The hubris of Gerhardt Hubner
April 17, 2017
OPINION by JULIE TACKER
Hubris is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” In the case of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Administrator, Gerhardt Hubner, the shoe couldn’t fit any better.
Hired on April 20, 2016, Hubner is the first full time administrator the district has ever had. The rationale to bring in a full-time administrator was that he could perform project management for the important projects the district has been undertaking.
Hubner’s resume looks impressive on its face, overstated and hubristic; if you take the time to actually read between the lines. Hubner has zero experience in administering a wastewater district — contrary to the assertions of his biggest supporters, Oceano’s Mary Lucey and Arroyo Grande’s Patty Welsh who have both stated he has upwards of 27 years of experience managing sewers.
The only possible sewer experience I could find in his past may have been his work as a custodial foreman at Disneyland in the 1980’s.
Hubner is a geologist, but the majority of his work was as a regulator, having worked for the Los Angeles and Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Boards enforcing water quality compliance and as a deputy director in the public works department for Ventura County.
The extent of his administration experience took place in Ventura where he supervised, not managed, twenty people. He also oversaw its $5 million annual budget.
One of the first things Hubner did when hired at the sanitation district was engage Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, LLP, a high powered law firm specializing in personnel matters. Hubner signed the contract June 14, 2016, but it’s retroactive to May 18, 2016. LCW charges vary from $200-$350 per hour and began in August, as if Hubner planned to shake up the small staff of the district.
By October, four of the eight employees reached out to a union for protection, three others filed grievances. Today, there are three cases of anticipated litigation associated with personnel.
Hubner not only has no experience with wastewater, he has no idea what he’s doing with regard to human resources.
In fact, he’s destroyed employee morale, run up legal bills associated with investigations into staff grievances, missed promotions, is directly involved in the trumped up Brown Act Violations against Mayor Hill, and his management style led to charges of racism. A hotshot attorney was hired to mediate the situation; those efforts appear to have failed as he has placed two key employees on paid administrative leave.
When Hubner sought contracting with a new human resources firm, only one responded to the district’s request for proposals. Perhaps others were unwilling to walk into the eye-of-the-storm he’s created.
Hubner’s annual performance review is due. He has failed to fulfill the duties he is contractually obligated to. He is supposed to meet with each board member on a weekly basis, he never has. He was to have brought forth a strategic plan as early as possible, and begin annual reviews of said plan in January. A consultant was hired, but there has been no plan presented.
Hubner was directed to update job descriptions and the personnel policy manual, these things were promised for the April 19 agenda, they’re not there.
Hubner had a new website created, but failed to migrate the audio tapes of meetings from the Wallace years. In a staff report for the next agenda he incredibly blames one of the employees he’s placed on leave, by name, for the loss of the tapes.
Hubner fails to take any blame. As administrator, the buck stops with him, no matter who did it, he is the ultimate say and is solely responsible.
Worse yet, he makes no effort to offer a solution. These tapes were downloaded from a tape recording device to a computer; they were then uploaded to a web hosting server.
In this day and age of technology, nothing is ever really gone. An expert in information technology, not the districts webmaster and marketing expert, could easily find these tapes if given the direction.
Hubner has made the ‘who-done-it’ sideshow the issue. What was on those tapes is the historic verbatim record of what Wallace told his board members as they approved contracts to his engineering firm.
The people who actually run the plant are being threatened and the district is in shambles. The public is done with Hubner, why the board is not, is a mystery.