Tom Geaslen was practically shouting by the end of a lengthy tirade at the Feb. 22 meeting of the Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors.
“In light of the recent events that we’ve had, the only thing that I can say is this place was a three-ring circus, and it appears the circus has come back to town,” said Geaslen, the district’s interim general manager.
Geaslen is the latest to step out of a veritable clown car of general managers and directors who’ve rotated through the district in recent years. He replaced Raffaele Montemurro, who was fired last June after less than two years in office. But criticism over Geaslen’s pay increase, specifically that it was increased outside the gaze of public eyes, had the new interim general manager lashing back at his critics.
“I’m a big boy,” he said, looking out at the small audience. “Bring it on. Give me everything you got!”
He reiterated the “I’m a big boy line” several times in the night, adding, “Here’s my face, go on and punch it out.”
Indeed, Geaslen took a few licks for a pay increase he received while the board of directors was in closed session on Feb. 8. At that meeting, which was closed to the public, Geaslen’s monthly pay was raised from $7,750 to $10,000, and done so retroactive to the beginning of the year. In closed session, Geaslen was also promoted from interim general manager to full time, beginning at the end of his contract on June 30.
The district received several protests that it had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act. Julie Tacker of Los Osos, for example, said in a letter to the district she believed the action “was a substantial violation of a central provision of the Ralph M. Brown Act, one which may jeopardize the finality of the action taken by the Oceano Community Services District Board of Directors.”
Board President Matthew Guerrero swiftly moved to void the Feb. 8 action and set a future agenda item to review Geaslen’s position. Yet Guerrero firmly commended Geaslen for his work, followed by similar commendations from the board.
“I’ve been through a few directors. … I don’t think it’s the people of Oceano that feel this way,” Vice President Mary Lucey said, referring to Tacker and Jeff Edwards, another Los Osos resident. “I think it’s outside agitations.”
Oceano resident Bill Smith later compared Tacker and Edwards to Communists.
Geaslen’s pay and his position are scheduled to be re-reviewed at the board’s March 14 meeting.