Steve Gesell seeking work in Arizona

December 11, 2015

Steve Gesell 4Former San Luis Obispo police chief Steve Gesell, who was forced out of the top cop job in SLO earlier this year, is now pursuing work in Cottonwood Arizona. [KSBY]

The Cottonwood Police department serves a population of about 40,000 people. The current chief is retiring in Jan. 2016, and city officials would like to have a new chief in place at that time.

Gesell left the San Luis Obispo job in May after a feud with City Manager Katie Lichtig. Gesell received a $120,000 severance package, and Lichtig has not disclosed specifically why she chose to part ways with Gesell.

In January, CalCoastNews reported Gesell violated city travel reimbursement policies on several occasions, often making the city foot the bill for conferences that turned into family trips. Around the same time, Gesell applied for the police chief job in Chico.

However, Gesell told SLO police staff he had no plans to leave the city, and his attorney stated the same publicly, even as Gesell became a leading candidate for the Chico job. Gesell withdrew his candidacy for the position shortly after members of the Chico police union visited San Luis Obispo to investigate Gesell’s background.

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Gesell had some issues, but none, in my opinion, that couldn’t have been addressed without terminating him. The real issue is that Katie Lichtig will NOT tolerate any independent thought on the part of department heads. She is what the military would term a “toxic leader”. (And trust me, I am all too familiar with toxic leadership in the military). Go back and look at the turnover of department heads since she’s been City Manager. Also, I think CCN could do the residents of the area a more useful service by digging into why Lichtig hired an out-of-towner for the Police Chief position rather than hiring a perfectly well qualified internal candidate, one who already knew the other members of the department and the community. By hiring the candidate from Mesa, Arizona Lichtig has effectively told every member of the Police Department to go pound sand. And guess what? She’s now alienated just about every officer in the department with that move. I’m certainly not saying that Steve Gesell was perfect, or that he didn’t violate policies, but I am saying that he could have been reprimanded, fined some money, and kept on. The embarrassment of that would have prevented any further offenses. He did a lot of good with getting officers back into the field and dealing with the homeless. I don’t want a malleable namby-pamby for the Police Chief. Look for the new chief to be a complete sock-puppet who’ll do and say whatever she’s told to do by Katie Lichtig. We’ll get lots of politically-correct platitudes and little real enforcement. One man’s opinion.

Perhaps the former chief felt that given Ms. Lichtig`s management style he was entitled to the kind of benefits he took advantage of. It`s a proven fact that disgruntled and unhappy employees will frequently take advantage of, or abuse time, or steal (thinking they are owed) to make up for what they consider unfair employment practices.

This is a VERY common practice among government workers given their sense of employment security.

It`s shameful…but reality.

Haven’t you flamed this guy enough already??? Move on, you’ve probably created enough negative online identity for him by now. Let it go. He’s not here anymore, who the hell cares, find some pertinent corruption here locally. Certainly there’s an abundance.

Move on? That’s what every public official going from city to city wants, to be perceived as having only “approved” history.

These people receive the public’s dollars, fair game. If he went to a non-taxpayer funded job then sure.

Put him on your payroll.

Ditto. Drop ti. Petty B.S.

It’s time to leave this guy alone. Just stop reporting on his every job application.

San Luis Obispo’s past is some other towns future tax payer expense.

Why do you want to white wash the past and prevent citizens in other towns from learning about there future public employees?

It’s like the blue wall but with white collar publicly funded officials wanting to rewrite the past.

Spot on,kettle!

I’d like to know if the guy coming to work for me was a potential liability.

A prospective employer has a right to know if he’s going to be on the hook for a crook.

Who do you think was responsible for approving his “work trips” and “travel expenses”?

That’s right. Katie Litchig, THE CITY MANAGER.

The Police Chief is gone. Now, concentrate on getting rid of the person who was responsible for oversight–his boss, ..Katie Litchig.

Maybe Steve can ask Sheriff Arpaio about how to be a real police officer.

“Maybe Steve can ask Sheriff Arpaio about how to bankrupt a county with lawsuits”

Fixed it for you.

Also they already know each other, Steve worked in his county.

Wouldn’t it be more like “Maybe Steve can teach Sheriff Arpaio how to make them think you are going to a conference and then get the taxpayers to pay for a family vacation and how to cover it up”, Oh wait scratch that last part, it would be “try and fail to cover it up”.

Why is CCN tracking this guy’s every movement? Isn’t it time to move on to, I don’t know, current news?

I am thinking that it may be time to give this guy a break and quit tracking his every move regarding looking for work in his chosen profession to serve the public and support his family.

He may well have violated some City travel reimbursement policies, but I think the real reason that he was terminated from SLO City service was that his attempts to have his department put together some documentation on the City’s transients were not considered “politically correct” by the majority of the Council.

If what he did regarding his travel was extremely bad, and obviously wrong, he would not (should not) have received the severance payment that he did.

With 14 dead and several others injured badly by Muslim terrorists who passed through all kinds of security checks by our government before committing the terrible crime, there is plenty more for this blog to cover. Just my opinion.

Well said, thank you.

you write “to serve the public” Really? or is it to rip them off?

I believe that Gesell’s departure from SLO had more to do than just travelgate and transients. I suspect that Lichtig is playing hide the ball under the shroud of “its a personnel issue”

Yet he is given a soft landing because that is what executives do for each other. Do you think a low level employee would have been afforded such a soft landing?

Gesell was recruited to Cottonwood by a Scottsdale Police coworker who was fired while Chief of Police for Scottsdale. This same guy became Police Chief for Cottonwood and then City Manager.

Don’t believe me ? … Check out the links to

Bravo! My guess is your four thumbs down are big Steve, Katie, Christine, and Monica.

Too bad most won’t read the info you posted and the window into institutional dysfunction and government corruption.

I would love to know the reasons for his “departure” from SLO. As a top city official, I think taxpayers have a right to know but that’s a different ballgame. I just can’t understand how these city officials can just bounce around from one municipality to another after controversial separations.

The answer is short: Katie Lichtig, the city manager. Everyplace she’s worked has the same sort of turnover turmoil that she’s brought to SLO.

If the employees could take a vote of confidence/no-confidence, I would hate to see the results they would not favor Ms Lickit.

City Attorney, Christine Dietrick’s brother-in-law is back in the Planning Department for the upteen time (he can’t pass the entry exam), so now they have him filling in as a temporary Supervisor until he can AGAIN learn the position, try to educate himeself and then apply for the City position thanks to family, Christine Dietrick! Employees are thrilled about him as other qualified people would like it open now as this holds up filling the permanent position.

He’s fishing for work in the U.S. so someone will pick him up. He should have come clean and left SLO on better terms because that would have cleaned up his resume for the next line of blue to check him out.