New Times / News
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 1
Audit reveals Geaslen bilked Oceano taxpayers
BY RHYS HEYDEN
When former Oceano Community Services District General Manager Tom Geaslen was fired in mid-April of this year, he paid the district almost $37,000, and all the parties involved signed a settlement. As a result, everyone’s lips were sealed on the deal, and the true nature of the core conflict remained frustratingly nebulous.
However, a recent financial audit of the district by San Luis Obispo-based Caliber Audit & Attest and several conversations between OCSD sources and New Times have illuminated some of the fiscal finagling.
“During our discussions with management, we were informed a payroll overpayment for one employee occurred on a monthly basis for a small portion of the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, and most of the year ended June 20, 2013,” the auditor wrote in a July 19 internal control letter.
According to numerous sources who spoke to New Times on condition of anonymity, Geaslen is that same employee, and he overpaid himself by at least $37,000 following his permanent installation in March 2012.
District Board President Matt Guerrero said the terms of the board’s settlement with Geaslen limited what he could discuss, but that the overpayment was discovered internally in April 2013.
“Our goal with the settlement was to make sure our ratepayers were made whole, and they were—entirely,” Guerrero said.
Oceano CSD board member Karen White said the board is focused on moving forward and putting the consternation behind them.
One other troubling detail revealed in the audit is that individual OCSD salaries—previously publicly listed in the board minutes—weren’t disclosed during Geaslen’s tenure, obscuring the alleged fraud.
According to Guerrero, however, there’s no legal requirement to publicly list those salaries, and the practice was discontinued sometime in the interim period between the tenures of former GM Raffaele Montemurro and Geaslen.
Guerrero also mentioned that OCSD staffers had long been opposed to the public airing-out of their compensation, and that discontent was the primary driving force behind the change.
“That said, we immediately started listing the salaries again in April this year,” Guerrero said. “That’s just the way it’s going to be from now on.”
According to public records, Geaslen’s base salary as OCSD general manager was $126,000 per year.
The July 19 audit only covered the fiscal period ending June 30, 2012, so Guerrero said the next audit, to be released in October, may reveal more information.
Guerrero said the board is currently reviewing finalists for the GM position, and should have a new appointee by summer’s end. The OCSD isn’t pursuing any civil action against Geaslen per the terms of the settlement.
“We are re-focusing on our mission, and moving away from drama,” Guerrero said.