The recent resignations of two members of the Oceano Community Services District raise a big red flag — especially since both cite mismanagement as their reason for leaving.
We’re particularly concerned about the barrage of complaints from former board President Jim Hill.
In his letter of resignation, Hill blasts OCSD General Manager Raffaele Montemurro for numerous shortcomings, ranging from being an inept writer to failing to turn over financial information so that annual audits can be prepared on time.
He also faults Montemurro for:
Lacking “even a basic understanding of area water issues”;
Failing to properly track certain bank accounts;
Releasing confidential attorney communications;
Failing to follow through on several directions from the board, including applying for a grant, obtaining clear title to a district-owned parcel, obtaining permits for waterline replacements and conducting a street light survey; and
Changing personnel policies without first consulting with the board.
For his part, Montemurro declined to go over Hill’s voluminous list point-by-point.
“I just want to work hard and move the district forward,” he told us. “We have accomplished a lot of things since we’ve been here and we’re very proud of that.”
In the year and a half he’s been in Oceano, Montemurro said he’s hired two bilingual office workers to help Spanish-speaking customers; he’s ensured that the office remains open during regular business hours (previous management would sometimes close up shop during the day, he said); he’s trimmed staff by 25 percent and overseen an increase in water rates to put the district on a sound financial footing.
Be that as it may, if Montemurro truly wants to build confidence in the district — and in his management style — he must find a way to comply with the board’s requirements more quickly and more transparently.
For starters, he should turn over the data needed to complete the long-delayed audits of the district’s finances.
That issue seemed to be the last straw for Hill, who said he was unable to “carry out my fiduciary obligation to the District citizens” without the audits.
Hill isn’t alone in sounding the alarm about the delayed audits. County Auditor/Controller Gere Sibbach, who is mandated by government code to ensure that special districts are audited on a regular basis, said he’s sent numerous letters to the Oceano district, to remind them of the requirement. He’s also offered his assistance in setting up a new computer system that deals with financial records, to no avail.
Sibbach says there is really no way he can force any district to comply with the auditing requirement.
“I can’t take their money away. I can’t run their district. I can just sort of hound ” he told us.
Montemurro said he could not comply with the board’s direction to provide the information because the data was not in a format that the auditors would accept. He does expect some of the information to be ready later in the week.
We strongly urge the three remaining members of the OCSD board of directors to make sure that it is.
And while we can understand why Montemurro might not be ready to address each and every point raised by Hill, we also believe a formal response, at some point, would be an excellent way to move the district forward.