Carter under fire for using city resources in special election

August 16, 2011

Andrew Carter


Members of the San Luis Obispo public safety workers’ unions want to know why city councilman Andrew Carter is possibly violating the law in his attempts to overturn binding arbitration and implement pension reform during August’s special election involving Measures A and B.

Carter has been instrumental in bringing Measure A and B to the voters, while at the same time allegedly using public resources to battle opponents of both measures.

Critics contend Carter is using his city email account in his fight against binding arbitration, actions which appear to violate laws restricting the use of taxpayer resources or money to support either side of a ballot measure.

In addition, according to emails obtained through a CalCoastNews public records request, Carter has enlisted the help of city employees to spend work hours to disprove claims of opponents of Measure A and B that, since the passing of binding arbitration, paramedic staffing numbers have increased.

Matt Blackstone, president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association, expressed doubts about Carter’s email use and influence over city staff. “It ties into the ongoing concerns I have with conduct of certain council members regarding the ballot measures. It appears they believe the ends justify the means.”

On Aug. 1, Carter emailed city Human Resources Director Monica Irons, with a copy to City Manager Katie Lichtig, asking Irons to help him refute the claims about increased staffing in the fire department.

“Do you know when we went to three firemen on each truck at stations two, three, and four and four at station one?” Andrew asks Irons in the email. “The firefighters are claiming this happened since binding arbitration was passed. But my records show little increase in fire department staffing since 1995/1996, which would indicate what they are saying can’t be right.

“Also, do you know when we shifted from two paramedics on duty to four?” Carter added. “Their saying this has happened since binding arbitration was passed.”

Irons sent an email back to Carter explaining that staffing minimums and paramedic assignments had increased since binding arbitration, but that she would also ask Fire Chief Charlie Hines to verify the numbers had actually increased in the department.

On July 29, Hines responded by email that he was “on it,” and would review the matter.

After several city employees investigated Carter’s assertion that the firefighters were incorrect about the numbers, it was determined the firefighters were right and the number of paramedics had indeed increased.

The use of Carter’s city council email account to inquire into firefighter staffing, and the expenditure of public employee hours in the fight against binding arbitration, appear to violate Government Code 8314, which bans government officials from using public resources including buildings, government employee hours, phones, computers, or public email accounts to discourage or support a ballot measure.

On July 27, a San Luis Obispo resident sent an email to council members questioning if two firefighters standing on the sidewalk in front of Fire Station One, waving “No on B” signs, were on duty and if the coat and hats they were donning belonged to the city.

Carter emailed the resident thanking him for his concern and voicing his own.

“My expectation is these are not on-duty personnel, but we won’t know until we look,” Carter says in the email. “If the firemen in question are off-duty and on the public sidewalk, they have a legal right to be there, even if this sends a terrible signal to the community.

“The wearing of firefighter coats and helmets is another matter. It is absolutely off limits to use city property in this way.”

Nevertheless, the firefighters were off-duty and wearing personally purchased coats and helmets while promoting No on Measure B.

When contacted by CalCoastNews, Carter said he was too busy to respond to requests for comment prior to publication because of teaching at Cuesta College and a Tuesday evening council meeting.

Opponents of Measures A and B are wondering about an email Carter–who is advocating for council control of employee benefits and compensation packages–sent Irons on July 19, asking how retiree medical benefits apply to council members.

Irons responded by telling Carter in order for him to be eligible for retiree benefits, a council member must retire directly from service in the city, be enrolled in the PERS medical plan, and be at least 50 years old.

If passed, Measure A will amend a city charter that requires voter approval to change employee benefits and instead places that ability in the councils’ hands.

Measure B would undo binding arbitration, a measure passed by the voters in 2000 that allows a third party to decide on safety worker contract disputes.

The deadline for returning ballots in the special mail-in election is Aug. 30.



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The Yes on A & B camp is imploding. They have stooped to the point of some of their supporters sticking Yes on A & B signs in the lawns of the fire stations in the middle of the night (2 days ago at 3 of the 4 stations) and stealing a No on B trailer/sign and vandalizing it.

Where the hell were the cops for this nefariousness??

Judging by the increasingly hysterical rhetoric coming from firefighters like Rob Farino and Aaron Salmon, I would say that it’s the No on A & B camp that is “imploding”.

California Government Code 8314

(d) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of public

resources for providing information to the public about the possible

effects of any bond issue or other ballot measure on state

activities, operations, or policies, provided that (1) the

informational activities are otherwise authorized by the constitution

or laws of this state, and (2) the information provided constitutes

a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the

electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue

or ballot measure.

Thank you, stopagenda21, for the reprint of Ca. Gov. C. 8314 because the wording appears to support my thoughts on the article about Andrew Carter. His reported actions did not appear to be a violation of any law because it concerned his attempts to accurately document facts directly related to his government work. The matters concerned the public’s business. So, I think the line drawn by the articles was a “fine line” which he did not cross. Am I wrong?

This story is like a Seinfield episode. It’s a story about nothing.

It “smells” to me like the public safety groups are grasping at straws to discredit their opposition.

I would hardly say discovering illegal acts by a city council member is “grasping at straws”.

Man, you really are a shill. Are you paid or a volunteer?

@crusader…slojo already said that he (she?) doesn’t work for the City. We are probably dealing with a union person or a spouse/relative of a SLO PD/FD member.

It is interesting to note that usually on this board, there are quite a few public sectors employees that come out and defend government workers. However, on this issue they are very quiet, which leads me to believe that even public sector employees will vote yes on A and B.

It would be nice to hear from others rather than just from slojo on this issue.

I was curious if “slojo” was a paid shill of the local public safety employees unions of if (s)he is simply volunteering their time as a shill? I didn’t ask if they were employed by the taxpayers.

I suspect MANY gov’t employees with vote YES on A & B. The public service employees have been horrid gluttons. That not only makes the financial viability of SLO more and more tenuous, it also puts a spotlight on ALL gov’t employees.

Crusader……neither. Try again.

Nah, I don’t have to. Crusader has got you pegged…”SHILL”


I do not live within the city limits of SLO, but I sure would not put more power in the hands of a city council and give up my voters rights on any issue – which is what Measure A boils down to – the city council will decide on benefits, not the voters. And voting against measure B is just plain stupid – as public safety employees, fire and police cannot strike. Without binding arbitration, once again you give the city government control. Keep doing that and pretty soon all of your voters rights will be vested in the city council.


You’re right, jhagstro: voting against measure B is indeed stupid. Now if we could only convince our public safety employees of that….

And what, then, did we vote them into position to do? I thought it is their job to make educated decisions on our behalf. Not all decisions, just the ones that should be easy enough to handle without special elections, finger pointing, public threats, and months of debates.

It seems to me that regardless of whether the measure passes or not, it will effect the city council and confirming certain claims about what has or hasn’t transpired after binding arbitration was passed is the cities business. Andrew Carter is well within the guidelines of a CC member to make all the inquiries he desires. Ending binding arbitration is in the best interest of the public. The FD has managed to stick their hands in everyone’s pockets and take full advantage of their self serving contracts. They fooled the public once and took control out of the elected representatives control and it is up to the CC to see to it that the public isn’t lied to again. BRING ON THE FACTS

Andrew Carter is abusing his power and the public’s trust. Bottom line.

And you’re a shill for the unions. Next?

Doesn’t matter what you think I am…..Carter is still abusing his power and the trust of the people who elected him.

You’re right — it doesn’t matter what you think. That includes your erroneous, personal opinion that Carter is abusing the power of his office. He’s simply taken on a VERY difficult and distasteful job. One that bothers a great many now, but one that is vitally necessary for our future.

So now every attempt to verify (or disprove) the SLO POA & Firefighters claims regarding A&B by a sitting councilman is a violation of the brown act?

come on.

I remember the chief’s comments when we bought that new ginormously monstrous ladder truck that the city of slo has no buildings tall enough for (sorry Poly Campus is not in the city of SLO check your facts) was supposed to reduce required EMT staff since everyone could then ride in one truck. So maybe we should confirm that his comments were in fact accurate and that we have reduced staffing cost as a result of our million dollar acquisition.

honest question here: why do firefighters and cops deserve more employment bargaining power than the rest of us private sector citizens?

“So now every attempt to verify (or disprove) the SLO POA & Firefighters claims regarding A&B by a sitting councilman is a violation of the brown act?” Um, no, not the Brown Act specifically, but government regulations regarding the use of government resources and staff when working on a campaign issue. It would seem pretty cut and dried; either Councilman Carter used the city email and “directed” staff to research his questions or he did not. If he did not, Karen is wrong and there is nothing to see, nothing to do; BUT, if it is true that the councilman did use the city email to direct city staff, then he is in violation of the government regulations and can be fined for doing so, and should be.

In answer to your “honest question”: why do you seemingly believe that the firefighters and police deserve less bargaining power than the rest of us? Surely you are aware that public safety workers cannot strike or stage sick-outs because to do so puts the safety of the citizens at risk, so handing the City Council the sole ability to negotiate the employment contracts completely politicizes the process. If you as a private citizen is working for a company and you want to negotiate with your employer, you can stage a strike if enough of your fellow workers join with you; the safety workers cannot do that, period.

slo_born… check your facts. Who do you think responds to emergencies at CalPoly? Do you think CalPoly has their own Fire Department? Jack *ss.

Cal Poly DOES have its own STATE firefighters, shill.

Then why does SLO City respond to emergencies on campus?

Shill, Poly does have its own STATE firefighters.

The ladder truck for non-existent buildings was part of the deal to develop the Garden St. block. To get a developer to do the project, the height limit needed to be raised. To raise the height limit, the city needed a ladder truck capable of servicing buildings of that height (per insurance requirements). So regardless of whether a project is ever completed, the city is stuck with the ladder truck. A very expensive ladder truck, which, if history is a guide, will need to be replaced due to it’s age, shortly after the Garden St. project is completed, if that ever happens.

Respectfully, the expansion of Poly’s residential element was done w/out the anticipation of this truck. All the new buildings are sprinkled and the CDF station at highland would seem to be the logical first responder to campus. state school state FD. maybe city fire wants a bigger staff though.

I was under the impression that the original plan submitted for garden street included a variance for height but that it was revised down to a height that our old truck could handle after public outcry over the height of the projects original plan (loss of mtn views while strolling higuera) as well as keeping some of the “historic” garden street properties.

after a little research at I see that the council approved the garden street terraces 74 ft height on 6/1/2010:

002-424-022 736 MARSH 124 6/1/2010 PCCA U Request to construct a new building up to 74 feet tall. 0 ACTIVE APPLICATION!

and the request regarding the ladder truck acquisition was made by Cheif Callahan 10/20/2009 his reasons why we need a truck

Why Does the City Need a Quint with a 100-Foot Ladder ?

Fire Department staff and the engine/truck committee examined what is currently in operation— a

75-foot Pierce Single Chassis Quint . It was determined that a 75-foot aerial does not meet th e

current needs and height ordinances of the City . Fire staff has concluded that a 100-foot ladder

would best serve the City for the next 15-20 years . Cal Poly, which now falls under the fire

department’s jurisdiction, has had significant growth towards Poly Canyon, including larg e

setbacks and many new buildings reaching five stories . The City has also annexed large portion s

of Cerro San Luis Mountain and Bishops Peak, which added the responsibility of high angl e

rescue to the fire department and the need to buy and store that equipment on our current Quint

The level of service provided by SLO City FD is different from the level of service Cal Fire can provide. Cal Poly is not stupid…..they want the best service.

“It appears they believe the ends justify the means.” Um, where I have heard a comment like that before? That’s right, just like some politicians who are attempting to get re-elected or smear their opponent. I get it that many people have justifiable concerns about binding arbitration and pensions, but let’s at least try to follow the law in mounting a campaign. I am very disappointed in Councilman Carter.

The public safety employees have done nothing but play fair and abide by all the laws and rules of this campaign. If they are defeated by the actions of a lying, cheating, power hungry city council member, at least the cops and firefighters can hold their heads high and be proud of their efforts.

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