Sanitation district officials tussle over clean underwear

January 22, 2017


The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District has launched its third investigation in less than a year into allegations of harassment, threats or discrimination between several former and current district officials and employees.

The latest tussle started over a washer and dryer Chief Plant Operator John Clemons ordered so that employees could get undergarments splashed with sewage cleaned at the plant. Former sanitation district board member Mary Lucey, her wife Nancy MacNeal and District Administrator Gerhardt Hubner were opposed to the $666 purchase, which was under Clemons spending limit.

At a Jan. 4 board meeting, Clemons walked outside prior to Lucey speaking at public comment. While he stood by the side door listening to the meeting, Lucey and MacNeal came outside and approached Clemons and Lin Hill.

“MacNeal was yelling, ‘I am not washing your dirty underwear,’ ” Lin Hill said.

Clemons then attempted to explain that employees get splashed with sewage and that Lucey does not understand what it is like to work at a sewage plant.

Mary Lucey

Mary Lucey

“Lucey began yelling and cursing and told Clemons to watch his back,” Lin Hill said.

From inside the meeting, Grover Beach resident Ron Arnoldson said he heard Lucey and MacNeal screaming, but he could not hear Clemons.

Following the meeting, Lin Hill informed the board and sanitation district counsel that Lucey had threatened Clemons, but no action was taken. The sanitation district serves the residents of the Oceano Community Service District, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach and is governed by a three-person board consisting of one representative from each community.

Lucey and MacNeal then contacted the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department and filed a report claiming that Clemons had threatened MacNeal. Nevertheless, the sheriff’s department looked into MacNeal’s allegations and found no reason to investigate, said sanitation district Board Member Jim Hill.

MacNeal then reported her allegations to the sanitation district. Without seeking board approval or determining the cost, sanitation district board President John Schoals contracted with an outside agency to do an investigation. Shoals did not respond to requests for comment.

“I am very concerned any board member would act unilaterally without consulting the board,” Jim Hill said.

Jim Hill

Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill

Jim Hill also voiced concerns about the costs to the sanitation district in both time and resources. Specifically, while Hubner is spending time on investigations, Hill said he is failing to produce an operator three job description or get work done on the redundancy program.

“The administrator is spending his time on a witch hunt,” Jim Hill said. “This last accusation by Mary Lucey’s significant other appears to be harassment.”

For more than a year, former Oceano Board Member Mary Lucey has criticized Clemons during board meetings. Lucey has regularly misinterpreted bacteria levels and claimed they were above the legal limit. On multiple occasions, Clemons had had to explain to Lucey how to read the reports.

Clemons has filed a complaint with the California Fair Employment and Housing regarding harassment by district officials.

During the past six months, the sanitation district has spent more than $44,000 on investigations that all tie back to issues between sanitation district staff and officials. Neither of the past two investigations resulted in any action being taken.

There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into former sanitation district administrator John Wallace regarding allegations he used his position to enrich himself and his private engineering company, often with board approval. The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office has been investigating the allegations for more than a year.


Lucy, you are indeed a certified lunatic, whose “dirty underwear” the citizens are forced to listen to every meeting.


Employers Must Provide and Pay for PPE

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers protect you

from workplace hazards that can cause injury or illness. Controlling a hazard at its source is the

best way to protect workers. However, when engineering, work practice and administrative

controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal

protective equipment (PPE) to you and ensure its use.

PPE is equipment worn to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples include items

such as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing protection (earplugs, muffs), hard hats

and respirators.

Employers Must Pay for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

On May 15, 2008, a new OSHA rule about employer payment for PPE went into effect. With few

exceptions, OSHA now requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to

comply with OSHA standards. The final rule does not create new requirements regarding what

PPE employers must provide.

The standard makes clear that employers cannot require workers to provide

their own PPE and the worker’s use of PPE they already own must be

completely voluntary. Even when a worker provides his or her own PPE, the

employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the worker

from hazards at the workplace.


All true but may not be applicable in this situation. Sometimes unexpected sh*t happens at a sewer plant and people get exposed in unanticipated situations. Providing a washer and dryer to clean underwear and other personal clothing soiled by such circumstances would be a reasonable accommodation when those situations occur.

I suspect that Administrator Hubner is trying to show his authority in a stupid and petty manner. I wasn’t privy to the information about him prior to his hiring but this makes me think that his background was lacking in supervisorial skills and the SSLOCSD has made yet another mistake in its hiring practices. I would hate to see the district lose an excellent superintendent because of this.


Ron, my point was this: regardless of the uniqueness of a situation, OSHA makes it very clear that the employer HAS the responsibility of protecting the worker whether it be adequate clothing protection (obviously they aren’t if their underwear is occasionally becoming contaminated) or providing a method of cleaning the contaminated clothing.

The employees should file a grievance with their union, or sue the district


sounds like Mary Lucey has gone off the reservation with her screaming and those underwear comments.

Ah the children who we allow to run portions of our lives!


While you are correct about the substance of your suggestion, was it really necessary to delve into a racist term to make your point? “Off the reservation” is an expression that needs to disappear. Using it in referring to someone of Native American background only makes it worse.

Mary Lucey can be ignorant, unstable and dishonest. Those characteristics can be found in people of any background.


Perhaps she has been “dishonest” (to quote you) with respect to her heritage as well?


A dryer sure would be nice right now. Certainly those workers coats are getting wet in the rain. It would be nice to dry them between downpours.

Why doesn’t Lucey/MacNeil and Hubner (who denied the purchase) think this all the way through?


I would think that most if not all wastewater plants of any size have lockers for their employees, and require them to change clothes and shoes when arriving for work, and again at the end of the day.

Seems like that should be part of the plant’s BMP’s and spelled out in the safety manual to prevent transfer of pathogens to the employees home/family.

If not, then they have bigger problems down there than dirty laundry!


If Mary Lucey was so concerned about the well-being of her ratepayers, she would NOT be approaching employees and harassing them, causing yet MORE expenses to the district in legal fees, etc.

She needs to grow up, learn how to behave like an adult and a citizen. She no longer can call the shots when she decided to give up her seat as the Oceano representative.

She has caused enough damage, just please go away!


This comedy should be monitored by all and closely documented. A great example of a real swamp that needs to be drained. I hope The Donald learns something from this fiasco.

$44,000 vs. $666 and nobody will be held responsible. This is the kind of crap that we the taxpayer are tired of.


What a joke – local politicians and government employees.

What is most amusing is that there is push back on a $666 purchase but “…the sanitation district has spent more than $44,000 on investigations that all tie back to issues between sanitation district staff and officials…”

What an egotistical, petty, self serving, myopic group of humanity.


Ben Daho

When you transfer raw sewage pathogens to your family and they get sick, Mary Lucey will be liable. The Cayucos Sanitation district required ALL CLOTHING TO BE CHANGED on the premises.


Cayucos Sanitary District is the premier sewage conveyance operator of the Central Coast!!!

When the City of Morro Bay started on their whimsical( MB is now looking at somewhere around $160,000,000 in this debacle) plan to move the jointly owned plant, Cayucos got out and started on a quest to build their own plant:) Morro Bay City officials have spent millions already on studies and engineering with very little if anything to show for it!!! Cayucos has already purchased a facility site, is doing the EIR and has chosen a Contractor and are in the design phase:)

My point is, not all government entities are dysfunctional and or mismanaged!!!