Sanitation district administrator accused of racism

December 4, 2016
Gerhardt Hubner

Gerhardt Hubner

By KAREN VELIE

Amid allegations of racism, the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board will discuss the discipline or termination of District Administrator Gerhardt Hubner at a Dec. 7 meeting, according to the agenda.

Following a verbal complaint of discrimination in August, board President John Shoals and attorney Gilbert Trujillo, the district’s legal counsel, unilaterally agreed to hire the law firm of Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore to investigate the allegations. There are currently nine employees at the plant: two are African Americans, one is Asian, and two are Latino.

Following the initial complaint, Hubner allegedly degraded Chief Plant Operator John Clemons, a black man, during a board meeting. As a result, the investigation was expanded to include allegations of retaliation.

In September, an investigator interviewed several meeting attendees including Julie Tacker. The questions related to Clemons and Hubner’s comments, actions and body language during a public meeting, Tacker said.

“I was surprised to be called and found it highly unusual,” Tacker said. “Hubner’s behavior was inappropriate and unprofessional. I think he is a bad fit for the district.”

In addition to issues regarding the treatment of staff, several rate payers have voiced concerns about paying for a full time administrator when a part time administrator has been sufficient in the past.

Under allegations of misspending, conflicts of interest and mismanagement, former plant administrator John Wallace resigned in 2013. Before Wallace stepped down, the district regularly spent more than $4 million a year.

The district then hired Paul Karp to work six hours a week as district administrator for $4,000 a month.

On May 1, 2013, Clemons became the chief plant operator. Less than a year later, the plant was operating cleaner at less than 50 percent the cost, according to financial reports obtained from the district.

Next, Karp left the district and Rick Sweet served as administrator working 10 hour a week for $4,000 per month.

During the past two fiscal years, district expenses have run approximately $2.5 million a year or $625,000 a quarter.

In April, the district board hired Gerhardt Hubner at $192,000 a year in salary and benefits to fill a new full-time administrator position. If Hubner works for the district for three years and then retires, the district is under contract to pay for his and his family’s medical costs for the remainder of his life.

In the first quarter of the 2016/2017 fiscal year, with Hubner at the helm, the cost of running the district skyrocketed from approximately $625,000 a quarter to $1.3 million a quarter. During that quarter, district expenditures exceeded district revenues by $300,000, according to the quarterly report.

On Dec. 7, in closed session, the district board is scheduled to discuss Hubner’s discipline, dismissal or release.







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22 Comments

  1. ByteMaker says:

    What a complete Charlie Foxtrot! When will the Sheeople of the Central Coast wake up and oust the overpaid civil servants that are robbing us of our hard earned money. $192,000 to run a sewage plant? I have a Masters Degree in Physics and a PhD in Computer Science and could never make that kind of money in the private sector on the Central Coast. Shoal and his cronies need to be held accountable for the obvious mismanagement of public funds.

    This is a perfect example of how Donald Trump was elected as president. People are fed up with the establishment and want a change. It just hasn’t happened on the Central Coast yet.

    (14) 30 Total Votes - 22 up - 8 down
    • paragon says:

      It might be a perfect example of how Donald Trump got elected, but problems like this will only get worse under Trump’s regime. His cabinet so far is basically a who’s who of Washington Insiders and Billionaire Fatcats. Donald Trump drained the swamp alright – he drained it right into his cabinet!

      (-6) 28 Total Votes - 11 up - 17 down
  2. Rambunctious says:

    “Sanitation district administrator accused of racism”

    Sorry if you want to remove this gentleman from his position you will need something more substantive than a racism allegation…..that was worn out long ago. It does not work on the people any longer.

    (4) 24 Total Votes - 14 up - 10 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Not sure what will work, since in the public sector noting being able to do your job or not being qualified doesn’t put your job at risk.

      (5) 17 Total Votes - 11 up - 6 down
  3. diamond says:

    First step in becoming president of the United states.

    (-2) 42 Total Votes - 20 up - 22 down
  4. Julie says:

    Trouble in this district goes back many years; the Wallace years (read the Knudson report) are evidence of that. But, since Wallace left there’s been a lot of catch up and damage control to work through. Prior to Hubner was Rick Sweet, who, even though he worked 10 hours a week said he “didn’t have time” to accomplish all the things the board asked of him. His complaints led the board to believe a part-time administrator wasn’t enough. What they should have realized it was that particular part-time administrator that wasn’t up to the workload. Ten hours a week may not have been enough; but forty hours a week is far too much.

    Before Sweet, was Paul Karp, who worked 6 hours a week and seemed to get a lot more done.

    Both did a lot of outsourcing, but it was CPO John Clemons who kept bringing things in house to save money. As an example, reinstating the lab (after Wallace shut it down in order to fire Devina Douglas) was a big savings.

    John Shoals negotiated Hubner’s contract, including a $350 a month car allowance and the hiring was done before the board could examine the districts benefit packages they’ve historically given out. The “lifer” factor could have been adjusted to include new employees contribute or eliminate the perk completely. The public continually raised these issues, yet the board signed off on Hubner (only interviewing 2 of the 10 applicants). The board was hopeful Hubner’s “Walter Board connections” would result in a good outcome with regard to the fine/litigation/settlement and his license as a Geologist would be an asset in the coming “Redundancy Project.” Neither has panned out in my mind. The fine was converted to projects in and outside the district, most of the money (3/4’s) will not be coming back to the district, instead it will benefit the water purveyors of the Northern Cities Management Area and the Bay Foundation in Morro Bay toward greater watershed issues (not necessarily in the south county).

    Hubner lost me quick, when he wouldn’t release his resume (in April) via the California Public Record Act. He engaged the district’s legal counsel to write letters giving irrelevant case law trying to justify why the public couldn’t have it. It wasn’t until California Aware the watchdog group in San Francisco threatened to sue the district did Hubner turn over the document (in August). What on earth was he hiding?

    His resume says his experience working on the Avila Beach clean-up writing “enforcement orders, community/media outreach, EIR/EIS preparation” which would lead one to believe he was capable of writing a newsletter and/or the letter the board directed him to write to the Oceano sewer plant neighbors alerting them to the upcoming Redundancy Project, apparently not. In June he hired contract Public Affairs Consultant, without board approval (under his spending authority) to accomplish these things, suggesting he didn’t have the expertise.

    Hubner felt it necessary to spend over $700 on plane fare, at the district’s expense, to go Sacramento to speak with the State Revolving Fund loan staff (rather than pick up the phone and talk to them via conference call) only to learn there are no funds available in the loan program at this time and the district will need to look other places for funding.

    Hubner doesn’t like the sewer plant work environment (it has odors), he suggested an offsite office for himself and the district’s Administrative Assistant as part of the budget. The board disagreed and he moved forward on his own leasing and furnishing the infamous unpermitted trailer. The 12x60ft. trailer has been there since August with no one occupying it but for a family of raccoons.

    The examples of “bad fit” are many…how many more does the board need to sever this relationship?

    (17) 63 Total Votes - 40 up - 23 down
  5. Rich in MB says:

    “In April, the district board hired Gerhardt Hubner at $192,000 a year in salary and benefits to fill a new full-time administrator position. If Hubner works for the district for three years and then retires, the district is under contract to pay for his and his family’s medical costs for the remainder of his life.”

    Here is the REAL story folks.
    In what fantasy land do you and your Family get Lifetime Healthcare after only 3yrs on the Job?

    (21) 35 Total Votes - 28 up - 7 down
    • kayaknut says:

      “In what fantasy land do you and your Family get Lifetime Healthcare after only 3yrs on the Job?”

      Easy answer, public sector, taxpayer funded fantasy land.

      (16) 22 Total Votes - 19 up - 3 down
  6. discloser says:

    Check the history. Who are the common denominators of dysfunction? John Shoals, Tony Ferrara, Bill Nicolls.

    (32) 64 Total Votes - 48 up - 16 down
  7. discloser says:

    Hubner has to go. All the indicators are that Hubner simply isn’t the man for the job: can’t handle the smell, goes in to work only about 4 hours a week, provoked long-suffering loyal employees into unionizing for the first time since 1965, denied promised promotions causing employees to appeal to the Board, placed a trailer without permits in the way of planned expansion, and takes action requiring ongoing legal costs in the tens of thousands every month. The Board hired him with the expectation that at his high salary he would be competent to manage projects. Not so. Every project to date has been contracted out. He actually gets PAID, with benefits and expenses $15,000 a month to create this trail of devastation. Amazing how much harm one man can do in just six months.

    (37) 71 Total Votes - 54 up - 17 down
  8. Pelican1 says:

    Well, here we go again, same players, same old $%&#..different day.
    Nothing ever seems to change.

    (48) 72 Total Votes - 60 up - 12 down

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