Oceanside Sanitation District No. 7’s Board of Commissioners voted on Sept. 6 to end the practice of providing health and dental benefits to former commissioners as well as dental benefits to former supervisors, in a move framed as ending the practice — as alleged by county and state auditors — of Oceanside sanitation officials abusing their taxpayer-funded positions to enrich themselves and their families.
In a four to zero vote, with Commissioner Tom Lanning abstaining citing a lack of information on the measure, the board amended the district bylaws to prohibit former commissioners from paying for health and dental insurance plans through the district, as well as former administrators from paying for dental insurance plans through the district.
Commissioner Austin Graff referenced in his reasoning for introducing the measure the fact that former Commissioner Joe Cibellis, who decided not to seek reelection in 2016, but who subsequently ran against Graff for a seat on the board in 2018, was still reimbursing the district for health and dental benefits.
“We asked for an explanation and a basis for Mr. Cibellis receiving health and dental benefits, we learned that it was never approved by the board of commissioners and was only authorized by a letter from the treasurer,” Graff told the Herald. “This an unacceptable practice.”
Additionally, Graff cited the case of former supervisors Michael and Charles Scarlata — who were accused of collecting more than $800,000 in illegal deferred retirement payments, according to a state comptroller report — for his reasoning behind calling a vote to amend the bylaws to prohibit former administrators from reimbursing the district for dental insurance premium payments. The benefits are not included in the collective bargaining agreement between Sanitation No. 7 and CSEA 880, the union that represents the district’s administrative staff.
“The dental plan is a very good plan,” Graff said. “I’m sure people who live in Oceanside would love to take advantage of it, why former employees and supervisors and nobody else? It was a benefit given to certain people not to everyone and not to every former employee either.”
The board is currently working to finalize a collective bargaining agreement between Sanitation No. 7 and CSEA 553, the union that represent’s the district’s non-administrative staff. Sanitation officials have said the deal is expected to be signed this week.