AG council yields to officer probe demands
September 20, 2014
By DANIEL BLACKBURN and KAREN VELIE
Prodded for weeks by growing sentiment to deal publicly with a prickly situation involving City Manager Steve Adams, the Arroyo Grande City Council will now seek an independent investigation of Adams’ “uncomfortable” behavior with a subordinate in a July 3 incident.
“If that’s what it’s gonna take to make this right,” said Mayor Tony Ferrara in the aftermath of a rare Saturday “special meeting” of the council, meeting behind closed doors, to consider Adams’ future.
Ferrara’s comments came after a parade of residents alternately criticized and praised the council’s actions to date.
Adams and Teresa McClish, the city’s community development director, were discovered in Adams’ darkened City Hall office near midnight by police officers, who had been asked by McClish’s husband to help locate her.
Responding officers later reported that they walked into an “uncomfortable situation” after finding Adams and McClish with their clothing in disarray.
Immediately after the incident was first reported by CalCoastNews, Ferrara deflected efforts by council members Tim Brown and Jim Guthrie, both of whom said they wanted to delve more deeply into the issue than had the city’s assistant counsel, Michael McMahon.
McMahon, at the behest of Ferrara, had already conducted a swift telephone interview of the officers who had responded to the scene. None of the officers reported having found Adams and McClish in an obvious sexual situation, although several said the situation they encountered was “uncomfortable,” McMahon said.
This prompted Ferrara to announce at a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting that the matter had been “fully investigated” and that “nothing illegal” had occurred. Ferrara and Adams also hinted that officers may have colored their formal reports to benefit current labor negotiations.
That angered officers, who this week issued a vote of “no confidence” in both Adams and Ferrara.
According to city policy, managers cannot engage in intimate relationships with their subordination. In the past 15 years, the city has paid out more that $1.5million in sexual harassment claims.
In July, both McMahon and Ferrara had read officer statements from July 3 that noted McClish was partially undressed in Adams unlit office when they discovered the pair.
The council announced it now will seek an outside investigator to take another look at the matter. Ferrara said Saturday he “anticipated this two weeks ago” and expressed confidence that an independent investigation will simply show that “our officers were telling the truth” and that nothing untoward happened that night.
“I believe the police when they reported no obvious sexual behavior by Adams and McClish,” Ferrara said.
Brown and Guthrie comprise a “subcommittee” that will conduct a search for an investigator.