Sanitation district meeting canceled after four no-shows

March 9, 2015
Jim Hill

Jim Hill

By KAREN VELIE

A special meeting of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District scheduled for Monday evening was canceled after two representatives and their two alternates said they would not be able to attend. A quorum of at least two board members is required in order to conduct a meeting.

At last week’s meeting, district legal counsel Mike Seitz said that settlement negotiations with the state had failed. Board President Jim Hill then called for the Monday special meeting to in order to discuss the ongoing lawsuit against the state over a fine for a large sewage spill.

Two of the three board members, Oceano Community Services District Director Matt Guerrero, and Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals, said they had conflicts and could not attend… as did their alternatives, Oceano Board President Mary Lucey and Grover Beach City Council member Barbara Nicolls also said they had conflicts.

Guerrero, Shoals, and Nicolls’ husband Bill Nicholls, were on the board while former sanitation district administrator John Wallace was accused of funneling engineering work to his private firm, the Wallace Group. After Wallace stepped down amid the allegations of mismanagement, the plant ran cleaner at almost half the cost.

In 2010, failures at the sanitation district resulted in 384,000 to 3 million gallons of raw sewage flowing into Oceano homes and the ocean. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board then determined the spill was the result of mismanagement and offered a settlement that included a $400,000 fine, and the requirement for the district to spend $375,000 on specific plant upgrades.

On May 16, 2012, the three sanitation district board members, then-Oceano Community Services District President Matt Guerrero, then-Grover Beach Councilman Bill Nicolls, and former Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferarra, rejected the state’s settlement offer after meeting in closed session.

Instead, the district board discussed an anticipated timeline and a proposed strategy developed by then district administrator John Wallace, district legal counsel Mike Seitz, and outside legal counsel Melissa Thorme, that included multiple appeals over the state’s fine. In their timeline, Wallace, Thorme and Seitz admitted they did not consider it possible to win their battle against the state.

Nevertheless, the district then paid about $750,000 to Wallace’s engineering firm, the Wallace Group, and a team of lawyers to argue against the allegations of mismanagement and the proposed fine.

In Nov. 2014, the district board voted to file a lawsuit against the state over the fine shortly before Ferarra was voted out of office.

A month later, under a new board president, Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill, the board voted to seek a settlement instead of pursuing litigation.

Even though Hill spoke out about Seitz’ failure to move on the board’s direction, it took more than two months for a settlement to be offered to the state… a settlement that was not accepted.

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34 Comments

  1. Big Tony says:

    Hell everybody,

    We’re gonna get right down to business today (tapping pencil and glaring at all the stupid fringers in the audience)…

    I have to take a moment at laugh at Jim Hills buffoonish attempt to make an end round around me. Ha Ha Ha.

    Did you really think you could force my army of followers to meet up with you and attend your little “special” meeting? Thanks for the chuckles. I’ve been pissed of here lately and needed a good laugh.

    All I had to do was simply make a few phone calls, and……poof! There goe’s your little meeting.

    You can’t TOUCH me! I’m teflon to you negativity and moronic attempts to hold me and my BFF John “BigBoy” Wallace accountable.

    If it hadn’t been for the fringers and crazy cat ladies I’d still be keeping things “under control” and everybody would be happy.

    But noooooo…….now you’ve got Jim “I wont debate” Hill. We’ll…enjoy him while you can.

    My future plans (along with my Arroyo in Bloom activities) will include doing what everyone in AG knows needs to be done…….RECALL JIM HILL!

    Don’t worry, I’m not running again. I’ve had enough of your disrespect and disparaging comments. I’m too old for that shit nowadays anyway. I just wanted sit back, enjoy my multiple margarita lunches with my other BFF Bill Nicols, and watch the idiots…..uh, I mean the flowers, bloom.

    However, fear not! I do have a replacement nominee that I’m going to promote once we get that Hill character out of office. I’ve talked extensivey with this young man, he’s willing to relocate, and I’m sure he’s got the “Right Stuff”.

    So without further adieu, I’d like to endorse and introduce to a fine, upstanding young man who I’m sure will take the postion of Mayor seriously and lead our City back to the greatness it experienced under my rule…..uh, direction…….

    Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce………..Mr. Aaron Ochs!

    (0) 12 Total Votes - 6 up - 6 down
    • agag1 says:

      Tony who?

      Oh yeah, hope you were listening to the local fringe media radio yesterday as Dan Carpenter and Debbie Peterson discussed the impact our Nov election here in AG has had.
      Debbie Peterson’s comments about business owners supporting Jim Hill because they were basically sick and tired of being bullied was SPOT ON!

      We may need to thank you for having your old buddies skip out on the special meeting on Mon. In doing so, they brought a whole lot more attention to just how desperate they are to continue covering for you and Wallace.

      You should know by now how much the folks don’t like being lied to, and that whopper Matt Guerrero told last night to cover for John Shoals is gonna come back to bite him just like Steve Adams’ tea party story. Trying to make Hill look bad for scheduling a meeting on Mon, and saying it’s Grover’s council meeting night (when he knew that NOT TO BE TRUE) makes him look like, well…a liar. Maybe not a good thing for someone who wants to be a judge.

      BTW, we’ll pass on Ochs. Let Adam Hill, Fulks, Tom Jones and Irons in MB keep him.

      (4) 8 Total Votes - 6 up - 2 down
    • justbeware says:

      Jim Guthrie thought you were going to hand the gavel straight over to him when you left Tony.
      He’s not happy watching Jim Hill sit in that middle seat.
      Your old girlfriend Caren Ray is making noise about wanting to be mayor too. She desperately wants to win something!

      (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
      • Big Tony says:

        Caren Ray is not my “girlfriend”, she is my “running” ummmmmm, jogging partner. I fart in your general direction you heaving lot of second hand electric donkey bottom biters.

        (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
      • agag1 says:

        Did anyone else notice how quickly Jim bailed on 3/10 from Tony’s dream plan for Brisco? Almost seemed like he wanted to go out and throw up the blockades himself!
        Apparently there’s nothing like an election coming up in 2016 to make Guthrie want to be seen as a get-something-done-guy now that Tony’s gone.

        (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          Sorry, Guthrie is not much more than a tool. He was zero help
          in dealing with the mess Ferrara et al. created.

          Guthrie is big on mouth, short on performance. We’ve had
          enough of that crap, and its time to get rid of Guthrie so
          we can form a more citizen-responsive city council.

          There is an old Chinese saying :“When the wind of change blows,
          some build walls, while others build windmills.” In Guthrie’s case,
          he just blows.

          (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. ajdury says:

    I went to the OCSD meeting this evening, to comment on the fact that neither sitting member Matt Guerrero, nor alternate Mary Lucey, chose to make time to attend the San District special meeting last Monday (3/10/15).

    Here’s what they had to say:

    First, seeing us in the audience, they made their pre-emptive strike to explain their pointed absence at the San District meeting before we could even comment.

    Mary Lucey stated that she did not know about the meeting until former Grover Mayor Peterson contacted her on Sunday evening. Matt Guerrero said he has a standing Monday evening commitment that always takes precedence over any other potential responsibility.

    Most odd was listening to Mary, in essence, throw Matt under the bus by implying he had not informed her in time that he could not be there, and her throwing SSLOCSD manager Sweet under the bus by stating he too had not informed her in enough time. Strange, considering the agenda was publicly posted in multiple places – both physically and online – by the Friday before the meeting.

    It was then our turn at the podium.

    After every public comment, OCSD’s well-paid GM, Paavo Ogren, the district’s well-paid attorney and both Mary and Matt stammered through excuse after excuse of why we should not be addressing them on this topic, why they couldn’t attend and why they should not be held accountable for their stonewalling actions. It would have been pretty funny, in a Keystone Kops sort of way if you didn’t think about how sadly it shows the utter lack of respect these folks give to their ratepayers.

    The most egregious and disingenuous “argument” made by every one of the foursome was that any discussion regarding the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District (San Dist) at any point during the Oceano Community Services District (OCSD) meeting was not following their agenda because it was “not a matter within their purview”.

    I was shocked. This very topic is ON THEIR OWN agenda. Their agency appoints two board members to represent the Oceano ratepayers in their stakeholder claim at the San Dist. It is EXACTLY in their purview.

    This same board discussed recycled water supply in Paso tonight. Nothing about that is within their “purview” except they allowed their GM to paint with the broadest of brush strokes, in order to hit that mark. The San District plant is literally a mile from the OCSD door. Paso’s recycled water might as well be a light-year away, in comparison.

    Matt Guerrero, in a real bumbling “defense is the best offense” move laughingly stated that someone should have checked the calendar because Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals (the other appointed member on the San Dist. board) had a Grover city council meeting at 6:30 – the same day this special meeting was to take place at 6pm.

    Uhhhh . . . nope. No Grover city council meeting this week. Nothing for John Shoals or Barbara Nicholls to hang their hat on. But Matt, Mary, Paavo and legal council all got their misinformed and ignorant retorts in after our comments, as is how their agenda stipulates.

    Folks. This is the stonewalling and disinterest we are STILL up against as we continually fight for transparency and accountability over the San Dist disaster.

    It took a dedicated few to make change in Arroyo Grande. Now we have two more jurisdictions able to step up, in order to effect change.

    Grover. Oceano. Let’s do this!

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • Julie says:

      Thank you ajdury for the excellent accounting of last night’s OCSD run for cover.
      What stuck out to me was Mary Lucey’s shock and awe over the “Special” meeting.
      She asked Guererro “What was so special?”
      He said he didn’t know, but he did know it was a Closed Session centered around the litigation he, Ferrara and GB”s Glen Marshall entered into on Nov. 5 (one day after the election).
      He knows the settlement has been denied.
      He knows they had just discussed the $365.00 per hour contract of the attorney who moved the venue to her own backyard under the guise of “neutrality.”
      This was the same Downey Brand (Lucey called “Brownie Dan”) contract Lucey held up a $6,000 payment to, calling for the Board to review.

      It is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G that Ogren considers the SSLOCSD “outside the purview” of the OCSD.
      But, he thinks Zone 1-1A is in their purview because OCSD has a “drainage power”.
      (They receive no money for this “power” and are charged with maintaining a drainage
      basin or two that they perform weed abatement on).

      Mary Lucey is on record a gazillion times saying, “We own 33 and 1/3% of that facility”.
      (She’s wrong of course, but nevertheless, even she believes — as she should, — that the district is in the purview of the OCSD.) Hell, the OCSD collects their bills and is paid to do so.

      Special Meeting’s should not be abused, the worst offender of its use is (in my vast experience) the Oceano CSD.
      In fact, the OCSD just held one (with the minimum required notice of 24 hours) at 4:00pm on Wednesday, March 4, just prior to the San Dist to raise water rates and a Closed Session on three matters,
      including breaking the Brown Act.

      (9) 17 Total Votes - 13 up - 4 down
    • falconbh says:

      This unfortunately is standard operating procedure at all meetings for the Oceano Community Services District.

      King Ogren, Lucey, and Guerrero, exist because they crave the power and attention. The needs of the citizen ratepayers are not important to them.

      The Facts:

      1. The district is dragging others cities down in the South County because of their spending, budgeting and hiring practices.
      2. Bond Rating has been reduced S.P.
      3. This impacts Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach. { Water, Lopez, Fire Authority, Sanitation District}
      4. G. M. is making $ 250, 000 in salary and benefits.
      5. In two months he earns about what a worker in Oceano earns for one year of labor.
      6. The district pays his full retirement contribution to PERS, state retirement.
      7. When he takes early retirement it will be at 90% + of his salary.
      8. His self serving recommendation to the board to help solve the budget problem is to raise the water rates. [ where is the shared sacrifice ? ]

      ” Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people. ”

      Thomas Jefferson

      (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
    • Julie says:

      FYI, I just confirmed with SSLOCSD staff that the sitting Board member is supposed to
      notify the alternate if they can not attend a meeting. It WAS Guerrero’s responsibility to inform Lucey.
      The “story” told by Guerrero, Lucey and Ogren is just as solid as their 134 acre feet a year water leaking pipes.

      (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
      • agag1 says:

        It is not nice for Guerrero to make Lucey look like a fool for not knowing about the meeting!

        (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
        • MaryMalone says:

          It isn’t needed, either. Most people recognize her as a fool.

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

    Well, as a South County resident, I do not see why myself or my neighbors should continue to pay any fees until these people show up to meetings. I think there should be a moratorium on any future residential bill paying until this issue is addressed.

    Why should honest taxpaying citizens continue to pay our hard earned money to potential criminals? What is that argument the police say to the “average joe”? Innocent people don’t need attorneys? Yet the District has paid out $750,000 for attorneys, and meetings are cancelled.
    I am disgusted at the blatant abuse of power by those must trusted in our Local, City, State, and Federal levels of Power. It makes those who really ARE working hard (think social workers, nurses, line staff) get a bad rap.

    (7) 15 Total Votes - 11 up - 4 down
  4. falconbh says:

    For Guerrero and Lucey from the Oceano CSD this is a great opportunity for others in the county to see their lack of leadership.

    Because of the waste, mismanagement, and clear lack of fiscal discipline another new rate increase burden will be placed on the residents of this poor community.

    We need fairness and justice for the ratepayers of the Sanitation District and Oceano Community Services District. When will the State Audit Committee, County District Attorney, or Grand Jury step forward and hold our elected officials and managers accountable.

    (7) 15 Total Votes - 11 up - 4 down
  5. Pelican1 says:

    It’s simply remarkable that presumably grown adults, given leadership role can’t find their asses with two hands and a flashlight.It’s time for the rate payers and taxpayers to say enough is enough, we’re NOT going to take it anymore. Nor are we going to pay a fine for a spill we for which were not responsible.

    (14) 22 Total Votes - 18 up - 4 down
  6. snooky156 says:

    Since District Counsel Seitz was part of the reason on we are in this mess in the first place, why would anyone expect HIM to play a critical role in reaching a settlement with the State Water Board? District mismanagement is well documented, the cause of the spill is well documented, and the amount of the spill has been negotiated.

    Has Seitz indicated that he’s all of a sudden “SEEN THE LIGHT”? No. Stop sending the clown car to negotiations with the State Water Board and find new, competent District Counsel — NOW!

    (25) 35 Total Votes - 30 up - 5 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Sorry to break it to you, but getting new counsel is impossible as long as Mayor Shoals and Mr. Guerrero continue to support him, for obvious reasons. Every time Mayor Hill brings it up to replace Seitz, Shoals and Guerrero vote “NO” so the vote stands at 2 against and 1 for replacing Seitz. This will not change until Shoals or Guerrero are replaced with someone who values working for the voters instead of Wallace, Ferrara and company.

      (23) 35 Total Votes - 29 up - 6 down

Comments are closed.