Ashbaugh votes in disregard of state ruling

August 26, 2014
San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh

San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh


CORRECTION: John Ashbaugh does not own property in the airport area. He  does own property in a focus area of the land use update and because of that the FPPC had ruled that he could not vote on any part without a favorable ruling for that one meeting, which he did not receive before the meeting.

(Editor’s note: A ruling from the California Fair Political Practice Commission regarding San Luis Obispo City Council Members John Ashbaugh and Dan Carpenter’s financial conflicts of interest is at the bottom of this story.)

San Luis Obispo Councilman John Ashbaugh voted on a land use issue even after a formal ruling by the California Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) prohibited him from doing so because of a financial conflict of interest, in an action that places him and the city at risk.

On Aug. 19, the council was set to discuss whether or not it should attempt to overrule a 40-year-old Airport Land Use Commission’s determination of where the airport safety boundaries should lie. Around airports, safety requirements generally do not allow high density residential units to be built.

Three developers, seeking higher residential density regulations, have proposed projects in the safety zone.

Gary Grossman is in escrow on the former Dalidio ranch located between Highway 101 and Madonna Road. Grossman wants to dramatically lower the amount of retail space already approved through the county and increase the number residential units on the property he is working to annex into the city.

Unlike Dalidio, Grossman has considerable political clout. Grossman has already donated more than $16,000 in 2014 to political allies of Major Jan Marx and Ashbaugh.

The initial action of the process to overrule the commission requires three votes. Before the end of October, the council will make a final decision, which requires a four-fifths vote.

Nevertheless, three council members own property in a focus and appear to have financial conflicts of interest. The Political Reform Act bars public officials from participating in discussion or votes on issues where they have a conflict of interest.

Because the vote to have the council overrule the commission requires three votes, city attorney Christine Dietrick asked the FPPC for advice.

In February, the FPPC sent a formal reply in which it concluded that both Ashbaugh and Carpenter had financial conflicts of interest because they own property in the area and should not vote on the airport land issue.

Last week, Council Member Kathy Smith said she felt she also has a conflict of interest and would not vote.

Dietrick then advised both Councilmen Dan Carpenter and Ashbaugh not to vote on the issue and recommended continuing the item until she received further advice from the FPPC.

Ashbaugh, however, said he did not agree that he had a financial conflict of interest. He then said he would not recuse himself.

Dietrich responded by informing Ashbaugh that the city could not protect him from enforcement action by the FPPC.

“I am not worried about that,” Ashbaugh responded.

While the FPPC enforcement actions are limited to public officials, Ashbaugh’s action could result in that council’s decision being overturned or possible legal actions against the city.

In addition, overruling the commission’s rules on residential high density around the airport could result in safety and financial risks to the city and its residents. There have been six fatal accidents in the current safety zone in the past 15 years.

Proponents of overruling the commission, point at the importance of increasing residential development inside the city.

The FPPC permits the “Rule of Necessity,” where so many members of a council have a conflict of interest that less than a quorum of members are left to vote on an issue. The Rule of Necessity allows “conflicted” members of a council to draw straws, to permit enough of those with a conflict to vote to create a quorum.

However, the rule did not apply to last week’s vote, Ashbaugh had not been chosen to vote on whether to move the decision to override the airport commission, but voted even when the city attorney advised against doing so in opened session. Nevertheless, it could be used in the final vote slated for later this year.

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FPPC Response to Christine Dietrick, City Attorney for San Luis Obispo CA. by CalCoastNews


Ashbaugh ignores the rules and laws, say it isn’t so? He has always been such an upstanding citizen and professor at Cal Poly, wink – wink? No surprise here, if he and his cronies can line their pockets they will and anyone in the development community knows his pockets are always open.


Ashbaugh has never been a tenure track professor at Cal Poly. He was a part time instructor.


So, what does he teach? Malfeasance in public office? Irresponsible municipal behavior? Arrogance against anti-corruption public agencies?

Lining one’s pockets 101 ?

For upper division courses, such as Gross Public Arrogance 402, Ashbaugh aspires to teach in the footsteps of Gibson.


Actually, he’s not anything at Poly. Teaches at Hancock.


The one thing not mentioned is the need for housing in SLO and that is essentially what his vote addresses. If he is supporting overriding the density restrictions, Great. It’s not like they are not going to build at that sight anyway. Does safety really make a difference if the site is for retail or housing? Anyone who can challenge the norm and get housing built in SLO I would support. Of course all those with half a million dollar plus homes aren’t as effected by the shortage of housing and have the luxury of debating Ashbaughs ethics, while those sleeping in their cars need an answer, now, who cares if John owns property near the site?. There is not enough Low Income Housing, nor is there affordable Senior Housing. The average Social Security income is approximately $850.00 a month and HASLO charges between $700.00 and $900.00 a month for their low income affordable Public Housing. Not to mention the waiting list can be two year or more. Isn’t the real agenda whether or not you support housing?


TruthFairy, so you don’t care about density or safety as long as we get more affordable housing . Really, and how many folks with $850-900 income will be able to afford these units. You are blind if you think these will sell for less than $500,000.

Thank God you are not in a position of power, although with your mentality I would not be surprised if you were. Again, why have any zoning, regulations, enforcement or planning if you just want more housing, geez!


Why not just build slums, then? Next to airport runways, next to freeways, next to the garbage dump, next to oil wells and refineries, next to stinky places. Let them snuff it up. Such arrogance.


Actually, he’s not a Poly anything — teaches at Hancock.


Two of five council members have been ruled to have a conflict, and one more recused herself. Passing a law overruling the Airport Safety Zone boundary requires a four-fifths vote. What the F does Ashbaugh think he’s doing? Four votes are still required, so there’s no chance anything like this could even come up for a vote, unless disqualified councilmembers changed their status by selling off their property. I’m sure the developers could arrange such a purchase.

Probably in escrow as we speak.

slo Fact Finder

N U T S ? ! ? :)


A Leer jet crashed on The Dalidio plot about 20 years ago.That is right on the Instrument approach to the airport, and along the most common departure route. Not a good place for dense Residential, but since Grossman paid off Ashbaugh it is OK right?


Why would anyone be surprised at his action?

Our politicians have no regard for law and order in our society anymore. They know there are two standards: THEIR’S and OURS. The Constitution is no longer the law of the land in America, our President (a constitution lawyer has no regard for it), our chief law enforcement of the land in America, Attorney General Eric Holder, has no regard for it, our elected politicians in Sacramento have no regard for it as one has been convicted of three felonies and has maneuvered the system to not get sentenced in about one year and two others are awaiting trials for election fraud and corruption of power as they all draw their full salaries and benefits. He have a mayor in the South County that thinks we are all stupid except him and stick your head up your a$$ if you think he is wrong.

People like Assbaugh will do exactly what he wants, serving those who support their needs for power and corruption, and has no regard for the people they are elected to serve.

That is just the way are society is now!


If a government official ignores the opinion of the city attorney and the action then goes to court and the city loses, is the government official then financially liable (like piercing the corporate veil in private enterprises)?

No. (?) Didn’t think so.

Please explain the point of having a city attorney and paying said attorney $175k/year + benefits, if the city officials do not follow the advice of said attorney.

You can’t make this stuff up!


Well, given some of the bad advice that Dietrick has given the Council and resulting payouts for lawsuits, he could be justifiably mistrustful of her advice. However, I doubt that is the case as he has shown no inclination to break ranks with Marx/Lichtig/Dietrick before this. Which brings us back to the questions posed by Dexter (below).


If the attorney botched something as simple as the COI recommendation tha she is incompetent and needs to be fired.

Your point shows the process of government. Pay an incompetent attorney attorney to give advice. Pick and choose whether to take the advice. Cross your fingers that you don’t get sued. But if you do, who cares, it’s not your money being pissed away, you can always steal more!

This country must start treating all of its government officials as the pariahs they are. Until that happens, there will be no change.


San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick will receive a base salary increase from $168,000 to $175,006. The raise is her third in three years as of May 21, 2014.



OK heres my question … Is Ashbaugh

A. Dumb

B. Arrogant

C. Narcissistic (let them eat cake) ….. or

C.All of the above


C. He’s all of the above!


Once more a politician does what is good for him and disregards possible fallout.