Sanitation district official’s failures need to be corrected

April 10, 2018

Julie Tacker


The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District held a special closed session meeting on Saturday at 8 o’clock in the morning at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in the city of San Luis Obispo. They were there to interview applicants to replace their former administrator, Gerhardt Hubner, who left the district with a healthy $37,500 severance package and lifetime medical benefits as part of a separation agreement in August last year.

There were two small signs in the hotel lobby and another down the hall on the wall next to the tiny conference room door, they said, “Welcome CPS HR Consulting.”

CPS HR Consulting is the recruiting firm that was paid nearly $18,000 to find Hubner — who left the district in shambles. After Hubner skated away from the district, CPS HR offered to make good on its warranty clause; for a mere (sarcasm intended) $7,000 they would rewrite and recirculate the advertising brochure and pre-screen candidates for the board.

The public has lost all trust in CPS HR that it might have had when they were originally hired. At that time there were ten applicants, but only two, including the unqualified Hubner, were interviewed. It is well known that CPS HR passed over at least one candidate that was far more qualified.

So far, this go-round, because of my years of activism and vast knowledge of the district, I have been contacted by two of the current applicants. One is a certified Grade V Wastewater Operator with administrator experience. The other, is a certified hydrologist and geologist with experience in groundwater recharge projects (ideal for the recycled water project the district has been eyeing for the future).

Neither of these qualified individuals was asked to the interviews Saturday. When I informed these candidates of the out-of-town meeting; both were aghast that the district would blatantly violate the Brown Act; too bad others weren’t as savvy.

To hold a meeting out of the district was clearly an attempt to keep the public from participating, the bogus excuse given is laughable. The suggestion that there was nowhere within the jurisdictional boundaries of sanitation district, which includes the cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the Oceano CSD, available to accommodate one candidate who was to interview by tele-conference using Skype, stinks to high-heaven.

These days Skype is commonplace, like Facetime and Snapchat, it’s easily done from almost anywhere in the world. The board simply needed secure WiFi, which the three member agencies and the sanitation plant all have in their respective conference/board rooms.

The Brown Act requires the district hold all meetings within its jurisdictional boundaries. Nowhere in the act does it contemplate a meeting for these purposes — nearly 10 miles north.

Posting of sanitation district meeting at Courtyard Marriott.

So, the fact that the special agenda for the meeting was miss-posted is moot. Normally, a special agenda is posted on the site of the meeting no less than 24 hours ahead of time.
Not only was there no copy posted in the hotel window, or on the building, there wasn’t one posted timely, or at all, on any of the agency board meeting facilities or even the sanitation districts own gate. Oceano CSD did post the agenda in their window, but after 8 a.m on Friday, too late to be in compliance.

A few citizens made their way to the early morning meeting in SLO, Mayor Hill did not attend. During public comment it was pointed out to Board Chair Linda Austin and Vice Chair Barbara Nicolls that Mayor Hill just went through a costly investigation last year that exonerated him from an alleged Brown Act violation.

You know, the district paid handsomely for that fiasco and now they were walking the district head on into another potential legal mess.

In spite of the pleas from the public to cancel the meeting so Mayor Hill could participate, the board members, along with their consultant Rick Sweet and Oceano’s General Manager Paavo Ogren, acting as advisors, adjourned to closed session and interviewed candidates late into the afternoon.

The right thing to do at this point is to cure and correct the violation. This means a “do-over” meeting inside the district that includes Mayor Hill. Mayor Hill’s experience and knowledge of the district is superior to anyone else on the board and his input is paramount to finding the right administrator to pull the district out of its mess and carry the district forward.

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Thanks Julie and thanks to Mayor Hill. He has suffered over the unreasonable investigation that was conducted by the City counsel of AG and the Sanitation District. Mayor Hill fights corruption and will always be unpopular with the corrupt. We are fortunate to have such a righteous individual willing to commit his time to fight for us. Re-elect Jim Hill! As far as the meeting is concerned moving it out of the District is more than a Brown violation it is malfeasance in office and the perpetrators should be removed from the Board.

Give it up Julie as we’ve all been beating our heads against the wall for a decade now and nothing has come of any of it. Maybe a little giz on wallace’s face while buying off his judge buddies but that’s about it. We heard for years there is NO conflict of interest, then his own council comes out and says yes, there is a conflict, but Nichols and Ferrara knew and approved it so W is not to blame, he’s just trying to make a honest living. $60K in fines to walk? seriously? SLO county is a reaking pig pen of corruption and crooked public figures, and as long as the same bastards are in their positions of power you’re all outta luck. Drain the slo swamp?, nahhhh, more like drain your bank accounts and waste millions in tax payer dollars.

Thank you, Julie.

These two directors, who are supposed to represent the public, have failed to observe the Brown Act legal requirements that they include public input, and one has to conclude that directors Board Chair Linda Austin and Vice Chair Barbara Nicolls did not want to include public participation in their decision..

Worse, these two directors have surrounded themselves with two government bureaucrats, Rick Sweet and lawyer Gil Trujillo, and they both caused problems for the taxpaying public in Santa maria, before the fleet to another community.

We deserve better.

Support Jim Hill.


Julie, give it a rest. Unfortunately you have misinterpreted portions of the Brown Act and the suggestion that the interview process go through a re-do not only is costly but would be an idle act. Employee interviews are held in close session for a good reason – no applicant, currently employed, would risk his position to apply for another job. My reading of your thoughts on the San District points to your contempt of Linda Austin. I know Ms. Austin and no finer representation could be found than Ms. Austin. Ms. Austin loves Oceano and its citizens; she has their back.

Mitch, please tell me what part of Gv’t Code Sec.54954(b) regarding meetings of the board taking place within their district boundaries I have misinterpreted. Then tell me how including Mayor Hill in a re-do of the interviews would be an idle act. As you are well aware Mayor Hill is a very bright man who works in a strict regulatory climate and would be a very valuable asset to the ratepayers in the district assisting in choosing a good fit Administrator for the district.

My watch-dogging of this district long pre-dates Linda Austin’s involvement. I actually thought she would be a good addition to the board — I was wrong. She has blindly supported staff and that blind allegiance has been very costly. Not too mention Mary Lucey’s bullying influence over her.

Speaking of cost, the cost of a re-do should be born by the district’s legal counsel and technical consultants. These “experts” should never have let this meeting be scheduled outside the district and should have seen it was properly posted, if they truly believed it was a legal meeting.

Attached here is a link to a Cure & Correct signed by 8 people from inside and outside the district who were disenfranchised by the meeting held outside the district — not too mention the other 37,000 ratepayers who were unaware that there was a meeting taking place at all — as you know it is very unusual to hold a meeting on a Saturday at 8:00am and if the agenda isn’t properly posted how would they know there was a meeting at all?

Doesn’t that district have a lawyer who knows the Brown Act requirements?

If not, maybe it’s time they got one?

Jim Hill has a law degree and a degree of common sense. He was exonerated from the alleged Brown Act violation last year. He refused to violate the law Saturday, the other Board members walked right into it.

Thanks Julie for staying on top of this. The hypocrisy of the board chair and vice chair knows no bounds.