Sanitation district manager accused of bullying

May 15, 2017

Julie Tacker

OPINION by JULIE TACKER

The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District continues to experience serious personnel issues at great expense to the district. These problems are similar to those documented in the 2011 Ventura County Grand Jury report, “Bullying in the Workplace.”

The sanitation district is engaged in at least four investigations involving employee complaints. Two employees have been placed on paid administrative leave and at least six complaints, by four different employees, have been filed against District Administrator Gerhardt Hubner. The district has been spending over $30,000 per month on employee related legal fees and investigations, including the cost of employees paid to stay home and others paid to fulfill those duties.

Hubner still lives in Ventura, where he had worked from the county from late 2005 through early 2016. There he was middle management, overseeing the work of others. Over his tenure, more than 25 employees were forced to quit, were fired or transferred out of his department or simply retired to escape.

In 2011, the Ventura County Grand Jury reported issues with supervisors bullying employees.

Specifically, the report noted the over monitoring of “highly experienced employees,” supervisors isolating employees both organizationally and physically, misuse of paid administrative leave to isolate and improper conditions imposed on employees on leave. In addition, the Ventura County Grand Jury found that employees feared several supervisors who were known to retaliate if employees complained.

A common denominator between the sanitation district issues and Ventura County is Hubner. The sanitation district board voted to hire Hubner from a pool of ten applicants, though the board only interviewed two applicants.

According to Ventura County payroll records which were obtained through the California Public Record Act, during Hubner’s last three months of employment, he worked just one regular day, burning through his vacation pay and for two pay periods was on “leave with pay.”

Hubner’s three-plus month gap in his Ventura County work history should have been disclosed to district board members when he was interviewed, but it was not. The board should also have been informed that all the committees and commissions his resume touts as accomplishments were simply required participation as part of his deputy director position.

Hubner’s annual performance review was due in April; his work product alone should be enough for the board to part ways, as his reports are riddled with misstatements of fact and inaccuracies, not to mention atrocious spelling and grammatical errors.

One such untruth was his 25 minute PowerPoint presentation and written staff report reflecting his opinion that a ten-year conditional Coastal Development Permit for the district’s $22 million Redundancy Project would have no impact on financing.

Hubner told the sanitation district board that Sacramento was not concerned with the 10-year reauthorization. He said “The key thing is that the board has a rate structure to pay back the loan.”

A week later Hubner told a different story.

“We believe the characterization of the duration as a “temporary 10-year authorization” could adversely affect the district’s ability to secure financing for the project,” Hubner said while testifying in front of the California Coastal Commission.

Was Hubner lying to the sanitation board or was he lying to the Coastal Commission? He can’t have it both ways.

Hubner has cancelled the sanitation district board’s next meeting; yet there are plenty of things to do. Hubner is behind in bringing forth the annual budget, last year’s audit, strategic planning, the policies and procedures manual, revised job descriptions, Hubner’s own annual performance review and the required within 30 days response to the demand to cure and correct Brown Act Violation that activist Kevin Rice sent to the board on May 3, just to name a few.

As Hubner’s track record comes to light, and as his inferior work product is displayed, the board should force his overdue annual performance review. The high cost for lawyers to review personnel issues conduct investigations should be reason enough to let Hubner go for cause without an undeserved $75,000 severance package.

What is most perplexing is how Hubner has district board members John Shoals of Grover Beach and Linda Austin of Oceano so snowed; they seem to back him up at every blunder. Ironically, these two represent areas of the district designated by the state as “disadvantaged communities.” As such, these ratepayers can least afford Hubner’s dismal and costly performance.







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13 Comments

  1. shelworth says:

    I used to think moving to Los Osos 30 years ago was a big mistake, what with the sewer and all, I just want to thank CCN for showing me it’s just about all cities in San Luis Obispo County that try to screw their residents. But is is “Malice Aforethought” or just “Greedy Incompetence”? I probably will never be sure.

    (6) 24 Total Votes - 15 up - 9 down
  2. Pelican1 says:

    Oh! How hypocrisy abounds decades later. I weep for Los Osos.

    (13) 21 Total Votes - 17 up - 4 down
  3. rukidding says:

    Just another case of the Peter Principal. Incompetent people getting elected into public office who have no business experience or have ever hired or fired anyone. Being in a position of power they all of a sudden have become brilliant and the end result is that they hire people who are as incompetent as they are. So in the end we just keep paying for their incompetency.

    (10) 38 Total Votes - 24 up - 14 down
    • taxpayer says:

      That’s what’s happened in Morro Bay for the last few years. We’re paying for it now.

      (8) 20 Total Votes - 14 up - 6 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Hopefully this doesn’t happen in Arroyo Grande with our new city manage, hired at a top salary with no experience as a city manager. Why not hire him at a reduced salary and when he proves himself have raises available with detailed job accomplishments, but this never happens in the public sector.

      (13) 27 Total Votes - 20 up - 7 down
  4. copperhead says:

    The way these government scum come up with new and creative ways to waste tax dollars infuriates me. Privatize it all or eliminate it. Bullying? Is this 2nd grade?

    (10) 32 Total Votes - 21 up - 11 down
  5. pensatore says:

    He learned from the best and biggest bully managers employed at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Managers like Thomas are still employed while Briggs retired with a fat retirement check and benefits. Bullying should have been addressed a long time ago at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. Instead, people learned how to bully employees and public.

    (21) 43 Total Votes - 32 up - 11 down
  6. Freshlook says:

    The San District Board needs to find out why Hubner was removed from duty in Ventura County? If it tunrs out he was actualy involved in bullying, then that is a huge liability for the District considering cureent circumstances. Whatever the situation, the Board should know why this information was omitted in the hiring process.

    (26) 48 Total Votes - 37 up - 11 down
  7. Snoid says:

    Shoals learned from Wallace and neither like egg on their face regardless of the ignorance or deception their caught up in, been there seen that first hand. Deny,deny,deny, standard protocol until otherwise proven guilty beyond any doubt.

    (22) 44 Total Votes - 33 up - 11 down
  8. RonHolt says:

    Thanks for another good analysis Julie. I suspect that one reason they have put off Hubner’s evaluation is that at least one Board Member doesn’t want to own up to their mistake in hiring him in the first place. I would think that the evidence is strong enough to realize he is not going to work out and that it would be better to bite the bullet and get it over with now. But what do I know.

    (33) 55 Total Votes - 44 up - 11 down
    • kayaknut says:

      “one Board Member doesn’t want to own up”, can anyone say Grover Beach Mayor Shoals……. one common link on all the $hit going down at the Sanitation District

      (29) 53 Total Votes - 41 up - 12 down
      • Julie says:

        This is a three member board. Linda Austin just joined OCSD in November. Besides Jim Hill, whom I have to believe gets it, there’s only one board member left that hired Hubner. The process of elimination leaves John Shoals.

        (21) 49 Total Votes - 35 up - 14 down

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