Sanitation district administrator accused of racism
December 4, 2016
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.