Did Steve Gesell game the city to get his settlement?

May 26, 2015


San Luis Obispo’s embattled outgoing police chief Steve Gesell had applied for a new job several months prior to City Manager Katie Lichtig placing him on administrative leave, a job he was first in line to get while simultaneously seeking a large settlement from the city under the assertion he wanted to stay in San Luis Obispo.

On May 8, Lichtig placed Gesell on paid administrative leave while asking the city council to permit staff to negotiate a settlement. City sources claim Gesell threatened to disclose information about city management if he was not provided a six-figure settlement.

On May 12, the city council instructed Lichtig and city attorney Christine Dietrick to negotiate a settlement with Gesell during a closed session meeting.

On Thursday, the chief agreed to a $120,000 severance package that terminates his employment with the city as of May 22. At the same time, Gesell was the leading candidate for the chief of police job in Chico, city sources said.

Nevertheless, while negotiating for the settlement, Gesell’s attorney David P. Warren said Gesell wanted to continue his job as San Luis Obispo’s chief of police.

“We are very concerned that the council is being led to believe that there is a mutual agreement to end the relationship. This is simply not the case,” states the letter dated May 1 and delivered to the city council on May 12.

Earlier this year, CalCoastNews reported that Gesell violated city travel reimbursement policies on several occasions, often making the city foot the bill for conferences that turned into family trips. Shortly afterwards, CalCoastNews received reports that Gesell was looking for a new job because of issues with Lichtig and concerns over further review of city managements’ travel and dining expenditures.

In response to several emails from CalCoastNews in early 2015 asking about Gesell’s ongoing employment, both Lichtig and Gesell responded with claims that rumors about Gesell possibly leaving the city were false.

On Feb. 12, Gesell emailed police department staff a reassurance that he was not seeking employment outside the city.

“I have no plans to separate from the city and expect nothing more than to continue to serve as part of our stellar SLOPD team and city,” Gesell said in an email to police department staff on Feb. 12.

Chico city staffers are not releasing the exact date Gesell first applied for the Chico chief of police position, though they did say it was during the application period that ran from Jan. 17 to the end of February.

On Thursday night, Dietrick sent out an email permitting staff to offer personal opinions about Gesell to Chico staffers, though as part of the settlement agreement they could not speak on behalf or as an agent for the city.

On Friday, members of Chico’s Police Officers Association were in town interviewing current and former police officers regarding Gesell’s performance and background.


You know, I think it speaks volumes about this town. A local guy comes back and either one of two things happens. He’s run off or he’s a lose cannon.

I don’t know which it is. But from what little I have seen, nobody with a choice thinks this is a such a great run town. Coming from a real city, with potential and opportunity of Phoenix, SLO is a major step down.

For the life of me, I don’t get what is so great here. The weather in SD is better and the cost of living in a city like PHX is better. SLO is the worst of all worlds as far as I can tell.


At least SLO is rid of him. What can you do?


Vote for change!


It isn’t a coincidence that most City Managers are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

The system is rigged to protect the guilty and screw the taxpayers.

Jorge Estrada

If the police chief needs legal counsel to leave or stay then I’d say afford him to stay so that his legal counsel can finish the job.


A shameful eighth of a MIL for the chief. Shameful. Booted out by his carpetbagger boss, Lichtig. Figures. Except the chief probably has a lovely M4 in his carpetbag. (Highly desirable firearm/weapons system).

The taxpayers been fleeced again, and for the chief, his carpetbag is probably lined with GOLDEN FLEECE.

Mike Byrd

The chief seems to be truth-challenged. He originally said he wanted to complete his career in SLO but applied for a job in Chico after SLO paid for all the travel to pad his resume. Then his lawyer said he wanted to remain in SLO even though he was well on the way to moving to Chico.


Hey San Luis Obispo! We pay over $600k per year for the incompetence that is lightiig and Dietrich and anyone else on the government dole.

Please remember that the next time we are asked to raise our own taxes for the good of starving children and to save the planet. Government takes your money to line their pockets. Think of it like a charity that gives 10 cents on the dollar to the charitable cause and keeps the rest.

Say no more, people.


And the beat goes on and on and on.


Chances are the next police chief will be female and single if Christine has her way. Just sayin’..