Oceano Community Services District employee accused of embezzlement

October 8, 2023


Following a lengthy investigation, the Oceano Community Services District is seeking embezzlement charges against a former account administrator.

While reviewing records during the summer of 2022, a bookkeeper noticed issues with a employee’s vacation pay. Management placed Celia Ruiz on paid administrative leave in Aug. 2022. A month later, the district fired Ruiz.

At the time, the district ordered a special audit into the allegation of embezzlement, along with direction to provide the findings to prosecutors. Because it was a private employee issue, it was not made public at the time.

Even so, information about the allegations was allegedly leaked and an argument ensued with several new board members, including Director Beverley Suneson, concerned that General Manager Will Clemens had not informed them about the investigation or the alleged embezzlement.

“He should have told us,” Suneson said.

Director Linda Austin, who was in office when the embezzlement was discovered, said employee issues discussed during closed session are confidential.

“We are working through an internal process and I am restricted from commenting on it at this time because this is a closed session item,” Austin said. “In regards to unauthorized disclosure of closed session items, we intend to find out which director breached their fiduciary duty and take appropriate action.”

Ruiz, who worked at the district for more than a decade, was ironically hired to install more internal controls following multiple issues with employee fiscal mismanagement and fraud.

During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, an employee allegedly allotted themself an extra 19.68 hours of vacation and sick leave, according to the yearly audit which was released in late June 2023.

The audit also reports an employee absconded with cash utility bill payments on a regular basis. The employee would then void the payments while providing the customers a zero balance. The audit does not name the employee.

As a result of Ruiz’s alleged embezzlement, the district has installed software and controls to protect against further theft.

While the results of the alleged embezzlement investigation have been sent to county prosecutors for review, the district has not released information regarding the total amount the special audit determined was embezzled.


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Embezzlement, mismanagement and bizarre board behavior have been going on for decades in Oceano. It’s abundantly clear that this little town can’t effectively govern itself. As a town with direct access to a beach, it should be a boom town for development, redevelopment and tourism. Instead, it is scruffy at best.

Oceano has no voice with D4, primarily due it’s dysfunctional politics. The D4 supervisor will take the D votes for granted. And it’s hugely D votes. The only way for Oceano to stop this continuous nonsense is for it to be part of an incorporated city, be it Grover or AG.

The first question is when did GM Clemens notify the District Attorney’s Office? That should have happened at the first sign of improper financial activities, that is even before a closed session could be scheduled. the If it didn’t, the Ocean board needs to take corrective action with the General Manager. If the GM did the right thing and immediately notified the DA’s office then they should be commended.

The most scurinty should be given their district counsel. Did they advise the GM to immediately advise the DA’s office? It sure doesn’t appear to be the case. If not, Ocean should find another law firm.

Embezzlement is serious and delayed exposure of such to law enforcement being the DA’s office, undermines trust in local government. The board needs to be publcally chastised. It appears the board is trying to cover up the delay in DA notification and blame another board member for doing the right thing by contacting the DA. Again, this undermines trust in our public officials.

Embezzlement is a serious thing and has to be investigated properly for charges to hold. I would think that in order for charges to be pressed against the employee that did take funds from the district, the district would have to know how much was taken outside of the stolen vacation hours, so they would have to wait for the audit to be finalized and then could notify the DA so the proper charges could be placed. Because depending on the amounts taken would judge whether the former employee would be charge with a felony grand theft or a misdemeanor.

A year? Sounds like foot-dragging to me.

Forgot People’s Self-Help Housing “Corporation”, also helping themselves to your tax dollars with no accountability and probably the fraud I’m most familiar with.

At least this was a public agency subject to audit of public funds. Can you imagine the abuse At CAPSLO/HASLO/THMI/ECHO/Family Care Network and other 100% government funded “non-profits” not subject to oversight? I can. I’ve seen it.