Gesell lawyers up for employment dispute with SLO

May 13, 2015
Steve Gesell

Steve Gesell

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell, who is currently on paid administrative leave, has retained a Pismo Beach lawyer who is arguing the city has no good cause to terminate Gesell’s contract.

On Friday, City Manager Katie Lichtig placed Gesell on paid administrative leave after she was unable to agree on a separation settlement with the police chief. Lichtig and City Attorney Christine Dietrick are now negotiating a settlement with Gesell, after receiving instruction to do so during a closed session San Luis Obispo City Council meeting Tuesday.

Gesell’s attorney, David P. Warren, delivered a letter to Dietrick during the public comment period of Tuesday’s meeting. The letter, which is dated May 1, states that there is no go cause for the city to sever its relationship with Gesell, and the police chief does not want to leave his position.

“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,” Warren’s letter states. “I was told that it had gone beyond working it out and that Ms. Lichtig intended to sever the relationship.”

City sources have told CalCoastNews that Gesell is being released from employment because of irreconcilable differences with Lichtig. Gesell has been under fire publicly for charging the city for family dining, as well as for allegedly having illegal ticket quotas.

If an agreement is not reached, sources say Gesell could disclose damaging information about the city, some of which could implicate Lichtig.

If the city terminates Gesell for reasons other than misconduct, malfeasance or criminal negligence, he is due a severance of at least six months of his salary and benefits, which equals $132,532. Warren notes that financial obligation in his letter to Dietrick.

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I was just thinking about how much Katie Lichtig reminds me of David Edge. Supremely arrogant. Ruthless. Rude. Disgusting…


Let’s see what Gesell and the SLO City Council are made of. He should be able to provide more than enough dirt to cause Lichtig’s dismissal. Let’s see if the city council then has the character and the courage to do the right thing.

mb business owner

yes elections matter, morro bay is in the process of being fleeced, adding another top dog administrator last night with nary the blink of an eye. no progress on the sewer plant – which is erroneously being referred to as a water reclamation plant – haha no reclamation happening for a long time. also looks like a former supporter of the irons, smuckler, christine Johnson regime is turning and advocating for a no on the 218 vote for water and sewer rates – more to come. p.s. good luck against David Warren, he’s a bulldog!


So who is the new administrator and what will they be doing?


I watched the Council meeting live last night….and not completely sure of the exact facts….but the City Manager decided to make a new position….as Assistant City Manager….and hired someone without going through the process of posting the position for anyone to apply. And he hired this person at something over $100,000 a year plus benefits of course. My memory thinks it was something like $110,000 but I could be wrong. Apparently our City Manager found out that Atascadero has an assistant manager who earns $90,000…so decided to hire said position. He firstly offered an original severance pay package of one years salary if he was dismissed…but after some apparent opposition from council members…renegotiated the severance to I believe 6 months salary if severed in the first year and 4 months salary as severance in subsequent year. There were public comments feeling that this was not done with proper process…as he did not post and interview other applicants. After each Council member commented and did admit that the process was subject to question, they all agreed to accept at a vote of 5-0 in agreement.

mb business owner

$113,000 per year + 10K to move here with his (as the city manager stressed) pregnant wife and kids. what a “show” at the cc meeting. and the assistant was hired and signed a contract before the cc took any action – hmmmm brown act violation? just listening to christine johhsons speech alone should trigger a call to the fair policial practices commission.


So now Morro Bay has a City Manager, who has no experience managing any city, and a Deputy City Manager from out of state, who has 4 months of experience as an assistant city manger in the State of Washington. In other words, we have two people being paid to do the job of one, neither one of which has ever managed any city, let alone one on the coast of California.

And according to the Bay News, he turned down the job in Atascadero because he didn’t want to be part of an “executive team”. Buckingham calls him a few days later and offers him $21,000 more per year to work for Morro Bay with no chance for others to apply for a new position.

If what Christine Johnson said at Tuesday’s meeting, that the city manager had talked to them all individually to tell them of his decision to hire this person, and signing a contract, before a public hearing, that’s a violation of the Brown Act. It’s called a serial meeting. I hope someone files a complaint and I hope CCN does a series of follow up articles about how things are being mismanaged in the City of Morro Bay.


quite a frightening “leadership” team in morro bay, should be an interesting show!


taxpayer….who does one file a complaint with? The crooks running our city?


One files a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Committee ( as far as the breaking of the Brown Act goes). They can file a complaint with the San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury for any procedural processes that may have been broken.


The article notes, ” the city terminates Gesell for reasons other than misconduct, malfeasance or criminal negligence, he is due a severance of at least six months of his salary and benefits.” If they have no cause for one of those reasons, they should not be firing him, and that is the reason that the clause is inserted. When professionals reach a certain career level, there are not an abundance of jobs for them to move to, thus the need to protect themselves. If he has acted in a way that would include “misconduct, malfeasance or criminal negligence” then he should not be fired. Perhaps the problem lies somewhere else other than his performance.


Correction. If he has not acted in a way that would include. Sorry.


He broke the law, enough for me. Say goodbye and leave out the golden handshake.


Funny, but, I have seen nothing but accusations. No proof.


Stealing money wasn’t just a accusation, the response was in the line of “well that’s just they way it has always been done”.


Yes, there is proof.

Let’s start at the beginning.

First off, the man makes 157k a year. More than most of us. He can afford to feed himself AND his wife and kid.

He takes a trip to Orlando. He brings his wife and kid. I guess it’s ok if you pay their way and you hang out with them AFTER work time. BUT he did stuff he should NOT have done. A trip for 3 to Florida is not usually cheap. But for HIM he made it cheap. He got a deal where if he bought a first class ticket, he could get two others for less than $100 bucks for his wife and kid. Government employees are supposed to fly COACH because it is CHEAP, but not HIM…. he is SPECIAL. He put paperwork through because he approved his own stuff (and I guess he figured no one would see it?) to upgrade his seat so his other two seats would be cheap. Now, I guess he DID pay for those seats (I would HOPE). He paid for an expensive suite during his conference when in Orlando when government employees are SUPPPOSED to stay at the hotels that offer employees the “government employee rates” when at the conferences. NOPE. Not him. He is “special”. He probably wanted to stay at this hotel with the wife and kid. Big no-no too. Rental car. HUGE no-no. When you are on “government business” renting a car, you are not supposed to have family or friends in that car! If you get in an accident, then those people in theory can SUE the government/city/county the employee works for!!!! It is a HUGE liability. He was breaking all KINDS of rules. Then there was the food. HE had food allotments for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. FOR HIM. NOT him, the wife, and the kid. He exceeded his limits for him alone, let alone HIS FAMILY. He submitted receipts and expects the taxpayers to foot the bill for his entire freaking family!!!!

I am sickened by his behavior. I work HARD for my money. After 6 years, I was “rewarded” by an 80 cent raise. Woo hoo. This schmuck gets like 25% in the same timeframe STILL can’t pay his own way and then wants to play stupid?

Let me quote his law enforcement brethren: Ignorance of the law and rule of law is NO excuse. He needs to be terminated. No severance. Buh bye. Lichtig too. If she is his boss, she needs the boot too. I cannot believe these people make these huge salaries and do such TERRIBLE work. HONESTLY. WHAT the ……..


He also submitted personal credit card receipts that were in his wife’s name. This would indicate that he wasn’t present when the funds were spent as he didn’t use a city credit card or even his own. Also he was allowed to get away without reimbursing the rental car because at a different conference he could have rented a car but he didn’t so he got credit for not having wasted our money on something he didn’t previously need. That is just unacceptable and clearly they bent over backwards to cover up as much as possible right down to using “pleasing verbiage” about his consistent historical interpretation of the rules. Likewise, they didn’t make him pay back the difference between his first class ticket and a coach ticket. They didn’t make him pay back the cost of his rooms when he would over stay his trips or arrive day’s early at the cost of the taxpayers. He owed a lot more than they said he did.

Both he and Lichtig need to go as she colluded to down play his misappropriations. What was she scared of and why did she cover up?


He wasn’t “stealing” MR/MS. Lichtig says it was all just a “mistake” fu*&$%g unbelievable!


More deserving of some “golden showers” kayaknut.


“Irreconcilable Differences” – this isn’t a divorce.

Another example of political officials not understanding the functions of their jobs. Pay up suckers – and by suckers I mean us.


Shameless top cop. Severe mishandling of travel expenses. He has no shame, just a lawyer to grab an eighth part of a mil for himself. Greed in a formerly-noble blue uniform. Wants an eighth of a mil for months he will not have to work. Typical.


It really is difficult to defend Gesell. Anyone holding the position he did should be smart (if not ethical) enough not to make such foolish mistakes.

On the other hand it’s absolutely nuts that a POS like Lichtig can fire him for “irreconcilable differences” without getting booted herself.

SLO City Government needs a huge enema. The question is if the city council is up to the job of administering it?


You really have doubts the city council is up to the job, come one, if history is any indication, Marx and company will the norm…. nothing, No doubt to me.


Must be nice to have a job where you can sue if your boss hates you. In the real world, if your boss hates you, you’re gone. And here comes novelist and taxpayer-funded hero David P. Warren to the rescue, making sure he gets his third.


because in the real world we have “at-will” employment contracts.

I used to work for government and it was nearly impossible to be fired.


That is not true. Most professionals in Senior Management/Executive positions have such agreements in place.


Now, I just stated a fact. How can people possible “dislike” facts?


I didn’t give you a thumbs down here but I can understand why others might. You stated a “fact” without giving supporting evidence which makes people skeptical. It may well be true (especially in larger corporations) but someone without background would probably want more than a bare claim to “fact.”

Old Salt

Gesell could disclose damaging information about the city, some of which could implicate Lichtig.

Cloak and dagger…

intrigue, secrecy, espionage, and mystery.


While I would love to see that, at this point that is mere speculation.

Rich in MB

Gotta love the SLO City Government… Its not their money to blow….so they don’t give a rats ass about it. Elections matter.

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