The cover-up of the alleged Arroyo Grande indiscretion
August 26, 2014
OPINION By OTIS PAGE
Open letter to the Arroyo Grande City Council:
It is my reluctant judgment offered here — considering the tragedy of this matter — that the real problem is not the conduct of two individuals, once considered to be absolutely highly respected executives of the City of Arroyo Grande.
Nor is the problem their being painted with the brush of suspicion and doubt — as fairly or unfairly reported in the media as referenced above — or the speculations by citizens who are aware, concerned and truly sad about their alleged indiscretion.
The problem is the cover-up by the Arroyo Grande City Council of the incident that occurred on the evening on July 3, 2014 and during the subsequent closed investigation of the incident.
Granted that the City Council may have attempted to sensitively consider the incident — with the intent to save the reputation of the individuals involved — and that of the City’s — to avoid “the shame of it all”, especial in an election year.
Nevertheless, it has inappropriately adhered to a policy closing the citizens away from the matter — ignoring the fact that Arroyo Grande is a small town where things become quietly known. This was a serious mistake.
Ignoring this reality, the City Council has mismanaged the task with a cover-up. Why is this so?
The matter, as originally reported by CalCoastNews on August 19, begs the following question: If their conduct was okay, then why the necessity for the investigation and the subsequent cover-up of the investigation?
This all occurred before the article was published in the CalCoastNews on August 19 — approximately one month and a half later after the incident!
The CalCoastNews report relied on legitimate sources regarding the incident — sources they refuse to disclose because of their standard of journalistic ethics.
Nevertheless, it is not the alleged indiscretion that is now the big issue. It is the cover-up of the investigation as to what was alleged — the secrecy and administration of the matter in closed sessions — the citation of gag orders on all those concerned — the use of an attorney that has a clear conflict being a member of the City attorney’s law firm in assessing the matter — the attempt to maintain secrecy as a “personnel matter.”
This has fed the fire of reporting that was initiated by CalCoastNews and then under reported by the SLO Tribune — it using a report prepared by the investigating attorney employed by the City regarding the incident. Thereby appearing to violate the intent of the gag order enforced by the Council on the matter — as a defense against the CalCoastNews article?
Did the Council authorize the Tribune’s reply and thereby violate its own gag order imposed as a function of hiding from the citizens its own record of its closed sessions regarding the matter?
Again, why the cover-up if there was no problem? Why the secrecy after facts were established that there was no problem? Why wasn’t there a clear and decisive explanation by Arroyo Grande Council authorities — or the whole Arroyo Grande Council — at the time the determination was made?
It was established that there was no guilt, that there was no problem, but not as is now evident that the Council’s determination is contradicted by the persistent reports of the cover-up — thereby stimulating speculations concerning the details of the incident.
For there hangs the cloud that suggests something may have occurred, something that feeds the fires of rumor and speculation as now happening, a shadow that there was misconduct no matter how innocently employed.
What should be done now?
To fully redeem this situation there should be an independent audit of the cover-up by an independent committee of citizens with legal counsel.
The present audit, performed, by a partner of the City of Arroyo Grande’s lawyer, respected Tim Carmel, is obviously flawed because of the obvious conflict! They are employed by the City Manager — who is involved in this alleged indiscretion.
This audit should be established and funded by the Council. For without that, the judgment and cloud will continue to persist that something is truly wrong here, that the truth has not been served, that the shadow of probable misconduct will forever plague the City and its Council — that has been faithfully endowed to protect the citizens interests.
Without that audit both the City, its Council and the City Manager and his Director of Development will be forever disgraced — because in the general public domain – as compared to the legal — on this type of issue — it is unfairly held one is guilty until proven innocent. They and the City deserve a true audit to clear their names in this matter. Without that, their guilt is confirmed by consensus.
Otis Page is a citizen of Arroyo Grande.
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