the Governor, regarding special-needs children!).

    Another action to deflect focus from the issue at hand. Isn’t that something.

    Sadly, it’s the norm for the OCSD and the SSLOCSD.

    (8) 22 Total Votes - 15 up - 7 down
    • bigdaddy says:

      Was Cassandra Appleton on the oversight committee in the beginning? Wasnt she at every meeting sitting with all of the audience sharing all her files? Isnt she the one who was providing all the info or most of it to the group. Now that the news is out i understand why you want to distance. I know the people listed do not agree with the emails. No decent human being would want to be associated with that. So Mary Lucey goes to the meeting knowing the history and points it out. Now all of you are furious with her. Trying to deflect? I think not. Just trying to get to the bottom of it. Isn’t that what you demand? Transparency and open disclosure? It goes both ways. Please practice what you preach.

      (-8) 20 Total Votes - 6 up - 14 down
      • Julie says:

        bigdaddy,
        Before you flinging out a bunch of questions you can’t answer.
        Simply do a little homework.

        Casandra Appleton volunteered to be on the SSLOCSD RFP committee, period.
        The board did not chose her to be on any committee because of her longstanding relationship to Wallace.
        See the March 18 staff report and minutes posted the following meeting.

        I didn’t surely see her at “every meeting.” She has attended only a handful of SSLOCSD meetings (meeting minutes will reflect her comments and attendance) over the last few months. She had no “files” that I am aware of.

        Mary Lucey did not point out any “history” at the end of this past Wednesday’s meeting, she asserted the people who had been chosen for the RFP committee were associated with the South County Oversight Group, which according to this article appears to be a “group” of Appleton’s.
        Lucey threw in everything but the kitchen sink, suggesting failed projects well outside the SSLOCSD purview, i.e. Los Osos (which is on track to take sewage next year) and Oceano Farmers’ Market (which is on track for a spring harvest).
        Where dose she get her info? And how does it tie to some very unfortunate emails sent by Appleton/s?
        Answer: She makes stuff up.
        Lucey suggested “other” projects had been stopped by members of the RFP committee, all nonsense.

        The audio tape is available on the SSLOCSD website, if you’re going to defend Ms. Lucey, you probably should listen to what was said before you stick your neck out so far.
        Outrageous!

        (8) 20 Total Votes - 14 up - 6 down
        • bigdaddy says:

          Don’t people ask questions because they don’t have the answer? I am saying that there are people out there that can dish it out but go ballistic when it is on them. You want transparacy but don’t want to give out names of the members of a group asking for public records. Practice what you preach. And thanks for answering my questions.

          (-4) 20 Total Votes - 8 up - 12 down
          • Julie says:

            bigdaddy,

            This statement puzzles me, “You want transparency but don’t want to give out names of the members of a group asking for public records.”
            The Freedom of Information Act (Federal law)and the California Public Records Act (CA law) allow for members of the public to access information anonymously.
            If names were given, those names do become part of the public record and anyone can ask for them.
            Who is asking for what? Who is preventing them from getting their answers?
            I do practice what I preach and suggest you ask for the public records requests of those who requested whatever it is you’re looking for.

            BTW, when I heard Mary Lucey outright slander the good people who have volunteered to serve on a citizen committee to review the driest of proposals from consultants
            interested in going over 12 years of district records (those that weren’t purged or gutted by Wallace), you bet I went ballistic.
            If you understood what it took to get to the openness that SSLOCSD has come to you would be ballistic to think someone in the position
            Mary is would diminish the importance of this form of transparency.

            (7) 17 Total Votes - 12 up - 5 down
        • analyticone says:

          Audio can be heard at http://sslocsd.org/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=184

          Go to April 1, 2015 Audio
          7 minutes and 22 minutes in for Matt Guerrero

          Go to April 1, 2015 Audio Part 2
          44 minutes in for Mary Lucey

          (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
      • ajdury says:

        Mary, I can only speak for me. Thre was no formal committee until the SSLOCSD created one, so no, Cassandra was not ‘on the oversight committee in the beginning’.

        You were at the meeting when it was created and you even spoke at the podium on who you would like to have chosen. The very folks you now call ‘racist by association’.

        I’ve never has any sort of meeting nor been privy to one whit “of her files”. I go to meetings, I listen to meetings I cannot attend, I read news articles, I go on plant tours and learn from the staff. That’s how I make informed decisions. Again, only speaking for myself.

        You’ve called into question the moral compass of nine involved community members. You have, as well as Matt Guerrero, once again, been a reason the SSLOCSD proves over and over that they shun public involvement and transparency.

        But this time you’ve REALLY stepped in it by creating the lie that the nine of us are “being investigated”. While those of us that have witnessed your declining mental spiral via the OCSD are, sadly, not surprised by your latest personal attack, you’ve now exposed your true nature to a whole other town’s good citizens.

        For the record, both Paavo Ogren and Chief Copsey have stated THERE IS NO INVESTIGATON of any member named to the oversight committee. I’m sure Chief Annibali will be stating the same, once he has the time to deal with this frivolous BS you created.

        Please try and contain your world of crazy within the 93445 boundary.

        (6) 18 Total Votes - 12 up - 6 down
        • bigdaddy says:

          Wow. You sure get fired up when you presume you are on receiving end. If I heard correctly she asked who was on committee. Did not name the names. I will repeat again. You can dish it out but you cannot take it. We will gladly keep our crazy in the 93445 as long as you keep your mean spirited nasty in the 93420.

          (-1) 15 Total Votes - 7 up - 8 down
          • Julie says:

            bigdaddy,

            Mary Lucey asked the names of who was on the South County Oversight Group, that list doesn’t exist.
            If she had read the article above she would have seen that the “group” sending hate-filled emails is just one
            IP address.

            That means the emails coming from that single computer, never mind the email address, are one in the same.
            So, if one computer is sending from different email addresses that can be identified. As it turns out, the only IP address involved is one that belongs to both Appleton’s.
            As for who is on the SSLOCSD RFP committee, that list is public record, as explained this morning, all the people who volunteered were identified in the staff report.
            The ones that were chosen are in the minutes from that meeting.

            What Mary Lucey did, as President of the Oceano Community Services District Board, and Matt Guerrero eluded to,
            was tying the Appleton’s to the members of RFP committee, which is a complete fabrication.
            What it looks like is an attempt to stop the RFP committee from commencing work on the proposals for the forensic audit.

            This is their way of protecting Wallace.

            (7) 19 Total Votes - 13 up - 6 down
      • analyticone says:

        Elected officials are held to a higher standard.

        Communicating false information about constituents from the dais or under color of office is a civil wrong.

        It harms reputations, and decreases respect, regard, or confidence of those called out.

        It induces disparaging, hostile, or disagreeable opinions or feelings against these individuals.

        It is an injury to their good name or reputation.

        (1) 17 Total Votes - 9 up - 8 down
        • bigdaddy says:

          Exactly. I totally agree. Hope some of these posters read this and learn. Been going on a long time from a couple of posters on here. Think before you call names and disparrage elected officials from the podium.

          (-7) 17 Total Votes - 5 up - 12 down
          • analyticone says:

            You missed my point entirely.

            It is the elected officials who are held to the higher standard.

            Those who speak from the audience have the right and the responsibility to speak out and to question their government.

            (2) 16 Total Votes - 9 up - 7 down
            • bigdaddy says:

              No. I got your point. I just elaborated on it. People in audience have right as you say to speak out. Just too bad some have to be rude and disrespectful to the elected official and others. It just strikes me that the rudest and nastiest people take the most offense when they feel they have been done wrong. They do not get it that you cannot have it both ways, treat people bad and put them down and then raise hell when you think someone has dared to say something that might relate to you and your associates. What’s good for the goose. Mean people suck.

              (-7) 17 Total Votes - 5 up - 12 down
              • analyticone says:

                What does this have to do with the citizen volunteers?

                How do the President and Vice President of the Oceano Community Services District justify slandering citizens who attend meetings and volunteer to be on a Request for Proposal committee for the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District?

                (7) 17 Total Votes - 12 up - 5 down
                • Mike Byrd says:

                  Well, this has certainly been an interesting exchange. Bigdaddy, your main point seems to be that those who are called racists by public officials during a public meeting are overly thin-skinned and can’t take what they deserve. How would you react if someone called you racist without cause and under the veil of their public service.
                  ?

                  By the way, how is it that the OCSD alternate is sitting at the dais during every meeting while the OCSD representative is sitting in the audience? Is that legal? Do the alternate’s votes count when the real representative is present at the meeting?

                  (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
    • Julie says:

      Debbie Peterson was not appointed to the SSLOCSD RFP committee.
      She volunteered but Guerrero and Shoals felt her ties to Wallace; having been one of his bosses in the past, presented some kind of conflict.
      I don’t think there’s anyone who has worked harder for the public on SSLOCSD issues, this woman has worked tirelessly as an activist for the 37,000 customers
      of the SSLOCSD. You are all so lucky to have her on your side.

      It was Debbie Peterson whose tough questions forced Wallace to resign when he did. It was Debbie Peterson’s SSLOCSD stint that hired the incredibly professional victim of these “racial slurs”, John Clemons.

      It sure looks like Lucey is trying to paint anyone who is interested in SSLOCSD matters as someone who is “guilty by association” to the bitter Appleton’s in an effort to unwind the RFP committee.
      A cheap shot on transparency Mary; one of your worst yet.

      (6) 16 Total Votes - 11 up - 5 down
    • Mudslide says:

      That’s a flat out lie! The OCSD president, nor anyone from that board, never said any such thing. She said the issue needed further investigating – and there may have been some members associated with Appletons group in our midst !

      Of course, Tacker rang the false alarm AGAIN and ran with it. She yells “FIRE” when there is nothing but her blowing smoke. Perpetuating her foul and unfounded LIES! Yes, Ms.Tacker, “the sky is falling””and we all believe YOU !

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
      • Mudslide says:

        comment directed to ajdury, and JT! – you just make stuff up, state is as fact – then hide behind your opinion – when you so obviously misinterpret almost everything that is said by anyone from Oceano. Claiming your an advocate for rate payers, is laughable. You alone have cost the san district over $7000 in requests for information. And have more than likely costs the District of Oceano, thousands more! And that’s no lie. Do another costly “freedom of information” request and you will see it’s TRUE. BUT, then again, it appears that the truth is something foreign to you.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  3. Slowerfaster says:

    So, Is this Appleton a Republican ?

    Republicans welcome with open arms all sorts of bigots, racists, homophobes …generally the whole host of idiot fascists that are deplorable to civilized human beings.
    BUT, they still get to vote and donate !

    (-32) 46 Total Votes - 7 up - 39 down
    • Kevin Rice says:

      Sorry to turn your rabidly bigoted world on its head, but voter registration data indicates your intense prejudice notion is wrong here.

      Not Republican.

      Wow, you’re a real open-arms, big-tent, coexist peach, aren’t you? You must be a Republican, then?

      (25) 43 Total Votes - 34 up - 9 down
  4. obispan says:

    I’ll spin again Pat. Can I have a “t” please?

    (-4) 8 Total Votes - 2 up - 6 down
  5. Vagabond says:

    OK, who out there still thinks that anything on an internet connected device is private? Cause if you do then you probably shouldn’t have access to a computer.
    There is no privacy, anything you do on an internet connected device can be accessed by someone else, so if you want to write stupid ignoramic drivel on an internet connected device, don’t be surprised if if it comes back to reveal what an idiot you are.

    (24) 28 Total Votes - 26 up - 2 down

Comments are closed.