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.

Don’t miss breaking news stories, like CCN on Facebook.


It will be interesting to see if Cassandra has the balls to show up at a sanitation meeting. I would be willing to say ‘NOT”.

Although SHE may say she had nothing to do with the e mails, and knew nothing about it, guilty people normally can never face the person they defamed.

Wonder how much she would like to see a protest in front of the religious school she teaches at. She is why we have laws against HATE crimes, there was no reason to go after someone in the terrible way she did, and he had nothing to do with her husband losing his job.

Trash is trash no matter the color of the skin, the sexual preference, religious belief, you are trash because of what you wrote in emails, talked about at meetings and how you view another human being and judge them. There must still be a vacant island for people like you to be sent to for the rest of your life because you don’t fit into normal society with vile comments like the ones you wrote.


Just out of curiosity, we know that the emails were link to Jeff, but how do we know for sure that Casandra knew about the emails? Until we have proof that Casandra had anything to do with the emails we can’t really blame her for them now can we? If we do then we’re just mud slinging.


Okay until we have definite proof that Casandra had anything to do with the emails or even knowledge of them, we can’t really blame her. As for “there was no reason to go after someone the terrible way she did” I can only assume you are referencing the San District. As someone who personally knows this family I would love to remind you that at the time, Jeff was trying to be forced to sign falsified documents on the spill and having his job as well as his son’s medical insurance threatend by Mike Seitz, who at the time wasn’t even supposed to contanct him. And in case your wondering, the son does have an incurable terminal illness. I’m pretty confident that if that happened to you, you’d want to see that person punished *Cough cough JOHN WALLACE Cough cough*


It breaks my heart when good folks are treated to disgusting behavior.

Mr. Clemons has done absolutely nothing to be treated this way and in fact, has been the biggest and brightest beacon of what is going GREAT at the SSLOCSD.

It’s also a testament to Mayor Hill’s burgeoning reputation as a good guy. He gets the information and does the right thing – gets to the bottom of it. Time and time again.

My beloved 5Cities is NOT represented by a person such as Jeff Appleton. It IS represented by John Clemons and Jim Hill.


The beloved 5Cities is also NOT represented by Mayor Shoals and Mr. Guerrero, stop stonewalling guys and fire your legal counsel and order the complete accounting


Sanitation meeting on Wed, April 1, 6PM at the AG council chambers.

Come watch Shoals take notes, nod his head, and explain just how frustrated HE is that things are moving so slowly. Mmmmmm, yeah.

Watch Matt Guerrero rock-a-bye in his chair, as he explains just how much got done by the last board, and the ratepayers (especially chairman Hill) should basically BACK OFF. Uuuuuuugh, NO!

Watch Seitz ‘eat lemons’ as Jim Hill presses him, yet again, as to why the litigation entered into by Nicolls, Wallace and Ferrara hasn’t been settled- -even though the public has been demanding it for nearly 5 months now, and he was directed by the board to get it done!

Listen as Rick Sweet again, and again, and again explains how he didn’t have time to do practically everything he was directed to do at the last meeting, OR how he didn’t REALLY QUITE FULLY understand exactly what the board wanted him to do.

(This is also a favorite stall tactic of counsel Seitz- -he’s just never really quite sure…)

C’mon fellas- – we are sick and tired of your lame @$$ excuses. But you know that already, don’t you?


If you want to get things done, find a woman to do it!


Except if you live in AG and hope for anything positive from KB.


Stand corrected!


Very curious to know more about the relationship between Wallace and Appleton…


Appleton was the State Water Boards star witness against the SSLOCSD at the Regional Water Quality hearing regarding the December 2010 sewage spill. His testimony was focused on the Wallace Group’s mismanagement of the plant.


Lesson One: How to keep people from discovering your own failures, point out others and make them seem worse than your…. Appleton seems to know this lesson well.


Even in this situation though one wrong does not out-do another. Appleton made a massive mistake with the emails to Clemons. However this does not mean that Wallace screwed over quiet a few people, including Appleton.


I agree with anonymous. Its true that Jeff screwed up in a massive way here, however that does not excuse the fact that Wallace, Ferrara, and Seitz have screwed over not only the Appleton family but the community as a whole. This is not Jeff trying to cover up his own mistakes by pointing out anothers mistakes.


Massive Mistake?? NO. Mr. Appleton just showed his true colors, what he

said in those emails was pure unadulterated hate and bigotry. period. And

you do not share a home with somebody and not know that they are

racist bigots. Stop trying to minimize the damage by trying to focus back to wallace, trying to compare racism to the Wallace investigation. Having a

child with special needs does not give a license to hate. The south county

oversight group should speak up now because they are all tied to the

anonymous private group that uses the name “Trinity Neo” in emails, the

same name tied to the emails in question sent to John Clemons.


I have to agree about putting the focus back on the Wallace guy.

As for Casandra, I am friends with her younger sister, who is gay. From my understanding, Jeff has a gay sister and Casandra has a gay sister (I know there are two anyway) plus their oldest son is also gay. I get the impression that Casandra’s opinions on bigotry do not mesh with those of her husbands.

From what I understand, she is a good person and this is not something she would be a part of.

Until proven otherwise, this is on Jeff Appleton. Not Wallace and not on Casandra.


I’m not sure what the heck you were doing posting something like that. That whole midsection of your response was unnecessary. Good that you know of her but putting her family in to this is uncalled for.

It is quite certainly possible that she was not aware of what her husband was doing, until you live in their home, you cannot assume anything.

Am I excusing the behavior? Not even close, I find it vile and offensive but keep the comments connected to the matter at hand and stop throwing stones and stop assuming you know what was going on in their home.


IYO was Appleton following orders from Wallace, and merely doing as he was instructed during his time at SSLOCSD?


Maybe the upcoming Management Review will tell, But, given the checkered past of SSLOCSD and CMC’s plant ( http://cla.calpoly.edu/~lcall/sewage.html ) you have to wonder whether “The Honor System” is the right way to regulate wastewater discharge.


Thank you.

Very much respect your opinion on this matter.


Cassandra sure had a lot to say at the last sanitation meeting when everyone was in closed session. She started to spout off about how her husband should not have lost his job, and that their special needs son lost his medical insurance, and she has proof of this and that, yet she never produces any proof.

She is a teacher at a religious school, not sure I want someone this anger and vindictive teaching my children anything.

To send emails like those listed is just disgusting, how would Jeff and Cassandra feel if they got emails like those. She would really have her panties in a wad, yet she feels free to send them to another human being. Both of them are very misguided people IMHO.

Maybe someone should send copies of those emails to her employer also.

This might not be against the law, but it just shows you the moral ineptitude some people have.

I find John Clemmons to be a very nice, respectful, well spoken person. He has done a great job turning the plant around after the mess Wallace and Appleton left it in. I am so sorry he had to deal with such vile emails, all he is doing is going to work and trying to earn a leaving. He did nothing to the Appleton’s to be subjected to such vulgar, unprofessional, racist,writings.


I am not saying you are wrong here but there is no PROOF yet that Cassandra Appleton was involved at all and the proof about Jeff Appleton’s involvement is not total. Is it just possible that she is being a loyal enabler for him?


First off there is absolutely no definite proof that Casandra had anything to do with these emails or even had knowledge of them. Until then we cannot pass a single shred of judgement.


He should have used the Clinton’s email server then no one would ever know what was said!


Need Grand Jury to sort out problems in Sanitation District.


The “Powerless” Grand Jury???? Why?


No, what we need if for Shoals and Guerrero to get off their butts,

can Seitz,

settle the worthless lawsuit Nicolls, Ferrara and Guerrero agreed to,

and get the show on the road!

The old board got us into this mess, the new board can help steer us out, but not as long as Shoals, Guerrero, and Seitz are rowing in the opposite direction of Hill.

One guy trying to do the right thing while dragging along those three anchors is nearly impossible.

Their stalling is getting old- -but that’s all part of the plan…


And the hits just keep on coming!

Josh Payne

Go get ’em Mayor Hill! AG is lucky to have a good man running this town!


That’s right!

We can not forget that former Mayor Ferrara fought tooth and nail not to let his buddy Wallace go. So much of what happened during Wallace’s 25 year reign was sketchy at best–criminal according to many. It is no accident the plant began to operate more efficiently once Wallace ‘resigned’. Mr. Clemons and his staff are to be commended for improving plant performance–the turnaround has been incredible.

Our new mayor has done nothing but deal with the garbage Ferrara, Wallace, Seitz, (at the San dist) Steve Adams at city hall, etc left behind. Unfortunately, Jim Hill appears to be a team of one on the Sanitation District board. He’s getting NO help from GB Shoals, or Oceano’s Matt Guerrero.

Unless or until the Sanitation District rids itself of Wallace supporters, we will never get the answers the ratepayers deserve with respect to plant mismanagement during the Wallace, Ferrara, Nicolls, shoals, and Guerrero time period.



I watched the painfully boring budget workshop your city had a couple of weeks ago.

Your city is in bigger trouble than any of us knew.

Otis was right, AG cast FCFA off to its own benefit. The new chief is looking like an old chief,

worried about every penny and aging right along with the old equipment.

All that chatter about what a great city manager Adams was was just that — chatter.

He left your city in a lurch.

Jim Hill can’t fix everything, but he’s doing a really good job and you are so lucky to have him.

Being an elected official is a hard job, not all of them take it as seriously as he has (and did when he was in Oceano).

The old guard was deferential to Ferrara.

Hill is letting the council members be council members. Letting them ask questions and represent.

I just didn’t see that with Ferrara in the Mayor’s seat.

That Hill stepped up to put an end to these raciest emails (that began when Ferrara was still there) is commendable.

But, where was legal counsel? Administrator? Guerrero?

Right on Jim Hill!


Adams and Ferrara put on a good show, but look at the mess AG residents they left us with.

I hear NO ONE complaining that BIG TONY is GONE!

Mr. Page has been asking for years for something to be done about the unfunded liability of all the city pensions ( Adams too!)

Every time we have an employee retire, it is like we added another employee to the staff payroll. And with everyone living into their 80s around here, it never goes away!


What is “the South County Advisory Group?” I can’t find that name anywhere.

Mike Byrd

Actually it’s called the South County Oversight Group which was organized as a group on Facebook. I tried to double check the name and it appears to have been shut down. Good riddance.


The South County Advisory Group is an arm of the 4th district supervisor elect Lynn Compton.

It is comprised mostly of Nipomo concerned citizens who give advise to Ms.Compton on county issues. So Oceano residents are also included and the San District would be under her purview a tiny bit since it is 1/3 Oceano.


Now there’s a dog and pony show!


Wrong, Doglover – That would be the SCAC, South County Advisory Council. Check out your error here: http://scac.ca.gov

It does not include any part of Oceano.


Aye Ducky

So many groups and yet no one is listening.