Arroyo Grande councilmember ignores conflict of interest

September 9, 2014

Kristen Barneich


Recently, on August 29th, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted 5-0 to approve a $70,000 a year, five-year contract with San Luis Obispo based Verdin Marketing to perform Water Conservation Education within the Arroyo Grande Community.

The unanimous vote came despite 10 out of 10 citizens speaking against the contract as a waste of money. Citizens said that there are more efficient ways of communicating water conservation with the public, such as newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and email marketing, all of which city staff could perform.

I certainly agree. A subscription to the well-known email marketing firm Constant Contact costs a non-profit or municipality $25 per month to send up to 25,000 emails/newsletters Using email marketing, Arroyo Grande Staff could easily reach its water customer base for less than $500 per year. Additionally, newsletters could be inserted into the water customers bills for a small charge.

Verdin Marketing’s proposal didn’t include email marketing, but it did include telephone marketing, which is much more cost intensive.

Looking at Water Conservation Education this way one must ask themselves, why is the Arroyo Grande City Council spending this amount of money on this goal? Why is the Council unanimously ignoring citizen opinions that the Verdin Marketing contract is a waste of money? Is this a political favor?

That is the question I asked of a Council Member who immediately responded “developer Nick Tompkins called the Mayor and asked him to get this marketing contract through”.

Additionally, one must also ask why Arroyo Grande Councilwoman Kristen Fellows Barneich did not recuse herself from voting on this issue? Barneich heads up the Tree Guild and is also part of Arroyo Grande in Bloom. Both organizations beautify the city, but having said that, both organizations are heavy users of water.

Therefore, any water saving issue or cost issue that Barneich votes in favor of is basically saying to the constituency, you can conserve your water, you can let your lawns die, I can fine you if you waste water, I can increase your water rates, I can charge you $70,000 educating you on how to conserve your water, while I use your water to build my non-profits name!

Kristen Fellows Barneich cites in her Tree Blog website that for the first two years the saplings require that the city run water trucks to water the trees thereby increasing city water usage and costs. Food for thought.

“Do as I say not as I do.”

Tory Rand has lived in the city of Arroyo Grande for over 25 years and works as a controller at a local company.


What??? $350,000.00 to educate us about saving water? And a 5 year contract? Who knows if we will even need this in 3 years, yet she is locked into a nice looking contract.

I so agree with Tory Rand…there are many easy ways to get the word out for much less money. And, here’s a thought, maybe one of the city EMPLOYEES could do the job! We’re already paying them


The fact that government is spending $70k on 5-year water conservation efforts is clear confirmation that we’ll start getting significant rainfall again starting this winter.


Just to clarify, 70K is just for the first year.

Check out Mary Verdin—she has close ties to NKT…sound familiar?


I believe we should focus on the asinine Phase II Small MS4 General Permit. Cities across California are required to perform Community Based Social Marking Education and Outreach Requirements.

I recommend you review NPDES General Permit No. S00004. The Regional Water Quality Control Board is asking for the City’s and County’s ‘first born’.

Makes more sense to me to hire a firm that specializes in marketing then hire new employees and create a larger bureaucracy with more pension liabilities.

There’s more involved here than just mailers. I for one I’m o.k. with the contract. I’m not o.k. with the Regional Board who is ruining California with their unfunded mandates. IMHO Regional Board is the enemy here not the late night circus show of A.G. and its politics. We need to fight the regulation so we can avoid these issues in the first place.


sounds like you have been drinking the government “kool-aid” and interpret everything literally in life and do not know how business is run…and possibly work for the AG CITY COUNCIL


INFO is right….

In some cases the reporting requirements of The Regional Water Quality Control Board are so demanding that a full time person has to be hired and in extreme cases it’s less costly just to go ahead and pay the fine!







i hear the political favor was for nick tompkins a local developer also a good friend of mayor ferraro, who also is in bed with the wallace engineering group who engineers quite a bit of money out of the taxpayers without doing an adquate job….a council member was pissed at tony that he was pressured into approving the $70k outlay. As for Kristen Fellows Barneich, doubt she even has the intellectual capacity to understand what is going on around her….she is always good for a “yes” vote….


Could you disclose who that City Council member was? In the last council meeting when the vote to approve Verdin Consulting it seemed as if Tim Brown was very hesitant to approve, is that who you had in mind?


it wasnt Barneich….lmfao


or the mayor….even funnier….that leaves three


And Another thing All this Crap goes back To Arnold & when The AG Council put Karen Ray in office Its the same old Back room political stuff that was going on before, Wake up People The leadership is Lacking , Dishonest Dealings, Why does Someone in the Press go ask how The AG Police dept. see’s things..

Does anyone remember all that stuff about Karen Ray’s “Running Group” the wild hairs or what ever it was.. All this stuff is from back then, Crazy Stuff, .. Arnold went to jail for watching High School girls Showering Remember when The City of Pismo was a joke, AG said step aside..thats Kid stuff we go for Big time Mistakes here in Arroyo Grande.. Where is NkdPhill?

This has to stop,in a word … RECALL!!!!


Whats Going on in AG, Things are really screwed up .. Is anyone out there watching the so called leaders of Arroyo Grande, Mayor McCheese & the whole bunch needs voted out .. What happened to our City?


Things are not suddenly messed up. There is nothing out of the ordinary going on in AG. People are just starting to pay attention to what has been there all along.


Come tonight and see!!


Tory Rand writes a good opinion piece and asks ” Why is the Council unanimously ignoring citizen opinions …? It is very a very simple answer Tory. Like so many politicians, they are arrogant and narcissistic and they dont really respect your opinion. Its a “let them eat cake” attitude.

You people in Arroyo Grande need to frog march this group of dishonest politicos out across the pedestrian bridge, across Centennial park and then out of town.


WHY does government persist in doing things “differently.” Kind of like Frank…”We’ll do it OUR way” even if that way spells inordinate W-A-S-T-E ! Exceedingly arrogant. Extremely costly. Very, very sad.