Emails detail ties between SLO City manager and violent employee

July 22, 2019

SLO City Manager Derek Johnson


An investigation into a San Luis Obispo city inspector who violently assaulted a woman in a bar ended several weeks ago, but the employee remains on paid administrative leave while city management ponders what they should do next. [Cal Coast Times]

A trove of emails, released under the Public Records Act, exposes an unusually close relationship between SLO City Manager Derek Johnson and Christopher Olcott, a relatively low ranked employee with a checkered work and criminal history. In a public statement in April, Johnson called an “unwarranted act of violence” by Olcott against two people at a local bar “appalling.”

On May 28, 2016, Olcott was drinking at Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach when he purposely bumped into Camile Chavez, a special education teacher at Righetti High School. After he pushed her a second time, Chavez pushed back.

Within seconds, Olcott hit Chavez in the temple with his elbow, knocking her unconscious. Olcott then punched Chavez’s companion, Isaac McCormack, in the back of the head three times. Both Chavez and McCormack suffered concussions during the assault.

Amid public outrage over the assault, in mid-april Johnson placed Olcott on paid administrative leave while the city investigated if the inspector can do his job in the interest of workplace and public safety.

In the past, several former coworkers reported Olcott for workplace transgressions, including accepting a gift card from a developer after doing an inspection, and for yelling at a female coworker, coworkers said. However, these reports appear not to have impacted Olcott’s employment leading coworkers to question why management appears to be overlooking serious behavioral issues.

The 2,035-page cache of emails exposes a cozy relationship between Johnson and Olcott. While it is highly unusual for an administrator to perform site reviews with an inspector, emails show Johnson attended inspections with Olcott.

Chris Olcott

“The guys are ready for us down there at the hotel anytime today,” Olcott wrote in an email to Johnson about a Hotel Serra site visit in Oct. 2018.

Johnson responded by thanking Olcott for coordinating their visit.

In late 2017, emails show Olcott’s supervisor Mark Sadowski working to hire a temporary inspector to help speed up the permit process. Sadowski said he had received approvals from three department heads and was awaiting approval from Johnson before moving forward.

Olcott responded with an email to Johnson objecting to his supervisor’s decision to hire a female inspector.

“FYI Derek & Michael I was never asked if I needed the help or not,” Olcott writes to Johnson and Codron. “In my opinion it is not needed.”

Johnson then told Olcott he planned to evaluate Sadowski’s request.

In June 2017, a week after Johnson’s birthday, Olcott gave Johnson a book of poetry from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, a man know for his odes and love poems.

“I have a late birthday gift I wanted to hand to you, when is the best time for me to come by and do that,” Olcott wrote in a June 26 email to Johnson. “Also happy birthday (better late than never right….)”

On June 27, 2017, Johnson sent Olcott a thank you email.

“Thank you for the book of poems from Pablo Neruda!” Johnson writes to Olcott. “Appreciate it and love Pablo. Hope you are doing well and look forward to seeing you soon.”

In April, the city hired a private investigator, Dave Fleishman of Atascadero-based Hanley & Fleishman, to conduct the investigation while Olcott earns $1,420 a week in paid administrative leave.


As a business owner in SLO county I would be ashamed to have this man in my employment….why isn’t our county government?…


After reading this article, is CalCoast insinuating that there may be some kind of inappropriate relationship between Johnson and Olcott? Maybe one that is sexual in nature? Not that there is anything wrong with that other than the fact that, while well removed, is between a subordinate and the boss…..


This is exactly what happens when you pick favorites and don’t follow policy. As the truth is revealed your complicity is exposed and the swamp swallows you up too. It happened to Arroyo Grande’s city manager and mayor. This fiasco along with the police chief and her lost weapon are going to be the undoing of Johnson.


What is so strange about this? It just another perfect example of the corruption in SLO city. You

rubby my back – and I’ll rubby yours. How long do you suppose it should really take to make a decision – after all video exists – witnesses were there. But here we is several weeks later (I assume the date was in 2019, not 2016 as reported) and Mr. Olcott draws full salary while doing nothing. Really! If the date was actually in 2016 – it is now over three years and still no decision.

I have to conclude that the city manager is so underpaid that he can not perform the very bascic functions of the job!


Best case scenario here is romantic. Worse – but more likely – payoffs.



This whole sordid affair invlving Chris Olcott is going from bad to worse, and, once again, SLO City Manager Derek Johnson is showing that he is not up to the task of leading our local city government. His cozy ties and sweetheart deal for Mr. Olcott indicates that Johnson has poor judgement and taxpayers are footing the bill for his corruption.

Chris Olcott violently assaulted Ms. Camille Chavez and Mr. Issac McCormack, and he should have been fired immediatly upon his guilty conviction. Putting Olcott on paid administrative leave is the same as a paid vacation, and nobody in the private sector would be treated this way. Olcott is a dangerous criminal and he must not be working in city government.

I feel that SLO City Manager Derek Johnson has a pattern of innapropriate relationships with the very employees he is expected to lead, and, at this point, his ability to provide leadership has been seriously undermined by his own poor judgement. A focused and non-partisan SLO City Council would demand answers from Mr. Johnson, but Heidi Harmon and Co. do not have the maturity and objectivity to confront this city manager.

Accepting a book of poetry from a city employee on paid leave for violent assault and treating him preferentially in the face of violent criminal behavior shows extremely poor judgement on the part of SLO City Manager Derek Johnson, and the taxpaying public ought to expect more from this overpaid public servant.

Fire Chris Olcott AND Derek Johnson.

Speak truth to power.


This is like ice fishing in Minnesota; when the ice begins to crack cut your losses and run. You might want to consider that Derek. :)


SLO City Manager Derek Johnson needs to go…


$1,420 a week in paid administrative leave?!!! What kind of punishment is that? Something stinks to high heaven here. The public should be outraged!