Tempers flared and accusations flew during the June 6 meeting of the Oceanside Sanitation District No. 7 board of commissioners — the final gathering of officials before the election.
Longtime sanitation employee Joe Samoles, who is running for election to the board, addressed the commissioners and accused district employee Jacqueline Urli and her husband, Marco, of creating an anonymous Facebook account that criticized the board and released personal information about employees. Urli, who is a secretary at the district and filed a sexual harassment suit against the board in February, publicly denied being behind the account.
“I don’t know why sanitation is such a big thing in Oceanside — I really don’t get it,” Commissioner Austin Graff told the Herald after the meeting. “We pick up the garbage, we dump it out at the dump, and the men come home safely. That’s all that counts. All the other stuff is literally garbage.”
Samoles worked for the department from 1990 to 2015, and was set to challenge incumbent Tom Lanning and Oceanside resident Jordan Kaplan for a seat on the board of commissioners in Thursday’s election as the Herald went to press.
At the meeting, Samoles accused the Urlies of being behind the phony Facebook account of “Pamela Schwartz.” According to Graff, who has been a vocal supporter of Samoles’s candidacy, Schwartz’s account showed favoritism toward Lanning and posted on several community pages, revealing personal information about two sanitation workers, criticizing the board and harassing community members.
Reached by phone Monday, Jacqueline Urli said she and her husband were not behind the Facebook account. Lanning said the account was “crazy” in a text message to the Herald, while Kaplan sent a statement, and called the Schwartz proceedings a coordinated show by the board.
“The Pamela Schwartz issue is symptomatic of the larger problem,” he said. “This board is completely dysfunctional. Commissioners, past and present, use Facebook to disparage and impeach each other over the smallest of disagreements. It is a total disgrace for Oceanside.”
Many commissioners said the page was intended to distract residents from issues and corruption facing the district. Though the Urlies denied involvement, Graff said the telephone number that was listed under the Facebook profile matched Marco Urli’s. The number has since been disconnected.
“There’s direct documentary evidence based upon the telephone number connected to the account,” Graff said. “Whether it’s him or her at the keyboard, we don’t know. Free speech is OK, but when you start releasing personal personnel information, it goes over the line.”
The Facebook account was created well before the election, but the posts intensified as the race drew to a close. The profile has since been deleted. Graff said that only a district employee would have access to the insider knowledge about the workers, but he refused to specify what the posts included, noting that he didn’t want to be responsible for publicly revealing details about employees again. Samoles handed out copies of the profile at the meeting, which included the phone number underneath the photo of Schwartz.
In a statement on his Facebook page, board of commissioners Chairman John Mannone said the page revealed insurance information related to a worker’s compensation claim filed by an employee and also detailed that employee’s insurance information, among other offenses. Mannone has also backed Samoles, and has been at odds with Lanning, who publicly asked him to step down from his post in February. In his statement, Mannone took aim at Lanning and Tony Iovino, the communications director for Oceanside Library, who is Jacqueline Urli’s brother.
“As the board chairman, I must condemn Mr. Iovino and Commissioner Lanning for what I believe is an attempt to distract our community from blatant corruption by spreading misinformation,” Mannone wrote.
Iovino did not return calls requesting comment.
In her suit against the board, Urli alleged that the commissioners permitted a “hostile, toxic” work environment, in which sexual harassment was not reprimanded. She went into further detail at a Feb. 19 news conference after filing the suit.
“When I’m in these board meetings and I’m the only woman with eight men and they start talking using filthy language, when it got directed at me is when it was most offensive,” she said. “It’s been a very difficult time . . . It’s just been unbearable to deal with.”
The board of commissioners released a joint statement after the allegations, which said they would not comment on a pending legal matter, but would “vigorously defend against the charges,” which are pending.
Also at the meeting, the board discussed adding a rule that commissioners must agree to post public financial disclosures in the wake of recent financial controversies within the district. Graff said if it were approved, the measure would ensure that board members disclose whom they received political contributions from when they ran for their seats and where they are earning money. He added that the disclosures would be published on the district’s website and that all board members seemed to agree about the rule, but decided to wait until the next meeting so that whoever wins the election will have the ability to share their input.
After Thursday’s election, the board will host its reorganizational meeting on June 24 and its first full post-election meeting on July 11.