By KAREN VELIE
The San Simeon Community Services District Board of Directors is again considering having residents cover $167,773 for the general manager’s legal bills, which are related to alleged conflicts of interest and mismanagement. The board is also considering extending the manager’s contract, according to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
At a special meeting in September, the board agreed to extend General Manager Charles Grace’s contract for one year without following the legal requirements for the extension. In addition, the new agreement requires the San Simeon district pay Grace one year’s compensation if he is terminated with or without cause.
Grace, through his company Grace Environmental Services, is paid $723,698 a year.
Local activist Julie Tacker discovered the failure to properly extend the contract and filed a cure and correct for the Brown Act violation. District officials then confirmed the error and placed the contract extension on Tuesday’s agenda.
“The words ‘without cause’ puts the district on the hook for the full year’s salary even if he’s in breach of the contract,” Tacker said. “The board did not agree to that language when they originally agreed to extend the contract. This was done in a vacuum.”
Also on the agenda, Grace is asking the district board to agree to pay $167,773 in legal bills related to alleged conflicts of interest and mismanagement, at a cost of $800 per rate payer.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed a civil suit in Sept. 2021 against Grace and his company Grace Environmental Services, which is paid to manage the district, alleging illegal business practices and false advertising. Prosecutors are asking the court to order the district to stop conducting unlawful and fraudulent acts of unfair competition and to stop making untrue or misleading statements.
County prosecutors are seeking civil penalties of $2,500 for each act of unfair competition and for each false or misleading statement, in addition to court and investigation costs. These penalties currently add up to more than $2 million.
In their indemnity request, Grace’s attorneys Greg Sanders and Amber Maltbie, with the Nossaman firm in Los Angeles, provided partially redacted legal invoices which provide a window into Grace’s legal battle.
The invoices include thousands of dollars for “telephone calls regarding the availability of retired Judge John Trice,” and for attempts “to get in contact with Judge Barry LaBarbera regarding his availability to sit as the judge” in a mandatory settlement conference.
Attorney Sanders sat on the Cambria Community Services District Board until his resignation in 2017.
In an odd twist, two weeks ago, Nossaman donated $1,500 to SLO County Supervisor Bruce Gibson’s reelection campaign. San Simeon is in Gibson’s district and Gibson has ties to Judge LaBarbera.
“With all the issues in San Simeon, why are people protecting him?” Tacker said.