Sanitation district employee speaks out

February 6, 2016

John WallaceOpinion by Scott Mascolo

I am the first of two people to be terminated by former administrator John Wallace from the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District for standing up for what we believed was the right thing to do as a matter of ethics, morals and legality.

My employment with the district began in mid 1998 and ended in early 2011. I can’t comment on matters before 2001 and before Chuck Ellison retirement as it was a good place to work, but once Chuck left is when things turned ugly. I was very fortunate to work with many wonderful dedicated and talented individuals, hands on men and women who got things done.

As certified operators, the sanitation districts actual employees held more years experience in the wastewater industry than Wallace has been in business by about three fold. I have been a public servant for some 25 years specifically in wastewater operations, serving the public in the capacity as a plant superintendent, a mechanic, a lab tech, a collections worker and a shift supervisor.

To set the record straight John Wallace, during my employment at the sanitation district we worked for the public, not for you as you like to pretend. It was and is the residents of Arroyo Grande, Oceano and Grover Beach who pay those salaries, not you.

I could go on page after page detailing how literally with each project The Wallace Group failed in some capacity or another. From the Biogas Cogeneration unit that was headed for failure from day one and how Wallace’s representative told us not to speak of the short comings in the name of good public relations on that ribbon cutting day.

I remember the day one of Wallace’s own employees laughed as he condemned and critiqued the efforts of another Wallace engineers work on a particular multi-million dollar project under way at the plant. The failed Chlorine Contact chamber project the plant employees worked on for over a year to correct the many failed areas of the design and construction. The Methane Gas pipe bridge to nowhere. The electrical system improvements that were rolled over year after year, being billed and “engineered” year after year in spite of employee hazards, electrical fires and a potential for major process failure.

After the San Simeon Earthquake the plant suffered several areas of extensive damages. As expected, Wallace spearheaded the repairs which included excavations and pavement repairs around the plants headwork’s structure.

After the upgrades were completed every time there was any measurable rain a nice pond formed around the structure. We used to laugh as we placed a small rubber duck in the pond so it could float around. Of course, we hid the duck when one of Wallace’s staff came down so not to rub in the issues with their shoddy workmanship.

Unfortunately, at that pond were the two electrical pull boxes the rains of Dec. 2010 entered, tripped the shunt breakers, caused the influent pumps to fail which resulted in a massive spill. And that bargain basement emergency diesel pump that was sent back to the manufacturer four or five times apparently wouldn’t stay running. Well you can’t say you weren’t warned John.

As the years went on, frustration grew as we all watched less than satisfactory projects signed off on. The need for sometimes major rework on these engineered projects seemed never ending as well as overwhelming. Sanitation district staff was forced to correct the Wallace Group’s shoddy workmanship which took us away from much needed basic operational tasks.

It does not take an engineer or rocket scientist to know shit flows downhill, but we wondered sometimes if Wallace and his staff knew. It’s a basic concept for a working man, figure out what you need and build it to work as efficiently and financially beneficial as possible. This was never the case there in my 12 years. Wallace would have engineered a set of new tires for a work truck if given the chance to charge for it. sewage

One incident I’ll not soon forget took place somewhere around 2008. The Plant superintendent was out on long-term leave and I was approached by one of Wallace Group’s lead men who in Wallace’s words “spoke in the same voice” as he. Along with two other Wallace Group engineers, I was told, “We’re looking for work, what have you got”?

I was then taken from location to location around the plant while attempting to coerce me into agreeing to needless costly and unnecessary projects to provide work for the Wallace Group. From that point it was clear how things worked.

The saying about the $500 government hammer was never more evident under Wallace’s watch and apparently some of the board members liked it that way.

I believe many Americans feel our leaders have lost sight of what’s important in the name of public servitude and the sanitation district leadership was no different, so we reached out for help. We started with Grover Beach Councilman Bill Nichols, who on the word of somebody inside felt could be trusted. We discussed calling him to the plant for a confidential meeting but decided against this when our inside person became uncomfortable with prospect.

We decided there would be no harm in a letter to Nichols which was personally mailed by me. Bad idea as a couple days later Nichols was at the plant head hunting for whoever this pot stirring SOB was that was trying to expose the truth.

It wasn’t long after that Wallace was on the hunt and both Devina Douglas and I were terminated for refusing to go along to get along.

Those of us that worked under Wallace know the truth, the Grand Jury and Mr. Knudson’s report are right on the money and far from telling of every detail of Wallace’s supervision.

You have to ask yourself, what do those who exposed failures have to gain be speaking out? What do those who benefit from the situation have to lose?

It would seem if any of the politicians who backed the decades of wrongdoing were worried about being exposed as it would be career suicide. Without much effort one can conclude this is a opportune motive why allegations are disputed and down played.. Trust the facts on hand, there is no question in my opinion or the opinion of the other employees of the district, that Wallace took advantage of his position. It was a self dealing game designed to serve only one interest, The Wallace Group.

For Wallace to say he is proud of the service he provided, only shows how far away from reality Wallace has drifted.

John Wallace, do you recall that last meeting we had before I left the district? I expressed my concerns of the numerous flawed projects. Your response to me was “yeah, we seem to get a lot of that lately.”

It’s time to own up to the errors of your management Mr. Wallace, you have failed the public miserably and it’s time to apologize to the people of SLO County for taking advantage of a situation.

Ones political ties or position does not buy the trust or admiration of others. Only honesty and integrity will, and your far from a man of either in the eyes of many.


These offices would appreciate a real letter too.

Please take a moment and type out a brief note and include any minutes or transcripts you think valuable.

I know Im going to focus on the relationship Ferrara had to let this continue.

DA: SLO County District Attorney

1035 Palm St.

SLO, CA 93408

AG: Office of Attorney General

PO Box 944255

Sacramento, CA 94244

FBI: Santa Maria Office of the FBI

PO Box 1159

Santa Maria, CA 93456


Thank you for this information.

Letters to the Attorney General need to be addressed:

Attention: Public Inquiry Unit


This is what I sent to the Attorney General on their simple form

I am from Arroyo Grande, California and a rate payer at the South County Sanitation District where a clear conflict of interest, extortion and misuse of public funds has been occurring since 2000 by Mr. John Wallace of the Wallace Group. Please see not only the 2011 Grand Jury Report, the Knudsen investigative report and the transcripts from the San District meetings to fully appreciate the malfeasance going on. We need your help.

Our elected ex-Mayor,Tony Ferrara was complicit in this stealing of rate payer resources and should be investigated also. For over a decade he signed off on the bloated invoices and allowed the conflict to remain. Please see for more information. Mr. Wallace is very well connected in our community and has created work in many municipalities that also should be investigated. We need your help. This is bigger than our county as Mr. Wallace knows all the big shots in town including the DA”

Thank you


Just called the Attorney General. It takes about a week for them to track they received the complaint. They do LOOK at every COMPLAINT.

If you want to complete a comment to them urging them to look deep into the SSLOSD, just complete the online form at:


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Copied from an another story. Readers should see this again.



02/07/2016 at 12:51 pm

John Wallace usually steps in shit and comes out smelling like a rose. Let’s hope that’s not the case this time. I think there’s enough public attention now and people are FINALLY realizing that he is a crook. When it’s only your employees and good ‘ol boys supporting you at these meetings, you’ve got to open your eyes at some point and realize you’ve done wrong and this time you’ve been caught. He should be nervous!

John Wallace’s employee, Kit Carter said “the rate payers who pushed for the investigation did not have the intellect to understand what was going on”. What folks don’t know is that John Wallace is THAT good. He’s got his employees convinced that he did nothing wrong, that the facts are being misconstrued. I feel sorry for Kit Carter and other employees standing up for JW – they truly believe that he’s a good guy. I hope they someday realize how naive they’ve been. It’s the employees of WG that don’t “have the intellect” to realize they’re working for a snake, and that JW can twist things around like a clown making balloon animals at the circus.

John needs his employees to stand up for him – hardly anyone else will. When you work for Wallace Group, if you don’t jump on board, you’re not long for the WG world, you won’t have a job.

This man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He does community service and such to make himself look good, so that nobody will suspect anything. His attorney, Dennis Law is a member of the “good ‘ol boys club” in SLO – John and Dennis have been close friends for over 30 years and they’re going to scratch each other’s back when necessary. I’m confident John will get what he deserves, he’s gotten away with this for so long, it’s about time!


John Wallace was only able to do what he did to the ratepayers do SSLOCSD with a LOT of help.

Does anyone doubt that Ferrara, Nicolls, Shoals, Guerrero, Guthrie and the others who served on the board didn’t know what was taking place?

Ferrara takes a bunch of flower judges to the sewer plant…so the flower judges were convinced–of what??

It’s almost laughable how easily this group was able to work together to keep prying eyes out. 2-1 votes on the board worked for years. Turn the tables on the whistleblowers, fire them they pay them off to stay away. So what if the State claims Wallace is responsible for the disastrous spill? Let’s sue, and keep the litigation going until the statute of limitations runs out! For years they were able to dismiss the Grand Jury report–what could those people possible know? How dare they question Mr. Wallace’s longtime service to our community?

Time’s up Wallace… Ferrara and Nicolls aren’t here to protect you. Shoals and Gerrero had to cave to the public pressure.


Wallace is struggling. It almost made me chuckle to read this:


Thanks for sharing Ex WG employee.

It was VERY obvious as so many employees of Wallace Group had no idea what a sticky web they were entering at the meeting on Wednesday night.

Can’t wait to see Mr. Metcalf’s apology and photo in the Tribune when the Attorney General convicts Wallace for misuse of public funds, fraud, and extortion.


doglover and SamLouis, I can only hope he gets what he deserves in the end.

Hopefully when this is all over, he really will be driving a POS car and doing community service, and not just to make his image look good.


Kudos to you for writing an honest letter for all to read.

I hope all WG employees read this letter and any of these postings on CCN about John Wallace. Although I wonder if they’d even change the way they feel about the man who writes their checks. I could no longer work for such an unethical person so I left.

I know folks probably think I’m a disgruntled ex-employee (because of my comments I’ve left on these topics regarding Wallace Group and the San District) but I’m not. I left there on my own – I was not let go or fired – and I’m working for a company with integrity and I can sleep at night knowing I’m not a monkey in his circus.


The 1998 book “Who Moved My Cheese” comes to mind, focused on cutting costs through the means of relentless restructuring of organizations:


Sent this to New Times, the Santa Maria Times, and KSBY.

Don’t bother with the Trib.

They will let us know Tuesday who wins today’s Super Bowl!


THANK YOU SCOTT MASCOLA it is people like you who will help get the corruption out of our county.

If more people stood up and did the right thing John Wallace, Tony Ferrera, Adam Hill, Bruce Gibson, Gearhart and all the others would not have screwed over so many people.

Neighbors, friends,brothers, sisters, decent business owners, those who would have done the job correctly and charged an honest rate were all affected by your dishonesty. You did not think about them, you thought only of yourself and that is GREED.

So the young lady who stood up and said Mr. Wallace is not greedy and the person who said that is wrong, no Ma’am you are the one who is wrong. However it is not your fault, Mr. Wallace is very good at pulling the wool over over others eyes. Hopefully you will learn from this experience what liars and dishonest people do.

I hope you are left penniless when this whole thing is done and over, because you won’t serve much prison time I fear.