South County billing dispute erupts with allegation of racism

July 17, 2015


Amid a discussion on a multi-month billing dispute that is pitting South County cities Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach against the Oceano Community Services District, an elected official stormed out of a board meeting, alleging she was the target of a racial slur.

In June, the Oceano CSD, led by General Manager Paavo Ogren, demanded the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation district sign a contract pertaining to billing services. The OCSD has since threatened to stop acting as a bill collector for the sanitation district if the South County agency does not agree to pay approximately $22,000 a year to Oceano.

The cities of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach also provide billing services for the sanitation district. Both cities bill many more sewage customers than Oceano, yet they charge less in totality than what the OCSD is demanding.

The sanitation district board, which is comprised of a representative each from Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano, twice rejected the contract Ogren proposed. Yet, sanitation District Manager Rick Sweet placed Ogren’s proposal back on the agenda for Wednesday’s board meeting.

At the meeting, Jeff Edwards, a frequent critic of the OCSD, spoke during public comment and criticized Sweet for siding with Oceano in the billing dispute.

“This is another example of your general manager going off the reservation,” Edwards said at the beginning of his public comment.

OCSD board member Mary Lucey, who was serving on the sanitation board Wednesday, then cut off Edwards. Lucey left the dais saying Edwards had made a racial, slanderous remark towards her even though the comment was clearly directed towards Sweet.

Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals, who was chairing the meeting, then called for a five minute break. When the board reconvened, Shoals let Lucey speak.

Mary Lucey

Mary Lucey

“Racism comes in many, many different ways, and I’m Blackfoot Indian, and I was born in Montana, and I was born on a reservation, and my grandmother was raised in an orphanage. So when someone says to me you’ve wandered off the reservation, it is the most bigoted comment you can make to a Native American, and it’s insulting, and what’s really insulting is when you do it in front of a room full of adults, and they allow that type of bigotry to continue. So, Mr. Ewards, you’re a bigot,” Lucey said.

When Lucey finished her remarks, Shoals said he was surprised by her comments. He also said the sanitation board might need to call in the League of Women to help with civil discourse.

Shoals then allowed Edwards to continue his public comment.

Edwards did not respond to Lucey’s remarks. He said Sweet was acting against the will of the board by continuing to push for the agreement with Oceano.

“Who is Mr. Sweet working for,?” Edwards said. “Is he working for this district. Or is he working for Paavo Ogren at the OCSD?”

Edwards also alleged that Oceano’s representatives on the sanitation district board have been pushing for the billing agreement because the OCSD is strapped for cash.

“Oceano needs the money. That’s why they keep begging for it. They have to pay Paavo,” Edwards said.

Oceano pays Ogren a base salary of approximately $200,000.

Lucey later responded by saying Oceano is not begging the sanitation district for anything. Lucey said the sanitation district stands to lose $84,000, the revenue from a two-month billing cycle, by not signing the agreement with the OCSD.

On Wednesday, Lucey filled in for Oceano’s representative on the sanitation board, Matt Guerrero. Both Guerrero and Lucey have argued for the contract with the OCSD, while representatives of Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach have opposed it.

Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill was also absent from Wednesday’s sanitation board meeting. Hill has criticized Ogren’s payment demands, calling them outrageous.

Hill’s absence could have swayed the vote Wednesday. But, Arroyo Grande Councilman Tim Brown, who filled in for Hill, would not support the agreement with Oceano, either.

“I don’t believe it’s correct to basically be told by one jurisdiction it’s our way or the highway,” Brown said.

Brown called for the sanitation district to hold off signing an agreement for one month. Shoals agreed, saying Ogren should reconsider his demands.

The board voted 2-1 against signing the contract. The board directed sanitation district staff to attempt to construct a deal on billing rates with all three of its member agencies.

The sanitation district is also considering asking the county to serve as its bill collector.


Wow a lil too sensitive eh? What a bitch!


Perhaps Lucey didn’t have time to burn-one-down before the meeting, making her a tad “touchy, but listening to her latest unprofessional out-burst got me to wondering who gives a rats ass where her grandmother was raised, and for that matter, what does that fact (or fiction) have to do with the subject at hand?


My grandmother was a teacher on a reservation in Nebraska, She left us a beautiful pair of beaded moccasins that she wore during that time.

Relevance to the matter at hand? None. Just kinda cool.


Mary Lucey’s outrage over the “going off the reservation” remark is an example of self-immolation and abject political incompetence. The citizens of OCSD who elected her should be aware of the disgrace she has brought on to the OCSD. The OCSD Board should admonish her for her conduct. Lucey should apologize to her electorate.


In response to Mudslide’s comment of “So, it’s obvious to me that Director Lucey undoubtedly represents the ratepayers, who incidentally elected her twice!”

Let us be very frank here. History shows that an unopposed dirt clod would win a seat on the OCSD board.

For pete’s sake, this is a board that at last election had a formerly disgraced and FIRED general manager run and come in 2nd out of only three candidates! There isn’t voting. Winning a seat by running unopposed isn’t getting votes. Get real Mary, er, I mean Mudslide.

It’s the same tired old faces on the dais this decade, outside of Jennifer Blackburn. Unfortunately, Blackburn’s few attempts at making educated decisions for the best of Oceano have been derided and ridiculed by Lucey. Now Blackburn is just a former shell of her previous fresh-faced self.

It’s the same reason that the public and ratepayers don’t get involved – Lucey the Horrible. There isn’t a meeting where she isn’t sneering, condescending, interruptive, bloviating and wasting time with the most inane and inappropriate questions and comments.

Between Mary Lucey’s utter contempt for the public, Lori Angello’s disengaged involvement (she’s the QUEEN of “I have nothing to report” and “I have no questions”) and GM Paavo Ogren gleefully skipping to the bank every two weeks, with his obscene paychecks, Oceano was, is and will continue to be, gasping for life while the OCSD board chokes it to death.

The residents are poorer for this district in their midst, due to the decided LACK of leadership skills by these “elected” officials.


Sadly, Lucey’s antics have become the accepted norm. Either the other board members have no genuine interest in serving the residents of Oceano, or Lucey has browbeaten them into nearly complete silence. She dominates the meetings much as Ferrara did in AG, no other board member ever had much to contribute there either with Tony demanding all the attention. Same goes at OCSD now. Lucey takes the every opportunity to reign supreme as President, she’s the drama queen of the show. As for the rest of them, it’s a wonder they even show up half the time


I am sorry to read that Jennifer has been derided and ridiculed. I had high hopes she could bring some perspective to OCSD. Pamela Dean was harassed and ridiculed to the point she actually moved out of town. It didn’t matter if she was bringing up a valid point the BOD President at the time would have opposed her for personal reasons even if he agreed with her. Point in case the overpriced computer program that not only she but many ratepayers opposed. It didn’t matter that it was shown this company had been sued by other cities because the program didn’t work. The rate payers ended up paying for an unnecessary overpriced program.

You are right ajdury no one wants to be part of this circus. I gave up long ago. About the time it was decided outside the meeting (big time Brown Act violation) that unless the other BOD’s agreed to appoint Rick Searcy another BOD would refuse to appoint anyone else. The Good Ol Boys system was at work regardless of the fact the ratepayers would not vote him onto the board. We all know how well that appointment turned out.

Felma was so excited to be on the board and make a difference. She was also harassed and consequently resigned.

Montemurro was part of that same Good Ol Boys system (got the job without a background check because he was someone’s “friend”). Even after facts were presented about his previous government failures he was protected for months by more than one BOD.

People quit going to meetings because they are sick of all the time spent on personal attacks rather than working for the people.

Mary, you have shown how you despise Tacker and Edwards. Yes, he is offensive and annoying. My feeling is why on earth given your opinion of him would you care what he said? It is only those whose opinion I value that I care what they said.

Attacks in the guise of political correctness have gone too far. If someone called me a fat, old, honky white ass bitch I would consider the source and have more respect for myself than to react or give them credulity. If a person knows who they are and are proud of themselves this kind of bull would mean nothing to them.

I only hope that someday there will be a BOD, as a whole, the residents of Oceano can be proud of. That will bring residents back to the meetings.

I’m sorry, I have to agree we are a small community without a lot of money. The GM job really is overpaid.

I suggested every time a GM is fired to hire a Cal Poly young eager person with a degree in City Management. Not old tired men who are overpaid.


As a resident of Oceano , I have to agree with Cathy.

A lot of distractions and personal attacks to keep residents from taking a look at the budget problems the board has created, increased rates , general managers $ 250,000 salary + benefits + 5% raise, waste , fraud , theft.

We need a state audit to review the budget, spending, and management of the Oceano Community Services District.


State Auditors Office

Request Performance and Financial Audit

Requests can be made by Individuals , Local State Assembly Member , and Local State Senator.


Say it isn’t so, racism in the central coast – headquarters of the Hells Angels, headquarters of the Arian Brotherhood. Just say it isn’t so. See how lawsuits the local agencies settle based upon racism every year.


Just because a comment is deemed to be “racist” does NOT mean it was made with racist intentions, nor does it mean racism is a “problem”.


If you are confident in who and what you are, a silly little cliché’d comment will not offend you. Seriously, she was elected to a position. How much racism/bigotry has she actually faced in her life? Probably none. If Mr. Edwards had been saying things that she agreed with, would she have been so “offended”? I don’t think so.


If it was anyone else other than Jeff Edwards; she wouldn’t have said a word.


That’s because NO ONE else would have made such an absurd remark.

Lets face it, Oceano doesn’t like either of you. You have continually foisted your agenda upon the citizens starting with the airport property scheme and for that, you have left a very bad taste in the mouth of the community.

You don’t live there, you own NO business there, and frankly, you don’t belong there.

Return to Los Osos, the community you have already destroyed.


Pelican1 has lived in Oceano how many years? To know the ” taste in the mouth of the community” and all?

No solutions, just anonymous personal attack.


If she doesn’t have a tribal card, it doesn’t count. Grow up and work this out!


So….by extrapolation, what you seem to be saying is that a white person, in hearing a racial slur against against a black person, should just stand there and remain silent and accepting?


No. I am saying that I don’t believe she is a Native American until she proves it.

I have been reading about lineage as of late, and so many Americans have been told that they have/had ancestors that were of Native American decent. The truth is, a very small percentage do, and an even smaller percentage can actually prove it.

As a side note, MY grandmother actually carried a Tribal card. She was HAPPY to not live on some crusty old reservation. She is not the mouthpiece for every native American tribe.

But lesson learned; just tell her that some village lost their idiot next time she speaks. At this point, I am sooooo over this stuff. I vote to let Walmart handle the OCSD. They will do it for 49.97 on rollback.


Wow. Now the rest of the 5 Cities can see exactly what goes on at OCSD meetings and how the public is treated there. I don’t think the residents of Arroyo Grande are going to put up with Mary’s histrionics much longer. She’s a ticking time bomb of crazy. I am SO happy the SSLOSD listened to the public and hired AGP Video! What an auspicious first day for them, lol.


It is like watching 4 year olds fingerpaint.


First of all, it’s irrelevant as to whom the racist comment was directed. It makes no difference. It’s still a racist comment. And I have heard it stated several times by Mr. Edwards, as well as others. It makes no difference if there was or was not a Native American in the room when it was said. To use the term “Wandering off the reservation” is unacceptable under any circumstances. Irregardless of the list of urban definitions, it’s origin stems from the days when Native Americans were forcibly kept (as in: by gunpoint by the U.S. Army) on the reservation. When a person went “off” the reservation, it meant they were out of military control and therefore a threat to society that needed to be stopped and likely killed. It is clearly a derogatory term. It’s tantamount to saying, for example: “I think he’s ran away from the plantation, again.” OR – “I can’t believe she tunneled her way out of the concentration camp!” – clearly these examples are offensive. Does anyone here think that it would be OK, or no big deal to express oneself in this manner? I, for one, think it’s not OK! – I also believe that people must be “called out” on using offensive, derogatory (racist & homophobic) statements.

So, when the proverbial “They” stop shooting our unarmed sons, dead in the streets – then you can say your tired of people calling racist! If “they” were shooting and killing your children perhaps only then, you might understand. Although I kind of doubt it, based on the ignorant comments made here. (Like all those, oh so clever references to “reservations” ) … NOT funny. And frankly not that clever at all. Simply perpetuating racism from the societal privilege you happened to be born into.

And we are so sorry that you are sick of hearing about racism. When YOU stop being a racist, then maybe you won’t have to hear about it anymore.

In response to Ms. Tacker’s claim that Director Lucey is not representing at the San District; I beg to disagree! Director Lucey openly denied that Oceano was begging for the San District’s money. Furthermore she distinctly stated that it would be in the best interest of the ratepayers for the county to do the billing. And that it would cost the ratepayers LESS if the county did the billing for the San District. I didn’t hear the other entities (AG & Grover) chime in. No! They, of course, would rather take the money from the San. Dist. & continue getting paid to do the billing. They are the ones who appear to be representing their own areas & not the San District. So, it’s obvious to me that Director Lucey undoubtedly represents the ratepayers, who incidentally elected her twice! Equally transparent is that you, Ms. Tacker & your life partner represent NO ONE. And you are not elected to anything, by anyone. I didn’t hear YOU advocate for the county to do the billing & save money for the ratepayers you claim to care so much about. And I’m sick of hearing your self promoting, selfish, profit-making, obstructionist rhetoric disguised as wanting “fairness” & caring about ratepayers. (Talk about something “getting old”!) Your nothing but deceitful opportunist liars who clearly care only for yourselves. And for someone who claims they want fairness – well, you yourself are not fair by any stretch of the imagination. You are obviously biased against Oceano & for some strange reason want to see our town fail. I believe you have a vendetta. Furthermore, in my opinion, you are indeed bigots.


Mudslide Feel free to submit your opinion piece to the email link to the right.


If I had to guess, I’d say Mudslide=Mary Lucey.

Ms. Lucey, you have a short memory. You have suggested from the dais (twice) that I “represent” the San Dist. because I have argued they not pay the OCSD’s extortion rate for billing services.

My contribution to this discussion is that it was me who first informed, then San Dist board chair, Bill Nicolls in summer of 2012, that your GM Tom Geaslen was “holding the check” rather than pass all funds through and openly negotiate a new/equitable billing agreement. I was watching, listening, learning OCSD at that time, and was appalled by the absolute crap coming from Geaslen’s mouth — it was later proven my judge of his character was right on. (The same scenario played out with Montemurro and Curtis and my criticism of both of them).

It was my research that revealed that after Wallace was gone in Feb. 2013, Geaslen again tried to extort funds from the San Dist, in Mar. 2013, proving there was no agreement, verbal or otherwise, among thieves.

I provided copies of the Oct. 2012 staff report and minutes from that meeting, the formula’s used by Grover and Arroyo, invoices and options to the board, advocating for the lowest cost, most equitable option…the County. Each time this has been on the SSLOCSD agenda, even this past Wed., right in front of you, I made the case again. Explaining the county bills in arrears and SSLOCSD has time to compile the data necessary to switch to the tax roll. My question was, and still is, why hasn’t SSLOCSD staff presented the options since first discussed as far back as May.

You, Mary Lucey, have advocated for Oceano’s extortion rate explaining that your staff deals with the customers, hangs door hangers, does the printing and mailing (of the bills that have to go out anyway). You’ve even gone so far as to suggest Oceano should be compensated through this agreement for ridicule from school children in GB and AG aimed at the children of Oceano in the 1960’s did mental damage because the sewer plant is housed within your district boundary. No joke, you said it.

AG and GB continue to bill at a reasonable rate; it’s only Oceano that is pushing for an agreement binding SSLOCSD to an inequitable rate. The representatives from AG and GB voted not to enter into an inequitable agreement with OCSD until the options are presented. That is how they save the ratepayers money.

I want Oceano to succeed, I go to the meetings informed and educated. I have argued against most every expenditure the OCSD board has made in the last 6 years; pushing them to get the best rate, go out to bid, get competent staff and consultants at a reasonable cost, shown the board its shortfalls and offered to help. Arguing against the purchase of the jetter is just one example…look what that has cost the ratepayers!

I have made no money by participating in any community as an activist, in fact, it costs me a great deal to do so.

The only way Oceano will fail is by its own actions. My friends and clients in Oceano are grateful for my participation there; even though I am treated badly, called names, have my rights quashed, I will continue to participate. See you next time.


So by your logic, when someone is mad and says, I want to kill so and so, that means they will?

Or how about when we try to get a good deal, ever used the saying, I Jewed him down on his price?

Do you think when someone says, I have a half a mind to do something, they really have half a mind?

How about, I think the guy is a real piece of shit. Do you envision the guy as such?

Yea I could go on. Point, we all use words and phases each day in expressing things and I don’t think anyone is giving much thought to what they said or expressing that is what they are going to do, in what they say.

We are turning into a nation of thin skinned, P.C. whiners about every damn thing.


Ha-ha-ha – get with it BeenThereDoneThat! If a person made a statement like “I want to kill so and so” and is heard doing so, and harm comes to that person, don’t you think the person who made that statement would come under suspicion by the authorities? That has happened more than once over many, many years. If you are over 12 years old you sound stupid saying it anyway!

Some forms of speech need to go – you think “Jewed” is OK because you used a capital J?

Yes, more thought is needed in speech.

The reference to s#it though, let’s keep that one. It does not offend any particular group, everyone does it. And it is the repulsive qualities of that output that you would apply to a person…. although I can see how the physical characteristics of that product might apply to some.


What a rant, I think you covered all the topics possible in one loooonnnng story! You need a life and maybe the “They” would not shoot if the momma’s would teach their sons to obey the police when they say “hands up”, be respectful and to obey our laws, stay away from drugs, guns and disgusting rap music. Then, you will have my sympathy!


Well is this Mary Lucey or her life partner Nancy spouting off yet again at others.


When BigDaddy[Issues] speaks, that’s when life partners are standing up for their Crazy As F*&K spouses. The rambling above was clearly reminiscent of many OCSD board diatribes from the current Board President.

Too bad people don’t believe their own words enough to put their real names on them, lol.


I just want to know why it costs so much more for service in Oceano. Can you PLEASE explain it to me. Are the sewage pipes made of gold? Is a blind, 3 legged mule responsible for getting the bills out to the residents? I am totally serious. I NEED to understand.


Paavo = $$$$$$.

That’s the explanation, plain, pure and simple.


Unbelievable how much trouble crap and water causes and it is even more unbelieveable that a dive like Oceano pays some schmuck upwards of 200k/year to sort through all that crap and water. Are Ogren and Allen related? Both are useless, overpaid knuckleheads employed by useless agencies.