Oceano CSD manager resigns amid contentious meeting

October 27, 2023


Only minutes into an Oct. 25 Oceano Community Services District meeting, General Manager Will Clemens announced plans to retire because a change in the makeup of the board has made his job untenable. Clemens is the second person to quit working for the district this month because of issues with the board.

“The district bylaws have been watered down to allow a board minority to control the agenda,” Clemens said. “The baseless accusations against myself and other staff are disingenuous, and have created distractions from providing the vital public services and infrastructure this community needs and deserves.”

For more than three hours, directors and attendees yelled, cursed and demeaned each other. Several attendees said they were concerned for their safety during the contentious Oct. 25 meeting.

In January, directors Beverly Suneson and Charles Varni joined the board. Since then, they have requested at least four performance reviews for Clemens.

Their primary complaints are related to a lack of attention Clemens allegedly paid to Suneson and Varni, and allegations he did not properly handle allegations of embezzlement against a previous employee.

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

The district board then ordered a special audit into the allegation of embezzlement, along with direction to provide the findings to prosecutors.

Varni and Suneson argue Clemens and the previous board did not properly handle the issue. They believe Clemens should have taken the allegation of embezzlement to the SLO County District Attorney’s Office without first conducting a forensic audit. They also claim Clemens was attempting to hide the embezzlement.

Former Oceano CSD Director Karen White — who served on the board for more than 10 years, including when the embezzlement occurred — said the board handled the allegation of embezzlement correctly.

“I want to correct Charles Varni on one thing, the embezzlement case,” White said. “I was there, you weren’t. It was handled correctly.”

During the Oct. 25 meeting, Varni again refused to abide by the Ralph M. Brown Act, repeatedly attempting to disclose closed session employee issues. He claimed the embezzlement at the district was ongoing, even though the forensic report was provided to prosecutors months ago.

Two weeks ago, during a district board meeting in which Varni and Suneson refused to abide by the Brown Act, Attorney Daniel Cheung, with the firm Adamski Moroski Madden Cumberland & Green, announced the firm was resigning from the district.


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I worked with that board about a decade ago. The most incomplete, petty group of public “servants” I’ve ever seen.

I wish the best for Will, I know him to be honest, level headed and certainly a solid family man. If there is any darkness here, the shadow stems from the environment.

FACTS: Today is Oct 29; the sky is blue; oak trees grow on the hillsides; from July 22, 2022 to Aug 23, 2023 (13 mos) the OCSD General Manager and legal counsel and some Directors agreed to keep secret the fact of major fraud and embezzlemwent of ratepayers money and not report it to law enforcement or the District Attorney.

There is no fact in anything you stated about a cover up!! The GM did his job as exactly as it should have been handled!!!! You did not need to know about it because it was taken care of before you “magically” got voted in!! Facts!!!!! Also facts is a recall coming down the line for you……, god what a beautiful day that will be

And another thing Varni!!! You complain about transparency but you are not transparent at all!!! Somehow, you magically also put yourself in charge of oceano parks and rec, and you do not tell the public anything!!! You do not post agenda items, you do not mention where our money is being spent, and you do not hold the meeting at a reasonable time when people can attend. Your narcissistic response to that is because you do not have to! You believe you are above the law, and “can’t be stopped” (your words). You blame the ocsd! Shame on you Varni, you pathetic little worm!

Can you state exactly which laws were broken by “the OCSD General Manager and legal counsel and some Directors” when they “agreed to keep secret the fact of major fraud and embezzlement of ratepayers money and not report it to law enforcement or the District Attorney”? If not then……….

There were no secrets kept. There was no cover ups being made. The general manger and the legal counsel did exactly what they were supposed to. The GM (without breaking closed session confidentiality) laid it all out on the Wednesday meeting. You can’t just go to the authorities and say hey I have an employee that we think has stolen money. They wouldn’t even be able to bring charges against the person on pure assumptions. They need to know around how much money or time was stolen so they can proceed with the right charges. Any amount of money stolen over i believe $1000 is considered a felony and grand theft. If you believe that laws were broken or that they were trying not to do the right thing by investigating (Also having an outside firm investigate), then where is your proof? There is none.





Varian08 glad to see the democrat party has stepped back from Varni. Will Supervisor Paulding step in and take back his endorsement?

Karen White used to snooze or sleep through meetings and voted with crazy Mary Lucey a majority of the time. Who could trust her when it comes to whether or not the situation was handled correctly?

You are also delusional. Karen white is a wealth of knowledge and has put more time into doing what is right for oceano than Varni could ever imagine, even if she slept through 90% of it!!!

Clemens did not “attempt” to hide the embezzlement/fraud, he did hide it with the cooperation of the OCSD attorney Jeff Minnery and at least two other Directors, Karen White and Shirley Gibson, and probably Linda Austin. He hid it for almost four months claiming he needed to gather evidence. That is the job of law enforcement and the District Attorney. Why did he cover it up? Because he is the chief financial officer of the OCSD and responsible for its honesty and safety. Given the sordid history of fraud and embezzlement at OCSD over the past 40 years, Clemens left accounting practices in place that lacked checks and balances, allowed single signatures on checks, and other shortcomings that ignored generally accepted bookkeeping practices. He was covering his ass and was assisted in doing so by our law firm and other Directors.

At the Oct 25, 2023 meeting I read into the record a long list of problematic practices and behaviors of the General Manager. He is retiring because he has no valid defense and simply seeks to blame me as the cause of OCSD problems. Similarly, the ex OCSD law firm is at great risk for malpractice claims when they participated in the suppression of embezzlement facts and never informed Directors Suneson or Varni during their first nine months of service. They never provided an update of the OCSD internal investigation other than one brief mention of it at the Nov 9, 2022 closed session meeting where the old Board gave Clemson a positive Performance Evaluation, a $25,000 raise, and a $195,000 severance package if he was fired without cause before Dec 31, 2023. It wasn’t until August 23, 2023 that the Directors received an update on the embezzlement and that was because Director Suneson and I reported it to the District Attorney. The cat was finally out of the bag. In response, Director Linda Austin referred to us a “tattle tales.”

Clemson’s narrative that the law firm quit because I and Director Suneson violated the Brown Act is a lie and simply a distraction from the truth of the law firm’s major errors in dealing with the facts of corruption (i.e.,not bringing it to the Directors immediately and recommending it be reported to the District Attorney). Remember this FACT: the law firm works for the Board of Directors and is responsible for informing and protecting the Directors and District from doing the wrong thing. The law firm does NOT represent the General Manager.

I am not the cause of any of this. I wasnt on the Board in November of 2022. I am the one pointing out the fact that the emperor has no clothes. I am sick and tired of a General Manger and District law firm using the Brown Act to stifle public awareness of what has been happening. That is not what the Brown Act is for and I have not once violated it. To his credit, current attorney Daniel Cheung has done his best to navigate these troubled waters, But he did not create the storm, he was simply the last attorney left in the rowboat.

I am still on the ship, the skies will be clearing, and OCSD will have a fresh start with a new General Manager and law firm. My personal hope is that civic and civil minded Oceanoans will step forward in support of positive changes, organizational transparency, and civil discourse.

Sir, you are delusional.

Charles Varni has just erased any doubt that he is delusional and unfit for any public office.

I saw the part of the meeting where you yelled very loud. I don’t think that will get people to come to your potluck party because it makes people afraid you will yell at them too. I don’t think your friend Paulding has talked to you either because you are not very chilled out at all. Also, I don’t think it’s good to say mean things about the manager that you don’t like. It might make him mad. It’s good that you are on the boat like you say, but not if you are making the boat sink. Then it’s not so good. Also, glad you decided to not do the pot luck part of your pot luck party. A lot of people told you it was a very bad idea. Sounds like it was also dangerous too. 

Varni, I watched the meeting online. You have either lost your mind or never had one. Your description of the general manager was so incorrect, he is a calm, stable and gentle man. The description you gave sounds like you were self describing!!! Also, not only did you and that port pathetic woman suneson lie about him blocking her so she could not leave (something you and only you would do) I believe poor pathetic suneson let you try to turn it into a bs story because of what you did to director Gibson. I believe you and you alone fabricated that and weak suneson didn’t have the guts to stand up and tell the truth. Instead she let you manipulate her to feed bullshit to the public. You are a sick sick man and no good will ever come out of anything you try to involve yourself in.

I believe that it is not a coincidence that the legal team sent in their letters of reignition days after the disastrous meeting where YOU Mr. Varni cause the meeting to be recessed twice and the meeting was forced to go to closed session early. I believe that did in fact quit due to your actions with constantly verbally abusing the legal team and the fact that you are consistently trying to break the Brown Act and putting the OCSD at risk. If you’re sick and tired of the brown act, then take it up with the state legislators but the Brown Act is there for a reason. You sir are a toxic narcissist who won’t own up to the facts and the issues you have caused at the OCSD. You not only attack the Legal team and the General Manager, but you have also called staff liars and toxic and have I’m sure not been the nicest or carried yourself in a professional matter with the staff. I remind you that the district staff are union and are protected by them and I personally would not be surprised if the union has not already either contact the GM or legal about your actions towards staff and if they have not, I sure hope that they do. All of your actions in the last few months have seriously put the district of OCSD at risk sir and its unacceptable!!!!

The problem with having a dysfunctional Board is who would want to work for them?

Top notch General Managers will pass on getting anywhere this mess, so it only get’s worse for Oceano residents:(