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Legal fees pile up for South San Luis Obispo County sanitation district

South County Sanitation District spends millions to update facilities

The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board embarked on an ambitious plan this year to improve some of the major structures at its Oceano wastewater treatment plant.
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The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board embarked on an ambitious plan this year to improve some of the major structures at its Oceano wastewater treatment plant.

While the South County sanitation district anticipates spending millions to improve its sewage treatment plant, the district also is spending more on legal services and human resources because of investigations and employee grievances.

In March the district board added $46,000 to its $416,000 professional services budget for the current fiscal year. Professional services includes outside legal counsel and human resources.

In October, the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board heard and denied two formal grievances filed by employees regarding promotions. Those grievances required a formal report from a human resources contractor. According to past warrants, the district paid Lara HR Services $5,190 in November to prepare the report.

In December, the district board met in closed session to discuss accusations from some employees of discrimination by District Administrator Gerhardt Hubner. The claims ultimately were dismissed. Prior to that, the district’s legal counsel advised hiring law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore to investigate the accusations and prepare a report. The company billed the district $4,845 in September and $3,005 in October, according to district documents.

Then in March, the district joined the city of Arroyo Grande in a $15,000 investigation into allegations of misconduct against board member and Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill. That investigation is ongoing, and is expected to cost the district up to $7,500. Liebert Cassidy Whitmore is once again the investigating agency.

Hubner declined to disclose whether the district is involved in any further investigations in the fiscal year ending June 30, saying that plant personnel investigations are confidential.

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