San Luis Obispo County administrator’s history of embezzlement

April 20, 2024

Matt Pontes


The man selected to serve as San Luis Obispo County’s administrative officer was previously found guilty of felony embezzlement, an approximately 30-year-old conviction.

Regardless, the SLO County Board of Supervisors is slated to officially appoint Matthew Pontes during Tuesday’s board meeting to head the county. Pontes is expected to be paid $419,969 in salary and benefits per year, according to a staff report.

After working as chief administrative officer for Shasta County for about a year and a half, in June 2022 he left after a county supervisor discovered Pontes had been convicted of several crimes in the 90s, including embezzlement. At the time, Pontes admitted his past transgressions.

In a statement posted by Action News in 2022, Pontes argues he committed a petty theft offense of $420. He then pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement. The charge was later expunged from his record.

SLO County’s public relations arm, Jeanette Trompeter, quickly responded to questions about Pontes’ history saying the county was fully aware of the conviction before selecting him.

“The Board is aware of a 30-year-old theft conviction for Mr. Pontes when he was 20 years old,” Trompeter write an email to members of the press. “Just as none of us would want to be punished for the mistakes of our youth for which we have made amends, the board is confident this was a one-time incident for which he paid the price and has since then offered 30 years of reputable public service.”

Pontes is in line to replace John Nilon, who was terminated in Nov. 2023 because of allegations of sexual misconduct. During his short tenure, multiple county employees and others accused Nilon of inappropriate touching.

Prior to Nilon’s appointment to the administrative officer position, Supervisor Debbie Arnold argued the  county had not properly vetted Nilon.

For years, federal investigators have looked into allegations of corruption in the county, primarily related to former Supervisor Adam Hill’s many pay-to-play schemes. Helios Dayspring pleaded guilty and was convicted of bribing Hill.

Late last year, Ryan Wright was arrested regarding allegations he and his partner attorney John Belsher bribed Hill while defrauding investors in local development projects.


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Well, the local high school paper, er the Trib, just published a puff piece editorial on him. Poor guy. He just got the kiss of death.

Doing some fuzzy math, if all of the commentators and up and down voters and spouses or significant others showed up at a SUP meeting and made public comments about their concerns it might have some effect? Bitching about it here is easy but accomplishes nothing.

Doubtful, 99% of the time supervisors or council members have already made up their minds before meetings, you can have 100% of speakers speak out against something and officials will still vote for it. Replacing these individuals is the only option.

What everyone has forgotten here is that these jobs are the gifts that keep on giving, with these “employees” getting 2-3% of their highest salary multiplied by the number of years they worked, for the rest of their lives. The county has its own retirement system, meaning it is not part of CalPERS, so we here in the county are on the hook not just for these outrageous salaries but their retirements as well.

I completely agree, there should be a cap on these salaries. I am sure there are many younger, educated, talented people who would love to get these jobs at a much lower but still respectable salary. And cap retirements, too, at the county. This is still a nice place to live and we will have no problem attracting applicants.

Really not a retirement when you can receive 100% of your compensation or more from a broken pension system, you just change from having to go to the office, of course since early 2020 going into the office isn’t required.