During a virtual meeting with low public attendance, on April 22 the Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors elected to reduce the number of people required to sign checks, from two to one: either the district’s general manager or the business and accounting manager. Historically, two board member signatures were required.
Most smaller government bodies, and even some states, require multiple signatures as part of their internal controls. This practice helps protect against theft and fraud, issues that Oceano has been plagued with in the past.
In 2011, a CalCoastNews investigation discovered that then general manager Rafaelle Montemurro had been paying himself for 40-hour work weeks, while also paying himself for 10 hours of sick pay. Shortly afterwards, the board voted to terminate Montemurro.
Two years later, CalCoastNews reported that then general manager Tom Geaslen had overpaid himself $36,962. The board then voted 4-1, with director Karen White dissenting, to terminate Geaslen, who was ordered to pay the district back for his ill-gotten gains.
During Wednesday’s meeting, local activists Julie Tacker and Tina Dickason, who were attending the meeting by Zoom, reminded the board of the district’s history of embezzlement, and asked them not to approve a decrease in oversight.
Even though the staff report listed coronavirus issues as a reason for the proposed check signing change, at the meeting General Manager Will Clemens said his request was not related to the pandemic. The board then voted unanimously to permanently forgo dual signature requirements.
During the meeting, the board also more than tripled Clemens’ purchasing authority, from $7,500 to $25,000. Hired in December, Clemens told the board that an increase in his spending allowance would bring his authority in line with other districts.
Oceano’s attorney Jeff Minnery, from the law firm of Adamski, Moroski, Cumberland and Green, voiced his support for Clemens’ request, noting this is the way things are going with paperless technology and efficiencies.