SLO police chief facing administrative leave

May 8, 2015
Steve Gesell

Steve Gesell

By CalCoastNews Staff

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Steve Gesell will be placed on paid administrative leave by the end of the work day, today, Friday, May 8, sources say. It is the first step in what reliable and informed sources say is City Manager Katie Lichtig’s plan to remove Gesell from the city payroll.

Those sources have confirmed rumors that have been swirling for months that Lichtig has irreconcilable differences with the chief. City officials are not disclosing the reason for Gesell’s departure. The city council is expected next week to discuss a payout, likely to be in six figures.

Responding to a CalCoastNews exclusive earlier this year that detailed multiple violations of city travel reimbursement policies by Gesell, Lichtig said some of the police chief’s financial transgressions were “mistakes.”

In other cases, Gesell’s actions violated written city policies. Nevertheless, Lichtig and Director of Finance Wayne Padilla dismissed concerns about many of the violations. Gesell’s actions were excused as a “consistent application” of policy according to a “historical interpretation.” Historical interpretation means that even though policies and procedures have been laid out, prior practice allows them to be violated without consequence.

Some of Gesell’s expenses that have been questioned involved participation in events sponsored by the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST). Lichtig and Gesell went on some of the POST-funded trips together.

City officials refused to comply with requests for documents under the California Public Records Act showing expenditures for the training. City officials said Tuesday that they disposed of all requests for financial reimbursements from POST and none were available for review.

POST officials said the city is required by California law to retain the records for a minimum of three years.

Lichtig and Gesell did not respond to requests for comment.

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I suspect in reality, Lichtig’s abysmal leadership style is beginning to cause headaches for members of the SLO City Council. In other words, council members are getting tired of hearing about Lichtig’s growing list of management transgressions.

Lichtig is no doubt sensitive to this growing problem (all it would take would be for Marx or Ashbaugh to swallow an integrity pill for Lichtig to be toast.) Her “solution” to take some heat off herself is not to take the high road and leave on her own, but to “fix” things by throwing another (less) questionable individual under the bus. In this case Gesell.

I have to believe that Gesell is preparing to fire a shotgun filled with a magnum load of dirty laundry at Lichtig’s head about now. If the SLO City Council ignores these facts, if Marx and Ashbaugh refuse to vote to rid SLO of Lichtig because of their own egos (they voted to hire her in the first place, despite a very questionable work history), then to hell with the SLO City Council for not doing its job.

This is about SLO’s integrity and future. Step up to the place, SLO City Council!

Are you going to run for City Council? No. If you did could you win? Again, no. The City Council is not elected it is bought.

You do not have the right to know how your city is governed. This has been established City of SLO policy back to Dave Romero.

Given Katie Lichtig’s questionable tenure in SLO I can’t believe that Gesell will go quietly. I would expect him to bring many of her issues to light.

Then it will be a question if the SLO City Council has the character to do the right thing and fire Lichtig. Are you listening Marx and Ashbaugh?

His actions amount to a pattern of theft of public funds for personal gain. He stole from all of us and nothing was done. However, this is no different than the rest of upper management at the City and even staff.

Remember the article in Calcoast about Ron Faria misappropriating that mower ($3,500k in value) for personal gain. He took it to be sold for scrap value for the City. Got $300 for the City, bought it from the scrap dealer for $350 without removing it from the trailer, then sold it for $3500 plus a few weeks later. Then we had that Nance fellow in Waste Water Collection according to Calcoast who directed two idiots who work for him at the City to dump hazardous waste at the back of the City Yard. If you don’t know, this amounted to a felony. Then the article on that character Bob something in the Water Department who was charging unsuspecting business owners for the very same services he was paid to perform as a City employee. Then there are the well documented cases of City employees falsifying reports to the water board. Then there was officer McDow, officer Corey Pearce, officer Limon, officer …. and of course who can forget fireman 1-2 knock out Mason. Most of these characters have retained or did retain their job. Oh and then there is the well documented history of top management giving their family and friends jobs and contracts with the city without even going out to bid and/or recruitment! Remember the article on Dietricks idiot brother-in-law who was given a job under the Community Development Director. The job was given to him as if it was a private company. Then there is the hiring of Jason Stillman, the fired City Manager of Carmel and terminated head in Santa Barbara. Both terminations were based upon misconduct, including abusive tactics to staff that resulted in millions of dollars in claims against the agency, but since his friend Derek works at the city, the city created a position for him in finance that never existed before at $150,000 a year.

The point is – the City of SLO’s recruitment and hiring process under Litchig, Irons and Dietrick is flawed. They simply like to hire those like them. Criminals, often engage in activities with other criminals. Compared to all these other people in the employ of SLOtown, Litchig Dietrick and Irons don’t look too bad. Hire really bad apples and the sour ones at the top look pretty good.

Time to run Lichtig & Co. OUT on a rail, people!

Bottom line is that Lichtig became aware of Gesell’s consistent and deliberate fleecing of our tax dollars and she instructed the SLO city Finance Director to cover up the abuse identified on his expense reimbursements. She even noted in an e-mail to the Director of Finance how pleased Gesell was with the “verbiage” they used to sweep it under the rug. Then they destroyed documents to cover the extent of his “dishonesty”.

Why would they want to pay someone who is being dismissed with cause? Is it hush money and if so, about what else? I don’t think we should take this without demanding some answers.

Both Lichtig and Gesell need to go.

Prepare the signs, show up at the council meetings. NO PAY OFF, NO HUSH MONEY

Pack the chambers, pack the chambers, pack the chambers!

We did it in AG, you can do it in SLO.

Good luck!

Gesell probably should have been on admin leave back in January, when potential improprieties surfaced to begin with. If it ended up having no merit, so be it, but there is a process and it should have been followed.

Not sure if it happened in this case, but cops in the profession are tired of the double standard treatment that police “management” employees appear to receive. There is no place, whatsoever, for disparity regarding how personnel matters involving law enforcement should be handled. Regardless of rank. If granted anonymity, any veteran cop will probably tell you, it appears to happen far more often than you could possibly imagine.

Hope the Slo city council makes a good decision. If you do in fact have cause, and if you pay out a “management” employee, instead of releasing that “management” employee with cause in accordance with the provisions of their employment contract, don’t be surprised if neon green signs start appearing during your council meetings.

The circumstances were different, but Arroyo Grande didn’t think for one second it could happen to them, until it happened. Many of those citizens are still keeping a very watchful eye on their city, and frankly you are long overdue for that type of attention. In this county, with the way some cities have become accustomed to operating over the years, it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

The circumstances may be different but the principle is the same.

An employee/ employees violated city policy.

Neither were placed on administrative leave, as is customary HR procedure.

By not following procedure, other employees can justifiably claim unfair treatment.

There comes a point when top city officials MUST follow their own rules.

It is the public’s responsibility to make sure they do.

Amen! I know so many cops who have been absolutely screwed over by a management that is corrupt. You are absolutely correct that management screws over subordinates while wallowing in corruption themselves.

What is most schocking of all is that the Chief doesn’t understand why he is being paid off to leave.. These men at the top think the rules don’t apply to them. They think nobody is watching them, but really their own employees are and are often the ones to blow the whistle first.

Here is a rip treat your people well, especially your secretaries and managers and they will cover you. Mistreat them and they will cut your throat when you least expect it and can least afford it.

What’s most shocking of all is that someone with Lichtig’s record is able to fire this guy without getting canned herself.

If Marx and Ashbaugh had any sense of honor, they would publicly admit that hiring Lichtig was moronic decision and they would move to can her.

I’m no huge fan of Gesell, but it’s Katie Lichtig that should be getting the axe. What a complete POS. It’s time the cancer was cut from SLO City management, she needs to go.

Maybe she can take the city attorney with her!

As The World Turns…….