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Is there or isn't there a problem in Oceano? 

The Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors has almost always fought within itself, even now as it struggles simply to fill a vacant seat.

On March 22, Director Pamela Dean filed with the SLO County Superior Court, challenging the appointment of Lori Angello, who was appointed by a questionable “majority” of directors on a 2-1 vote Feb. 10. In fact, Dean claims Angello’s appointment not only didn’t pass a simple board majority (three out of five members), but the board’s action was “illegal.” Angello, however, has refused to step down.

“It appears to me that we as a board have broken the law by voting in the manner we did,” Dean wrote to district General Manager Raffaele Montemurro on Feb. 16.

Director Vern Dahl recused himself from the vote, citing a conflict. Dahl did not return calls for comment.

Angello was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former director Barbara Mann, who left office last December before her term expired amid intense public scrutiny over an alleged financial scandal.

District Attorney Alex Simas later agreed the vote didn’t comply with the board’s rules. In a letter to district officials, Simas said the district had, in fact, made a mistake and Dean should voluntarily step down or the board should approve a special November election to fill the seat or the whole matter would go to the county Board of Supervisors for a final decision. Directors met again on Feb. 24 to review the appointment, but Angello didn’t step down. She also didn’t return a call for comment.

However, Montemurro told New Times that the district has since decided the appointment was appropriate. Until then, he said, “The CSD … is going to let the lawyers sort it out.”

On March 24, the same day as the board’s regular meeting, Judge Charles Crandall denied Dean’s request to have Angello immediately removed, but asked that the case come back in a more timely manner.

Meanwhile, the district is beginning a forensic audit designed to tear through all of its finances. On the night Mann announced her retirement, directors also approved the audit in hopes that it might settle public suspicions—and those of some directors—that people within the district were manipulating district finances and possibly stealing district funds. The district has pegged SLO-based firm Glenn Burdette Phillips Bryson to conduct the audit.

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