Playing the racist card
April 10, 2015
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
Are two members of the Oceano Community Services District Board trying to stop the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District from performing a managerial audit by attempting to connect citizen volunteers to dozens of racist emails?
On February 18, the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District embarked on the hiring process in which a consultant will perform the long awaited audit of management practices for the period of 2004 through February 2013, this was the time frame in which the district’s reserves were dramatically depleted. At the following meeting, March 4, the board appointed a nine member citizen committee to review the proposals from qualified consultants that are expected to be returned by April 13.
These citizen volunteers were not required to fill out an application form, provide any biographical background or meet any specific criteria, including whether or not the members reside in the district since the committee’s work will only take a few weeks, there really is no need for strict criteria or qualifications. Most of the volunteer citizens chosen have simply been involved participants in district meetings for many months. But, if calculated, their collective brainpower and experience is impossible to quantify, the sanitation district is very fortunate to have dedicated community members willing to step up at this time to help out.
Over the past several months, the districts highly regarded Plant Superintendent, John Clemons, has been sent many harassing emails peppered with raciest comments from an email account that shares an IP address (a unique string of numbers that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol network) with the former sanitation district superintendent, Jeff Appleton and his group, the “South County Oversight Group.” It appears the South County Oversight Group has a membership of one or two, Appleton and/or his wife Casandra.
The plot thickened at the sanitation district’s last meeting when Oceano Community Services District Board President Mary Lucey and board member Matt Guerrero tag-teamed a disturbing line of discussion suggesting members of the sanitation district citizen committee may be part of the Appleton’s oversight group. The two alluded to a brief South County Oversight Group Facebook page devoted to sanitation district matters and speculated that some of the district RFP committee members may have “liked” the page. “Liking” a page on Facebook does not make one part of a group; it merely allows their content to enter your Facebook feed.
Guerrero represents OCSD on the SSLOCSD board of directors and stated from the dais, “ it has become a concern with what’s happened with the email that was sent or emails that were sent by the South County Oversight Group and whether or not there are members in this committee that are part of that group.”
Later, Lucey went to the podium and stated, “Due to some of the information that’s been, um, starting to come to the surface regarding, uh, oh a private group you know that’s not public, that’s closed to the public, and has no transparency, known as the South County Oversight Committee and some of the crimes that have occurred under the name of Trinity Neo, um, several different government entities that have been receiving these correspondences for a number of years are now, uh, starting their own investigations and so since this body tried in the interests of the people to put together a community advisory body that would you know make it little bit more transparent, a little more inclusive and try to move our district forward. It’s kind of been slapped in the face and it’s been extremely counterproductive and I’m sure that there are some good people that have been involved but the reality is there are a lot of bad people that have caused a lot of damage and destruction particularly to the san district to the OCSD to Los Osos, you know the farmers market and I could go down the line to projects we’ve lost behind this cover for basically hate crimes. Several of the participants in this oversight committee are belonging to this community advisory board that you have. I would suggest you put this topic on your agenda for closed session because there will be litigation attached to it and um that way you can maybe get ahead of the curve and try to undermine damage and try to put out there what the intent of the inclusion of the community was to begin with and it certainly wasn’t this. So thank you.”
Presiding officer, Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill, responded to Lucey saying, “Thank you. I’m a bit confused by your comment in that I reported to the Arroyo Grande Police the issue with the inappropriate emails that you may characterize that is potentially a hate crime and I’m not aware of any individual within the group that we’ve asked to review. Is that what you’re talking about?”
Lucey responded, “I’m saying that you have this anonymous, you know, private group over here that is integrated into your advisory body. Many of the members are the same.”
Hill, “I’m not aware that that is the case.”
Lucey, “Until that can be proven… Until that can be proven I would ask that you take into consideration your involvement with the community oversight committee because. I know that from our district we’re looking at IP numbers and the numerous correspondences we have gotten and I know that several other departments are also looking and there is, you know, there are two protected classes in the emails that I have read that it’s a criminal, you know, crime and so I would ask that you stay ahead of the curve, not get caught up in it. Remove yourself as far as you can from it and if you have members who are in both groups then sever those ties or maybe clear that there is no association but at this point it looks like guilt by association.”
Hill, “I don’t really know how to respond to that. There’s been some very…”
Lucey, “This has been going on for years and years (unintelligible).”
Hill, “There has been some thorough investigation too by the police department.”
Lucey, “On just a set of emails. Just a set. There are several government entities that also have gotten aggressive, you know, I’m not going to characterize what each correspondence said, but I know that, I know that we have hundreds over at the OCSD. There are other agencies that have 50 to 100 in those entities. I’m saying we’re all looking and looking back on how these were sent and distancing ourselves, and if there’s litigation, so be it, there’s litigation. I’m saying, ‘as a district protect yourself’. Make sure you’re as far away from the situation as possible. That’s all I’m trying to say and that would be discussed in closed session.”
Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach Police Chiefs, City Clerks and the OCSD General Manager have been asked if Lucey’s assertion that there is an investigation ongoing has been denied by all parties. The assertion that anyone associated with the citizen committee is a member of South County Oversight Group and “guilty by association” is beyond absurd and not one minute of ratepayer time and money should be spent on “investigating” it.
Lucey owes these fine volunteers a formal apology and it should be done in public for all to hear.
Let the committee do its work, hire an auditor, investigate into why the 16-year trend of funding reserves every year stopped in 2004 and the plant lost $500,000 to $2,000,000 a year until 2013. Get to the bottom of what went wrong, and hold those responsible accountable, so history will not be allowed to repeat itself.