Oceano CSD board fires general manager

No reason given for dismissal of the district’s eighth manager since 2007

clambert@thetribunenews.comMarch 14, 2014 

The Oceano Community Services District unanimously fired its general manager for cause Friday afternoon.

Lonnie Curtis, who had been with the district since mid-October, was the eighth general manager, including a few interim managers, to lead the small agency since 2007. District board member Matthew Guerrero declined to name specific issues that led to the for-cause firing.

“I’m incredibly frustrated,” Guerrero said. “The people of Oceano deserve a well-run community services district.”

He said the district would “re-evaluate our needs for leadership at a future meeting.” In the meantime, “we have a good staff who knows what to do.”

Over the years, officials at the small services district have struggled to complete normal district business, like annual audits, in a timely manner. Complicating their efforts is the frequent turnover of the general manager position.

The Oceano district has eight employees and provides water, sewer, fire protection and street lighting services to more than 7,200 people. Curtis, a civil engineer and former manager at several water agencies in California, was selected from a pool of five finalists in October.

Since then, the board has held a few closed-session meetings to discuss his performance, with the most recent evaluation Wednesday.

Curtis received an annual salary of $126,000, plus a monthly $300 vehicle allowance and $75 cellphone reimbursement.

Although Guerrero would not give reasons for the firing, Curtis faced scrutiny from the start. In December, a district critic raised concerns about possible plagiarism related to a PowerPoint presentation that Curtis submitted as a writing sample in his employment application. The PowerPoint writing had, in fact, been created by someone else.

Curtis said he had received permission to use the slides when he worked in a previous job as mergers and acquisitions manager for Golden State Water Company in Southern California.

More recently, the district board has heard two appeals from residents who said they were overcharged for district service; both appeals were granted.

“Everything is in a tangle — our minutes, our agenda, our rules and policies and even our goals," board member Karen White said at Wednesday’s meeting.

She proposed making several lists to narrow their focus on upcoming issues, such as next fiscal year's budget. The district board will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. March 22 to discuss the idea further.

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