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County cracks 

San Luis Obispo County is not in a good place right now.

The county is in disarray, and the disarray hasn't subsided for quite some time. We could start with Adam Hill and the trail of corruption he left in his wake. After news about the FBI raiding the county government building, the then 3rd District Supervisor's mental health hit the decline until his eventual suicide in 2020.

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The U.S. Department of Justice's slow leaks over Hill's alleged dealings in pay-to-play for votes on the SLO County Board of Supervisors and influence over other municipalities/local governing bodies is not a good look. So far, the web of cash and other favors has ensnared a couple of shady local residents, including marijuana kingpin Helios Dayspring and his growing cannabis business—the Natural Healing Center—as well as developer Ryan Petitit—who changed his name to Ryan Wright after a domestic violence case against him.

Rumors about who else was involved in the shady shenanigans are fierce and have always been so. While guessing the names on the DOJ's short list of corrupt SLO County residents is a super fun game, I'm all about waiting for the facts, Jack. I'm on the edge of my seat for the next DOJ indictment announcement that gets fired into local media inboxes.

We can continue with the string of resignations, which definitely didn't start when County Administrative Officer Wade Horton said toodle-oo earlier this year. Top department officials have always seemed to resign from SLO County faster than you can check the staff boxes.

Remember SLO County Public Works Director Daniel "Colt" Esenwein? Hired in April 2018, he resigned about a year later. Why? He was placed on administrative leave following a string of sexual harassment complaints from employees.

Esenwein was apparently into vulgarity. He was fond of phrases such as "bending over and taking it," and "grabbing your ankles," according to the complaints. I would wager that a lot of people are into both of those things, however, work is not really the place for discussing such things.

After Horton took off for the greener, more monied and arguably less divisive pastures of Santa Barbara County government, SLO County supervisors brought in someone who said he would make the county leaner. Instead, it sounds like he made the county meaner.

A retired county administrator from Kern County who was serving on the Cambria Health Care District's board, John Nilon came in with all the right credentials this May. But in November, he resigned just a couple of days before the Board of Supervisors made a straightforward decision to terminate his contract due to allegations of improper conduct.

"The allegations had largely to do with the substance and style of his communications with a number of women both inside and outside the organization," 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson said.

Is the county just really bad at background checks? Or are these guys just allowed to be creepy and lewd in other counties? Meanwhile, SLO County is now onto its third top administrator of the year—which has gotta be a record.

Nilon parted ways with the county just a couple of days after the county sent out a somewhat cryptic announcement about misused funds. The District Attorney's Office served a search warrant at the home and office of a county employee on Nov. 14, after an internal investigation "focused on the potential misuse of county funds for personal purchases."

"The employee is now on administrative leave," the announcement said.

I wonder if Charles Varni wants to weigh in on this thing, since he's the only one in the Oceano Community Services District who's interested in doing the right thing about corruption—according to him. I know some other people in this county who feel that way about themselves, too, and none of them are that great.

We've also got potential recall attempt No. 2 on the horizon against 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who has so far weathered several political maelstroms. He was supposed to lose his seat in a newly gerrymandered district and didn't. He was supposed to lose his seat in a recount but didn't. He was supposed to face a recall petition earlier in November, but the Committee to Support the Recall of Supervisor Bruce Gibson couldn't figure out how to hit its deadlines.

Now the group, which apparently didn't realize that weekly papers come out weekly, is threatening to once again get its shit together. I'm sure Gibson is simply shaking in his well-worn liberal Birkenstocks.

It's no surprise that a former losing 2nd District candidate is on the recall committee's board: retired Col. John Whitworth, who seems to think the Proposition 13 pitch that didn't win him a spot in 2022's general election is sure to get Gibson recalled.

"This whole recall is about raising people's taxes on Prop. 13," Whitworth said. "This recall is not by the committee but by we the people."

Proposition 13 would need to be repealed by we the people of California, not one elected official on a Board of Supervisors.

Although Whitworth wouldn't tell us who the rest of "we the people" are on his four-member board, I'm betting $5,348.21—the amount that Darcia Stebbens still owes the county Clerk-Recorder's Office for the recount—that Stebbens is sitting on it. Δ

The Shredder is ready to take over the County Administrative Office. Send reference letters to [email protected].

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What should the San Simeon CSD do to continue its obligations?

  • Divest—they can't pay for water and wastewater responsibilities.
  • Dissolve—they can't properly handle what a governing body should.
  • Focus on getting grants and raising rates to pay for their capital projects.
  • I didn't even know San Simeon had a government.

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