Sanitation district meeting canceled after four no-shows

March 9, 2015
Jim Hill

Jim Hill


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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It appears a “serial meeting” was had by Guerrero, Shoals, Lacey and Nicolls.


Just as sure as 2+2=4


A blatant hot-potato maneuver like this serves to call more attention to the dysfunction, not conceal it. Nice work.

Mike Byrd

Remember that this same tactic worked out well for a certain coalition of the APCD last year.


The cretins won that battle, but it cost Hill’s image dearly. On the balance, do you think he’d hide from his responsibility as a political tactic again?


It’s time to start attending Grover city council meetings.

If Shoals won’t come to meetings, we can go to him, and let his residents learn about what he’s doing.


Completely agree agag1. We need to start haunting Grover’s halls and chamber room.

This is ridiculous and the Grover city council should be embarrassed.

On the other hand, Oceano’s board relishes being truculent so it’s a lost cause there.


Wow. The plot thickens.


Under Robert’s Rules of Order the chair may do just that…go get the offending board members refusing to attend and insist that they attend.


How long do Guerrero and Shoals think they’re going to be able to duck this issue?

Sadly, this is the strategy of Nicolls, and Ferrara continuing with the aid of Mike Seitz, and Rick Sweet.

And it will continue until enough people rise up and demand they put a stop to it.

This reeks of Ferrara!

Mike Byrd

Four people have conflicts that prevent them from doing their duty on a Monday evening? Anyone want to buy a bridge?

The more they stall and delay the more folks are convinced that there’s something seriously wrong that they are keeping hidden away. It’s too bad this board isn’t elected so they could be removed by the voters.


Does Arroyo Grande realize what a hard worker they have in Hill? He’s clearly trying to do the right thing.

Go Jim!!!!


I hope the people of GB and Oceano realize their representatives to the Sanitation District are playing games.

John Shoals and Matt Guerrero are not working in the best interest of the residents they are supposed to be serving.


It is obvious to me (and I am sure others) that both Shoals and Guerrero will have a lot of explaining to do once Wallace is investigated…which WILL happen!

Their ploy to prolong or avoid just won’t work. The people are watching. If you live in Grover Beach or Oceano, please contact your representative and tell them what you think! They are protecting themselves, and not representing you, the ratepayer.


They can run, but ratepayers need to make certain they CANNOT hide!


Time to put together a posse and round up the no shows or at least fire and/or replace them


Good luck–Grover just elected one of Wallace and Ferrara’s buddies!

Who’s paying attention over there?

As Mayor, Debbie Peterson was all over this like white on rice, now Shoals picking up right where he left off—on the side of Wallace, to heck with his ratepayers!