San Simeon board fires general manager

June 14, 2023

Charles Grace


The San Simeon Community Services District Board of Directors fired its General Manager Charles Grace on Tuesday, shortly after Grace admitted to conflicts of interest in a settlement agreement with prosecutors.

Grace agreed to pay a civil penalty of $75,000 and to leave his management position without the right to seek additional compensation if terminated before his contract expires in 2024, according to the agreement. San Simeon officials responded by placing two emergency items on the June 13 agenda: a review of Grace’s performance and consideration of his dismissal.

The board also voted on Tuesday to shorten the submission deadlines for candidates for both the district manager and the operations manager positions from Aug. 3, 2023 to July 14, 2023.

In Sept. 2021, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed a civil suit alleging illegal business practices and false advertising against Grace and his privately owned company, Grace Environmental Services, which is paid to manage the district.

The district attorney’s nine causes of action included:

The San Simeon district paid Grace Environmental Services approximately $55,000 a month for managing and upkeep of the district, including weed abatement. However, after swapping out bookkeepers, Grace began submitting weed abatement invoices from third-party vendors for the district to pay while continuing to get paid for weed abatement through his contract.

The complaint also alleges Grace violated the terms of his contract regarding facility maintenance expenses. Prosecutors accuse Grace of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law because he refused to allow the public to scrutinize invoices regarding the maintenance expenses.

When questions arose about his possible conflicts of interest, Grace lied to the board about communications with the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The civil suit also accuses district officials of writing and publishing an article in the San Simeon district newsletter that misled district ratepayers into believing the district lost a grant because of false allegations made by the public. However, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation rescinded the $125,000 grant because district officials failed to resolve areas of concern regarding district operations and management.

Nestled along the coastline near Hearst Castle and the Piedras Blancas Light House, San Simeon has approximately 500 residents and a yearly district budget of almost $1 million for wastewater collection and treatment, road maintenance and street lights.

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A fall from Grace.

I often wonder what it takes for a public sector manager to be fired, now I know, criminal activity, double billing, fraud, conflict of interest and a civil lawsuit.

The three former SSCSD directors and former district counsel breached public trust when they paid the legal fees of contractor Grace/GES associated with unlawful acts. It was $190,000 plus they paid their district counsel how my tens of thousands to defend Grace and his company against the DA who was working in the community’s interest. This was a misuse of public funds and should be investigated!

Let’s hope SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow now begins a criminal investigation, leading to an indictment of anyone who commits public fraud.

We have a strong and competent district attorney’s office led by Dan Dow and a public integrity unit with Deputy DA Ken Jorgenson who led this lengthy and complex investigation. Their investigation efforts were complicated and impeded by three San Simeon CSD directors that provided unlimited funding for expensive multiple ($600+/hour) attorneys to the tune of $190,000 of district funds to defend Grace and his company.

San Simeon owes the DA a big thanks.

Does not change to fact that that this multi-layered petty, corrupt and wasteful agency that s duplicitous and should not exist. I’m not saying SLO County Public Works is not petty, corrupt, and wasteful. It is. But we just don’t need to do it twice. One corrupt agency is enough. Pavoo, Diodati, enough for one investigation.

Agree. The community needs to become a County Service Area for water and wastewater treatment. The district cannot keep five directors because last year the old three directors and that on-again, off-again district counsel that supported Grace and company at all cost, split the district into five areas for voting. There are only 200 voters total and they split it up. Then the influential business owner who does not like the new board kicked the board out of the only available meeting rooms in San Simeon. The old guard wants the district to fail so the community will come begging them back to have it the way it was violating laws, conflict-of-interest, grant fraud, encroachments

Good riddance Mr. Disgrace

Congratulations to the brave new Board!

It’s been a rough go, but you did it!

Hang in there, the waters will remain rough for a bit, but you’ll see it was all worth it.

Viva San Simeon!

And just like John Wallace did in the south county CSD, Charlie Grace will get away with his theft with only a slap on the wrist and paying a very minor fine, our DA has let us down again. These guys need to be sent to jail, but instead our DA’s failure to prosecute only encourages others to do the same.

The DA’s action was a civil suit. Civil suits are about money. Nobody goes to jail in a civil suit.

So a consequence of theft of taxpayer money can not be jail???? if so that needs to change.

I disagree, while Wallace was only charged with misdemeanors the civil action against Grace has destroyed his business. It also saved the community about a half million it would have paid to fire Grace.

All Charlie has to do is pack up his business and to to a different area and start all over, happens all the time