Arroyo Grande’s timeline reveals inconsistencies
August 26, 2014
By JULIE TACKER
Arroyo Grande needs an independent investigation into what began at the “soft opening”, as characterized by KSBY news, of Robert’s Restaurant in the Village of Arroyo Grande on July 3. City Manager, Steve Adams and Community Development Director, Teresa McClish, enjoyed dinner and some wine, according to their own accounting, and reported in the Aug. 21 web-edition of the local daily, they also went to Roster Kitchen, another restaurant/bar in the village, and enjoyed yet another glass of wine.
Both restaurants in the village of Arroyo Grande close at 10 p.m. and according to the Arroyo Grande Police Department (AGPD) at 11:04 .m. Dana McClish, the husband of Teresa McClish, called AGPD to request that officers check the City Hall parking lot to see if his wife’s vehicle, a 2013 light green Ford Focus, was still there.
Dana McClish told the dispatcher his wife had a pacemaker. He explained that she had called him one hour earlier to say she was leaving work and that her cell phone was dying, but she had not yet arrived at their home in Morro Bay. This puts Teresa’s call to Dana at right around 10 p.m.
Police were dispatched just one minute later and arrived in the village at 11:07 p.m. Over the course of the next 30 minutes officers found the car in the city hall parking lot, ran its license plate to confirm ownership to be that of McClish.
One officer begins checking the building; all lights appear to be off. He telephones McClish’s work number, there is no answer.
At the same time another officer inquires at Ralph & Duane’s, a bar just two blocks west of city hall and the closest establishment open after 10 p.m. He doesn’t find the couple.
Meanwhile, a third officer calls Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA), “Code 11-98” (meet officer); he relays the need to access the Knox Box, a small, wall-mounted safe that holds building keys for emergency personnel to retrieve in emergency situations. FCFA records reveal they were dispatched at 11:38 p.m., moments later, the first officer makes contact with the couple.
Characterized as “disheveled” (McMahon/Tribune interview) the officer reports “C4” (Code 4, No further assistance needed) and McClish “will contact husband.”
McClish would then be responsible for calling her worried husband as the officer who had called FCFA now calls off the four firefighters in route at 11:43 p.m. and Engine 66 returns the station on Traffic Way, the record shows.
The AGPD report indicates that the incident was not entirely resolved until 12:09 a.m. on July 4. Ironically, July 4 was the day that Mr. Adams 10.5 percent raise took effect, taking his annual salary up to $157,000.
Realizing that police and firefighters come upon the most uncomfortable situations in the line of duty, this particular “uncomfortable situation” must have been extremely awkward to warrant a Special Closed Session meeting of the City Council agenda to be posted the following Monday for Tuesday.
Under the guise of “Performance Review” for both the City Manager and Legal Counsel, the meeting minutes reflect the city council’s July 8 meeting was extended by an hour and half, and didn’t adjourn until 11:48 p.m. Meeting minutes also indicate “no reportable action” took place that night, but City Attorney Michael McMahon, of Carmel & Naccasha, LLP, told the daily newspaper that he was tasked to investigate the incident. That direction given by the council is reportable.
Over the past six weeks, McMahon conducted interviews with Adams, McClish and the officers involved. Yet, McMahon generated no written report and estimates the city will pay $1,254 for his “investigation.” It is likely, as the cover up continues, the legal bills will too.
Additionally, the City Council’s July 22 regular meeting was cancelled and the Aug. 8 filing deadline for candidates to run for city council and mayor has passed. When the Aug. 12 City Council agenda was posted, there was nothing on it to indicate that any item related to the July 3 incident, the McMahon investigation, or any performance reviews would be discussed in open or closed session.
Irony strikes twice; at this same meeting the council approved an Amendment to Legal Agreement; awarding a 3 percent increase across the board to the legal firm the city has contracted with for the last 21 years, Carmel & Naccasha, LLP.
A week later and nearly six weeks post incident, CalCoastNews (CCN) breaks the story. “The story” is news because public resources, including over an hour of no fewer than four police personnel, some fire personnel, and SLO County Sheriff dispatch are caught up in what appears to be pleasure, not business, at Arroyo Grande City Hall.
CCN’s reporting describes much more than an “uncomfortable situation” that could be “misconstrued” (Adams characterization of the evenings events) giving the impression reporters Karen Velie and Daniel Blackburn spoke directly with officers involved. The daily paper and KSBY then cover the stories and give Adams a chance to tell his side of things where he is accusatory of the responding officers as if they “can benefit by damaging my reputation.”
The KSBY story runs a peculiar statement from City Council Member Tim Brown saying he, “cannot discuss anything that happened during a closed door session,” but does say, “the council voted and the majority of the members decided not to pursue further investigation.”
Mr. Brown’s quote adds to the mystery; there has been no other closed session that would allow for any further discussion on this personnel matter since July 8, and certainly not a vote. Votes in closed session are required to be reported in open session; no such report has been given. When asked Aug. 24, city staff said, “The indication that there was a vote was incorrect.”
The only agendized item since McMahon was given orders to investigate the incident was Aug. 12, when the council went behind closed doors to discuss labor negotiations related to the Arroyo Grande Police Officers’ Association. If the 44-minute conversation included the events of July 3 as part of this discussion then Adams and the council have much more to explain. How officers handled the situation that Adams states, “resulted in an appearance that could be easily misinterpreted” that was brought upon themselves, and has nothing to do with the terms of employment for the entire police force.
Like a puzzle with missing pieces, the public record shows many inconsistencies in the story as the city tries to change history and cover up. The old saying goes, “the cover up is always worse than the crime” and in the instant case, the cover up now involves the Mayor, City Council, daily paper and KSBY to confuse the public into believing this was merely an “uncomfortable situation” that had been “misconstrued” (KSBY August 22).
The story isn’t over and won’t be until there is independent review and, if necessary, disciplinary action is taken. The punishment should fit the crime, but if hiding the crime continues the incident will erode community morale further. Not that long ago, city staff watched Adams fire a policewoman colleague for a relationship with a subordinate, while he appears to “get away” with a similar circumstance.
The Arroyo Grande City Council must realize that there is no putting the genie back in the bottle and must act accordingly. Hire independent council now to put the matter to bed and get on with the important work of the city.
Julie Tacker is a SLO County government watchdog.