By KAREN VELIE
San Simeon Community Services District officials have refused to disclose the identity of their general manager, or if they even have one, as they continue to battle allegations of conflicts of interest and self-dealing.
Throughout the over two-hour Aug. 12 San Simeon CSD Board meeting, the public pleaded with the board to tell them who their general manager is. And more specifically, if Charlie Grace is the district’s general manager, a question San Simeon CSD Chair Gwen Kellas refused to answer.
“There seems to be like this looming question about who the general manager is, and if that’s answered I think there is a lot of people that would just move on,” Karina Tiwana said. “I’ve been believing it’s Charlie Grace. Why can’t we just say it’s Charlie Grace? It seems ridiculous.”
In 2016, Grace entered into a professional services agreement with the district that includes providing a general manager. As administrator of the district, Grace has funneled work to his own company, Grace Environmental Services, and approved his company’s invoices.
Since then, multiple agencies, including the Fair Political Practices Commission and the SLO County District Attorney’s Office, have opened investigations into the alleged conflicts of interest.
Recently, San Simeon resident Henry Krzciuk discovered that the district changed Grace’s title on the district website from San Simeon CSD General Manager to the general manager of Grace Environmental Services. Grace also changed his position on his yearly statement of economic interest from general manager to consultant.
“The refusal of Chair Kellas and Charles Grace to answer any questions about Grace being the CSD general manager adds fuel to the fire,” Krzciuk wrote on Nextdoor. “These are material changes in the management of our district with serious legal implications. These changes were made secretly and in the middle of major investigations. No single board member has this authority, yet it is happening and unquestioned.”
While the San Simeon board voted to approve a general manager contract with Charlie Grace in 2016, the board did not officially appoint him to the manager position or provide an oath of office as required by law. Until the oath of office is filed with the San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorder’s Office, the district is prohibited from compensating Grace, who has already been paid more than $800,000 for his services.
“No compensation nor reimbursement for expenses incurred shall be paid to any officer by any public agency unless he has taken and subscribed to the oath or affirmation required by this chapter,” according to Government Code Section 1367.
Further muddying the waters, the law also requires that only sworn-in public officials can swear in other public officials. Grace or his secretary provided the oath of office to all of the district’s board members, which calls into question if anyone serving on the district board is legally permitted to vote at board meetings and if previous actions are valid.
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