Arroyo Grande manager clearly violated city policy
September 27, 2014
OPINION By LEANN AKINS
You may or may not have read my letter which was published on the CalCoastNews last week. You may or may not remember I spoke at the Arroyo Grande City Council meeting on Tuesday night. You may or may not care that I have opinions related to how you (as a group) are conducting the business of the city.
You may or may not read this letter. If you do read this letter, you may dismiss it entirely. That dismissiveness would only confirm your dismissiveness over the last few months.
On Tuesday night I introduced the word nonfeasance. As I stated in the public forum, nonfeasance is defined as “a failure to act that results in harm to another party.” This word adequately describes your leadership over the last several months. You have taken no action when action was necessary and you have caused harm to our city through this inaction.
I would also use the word mismanagement. You have mismanaged resources, people, situations, and your authority regarding not just this most recent incident surrounding the City Manager’s office, but with regards to several other situations as well. We could spend time re-hashing the recent release of 30,000 gallons of potable water down a gutter. We could also discuss the necessity of spending 70,000 dollars on a training program to teach our citizens to conserve water, when in reality you just need to enforce the sanctions currently in place. I can assure you, they are not being enforced as I live near a house which uses the sprinklers every day for the lawn. These are just two examples.
Careless is relatively self-explanatory, but I will explain this a little further. You have been careless in the application of the laws and policies which govern the city leaders as a whole. Given your affinity for carelessness, you have shown yourselves to be equally dismissive of facts as well as public opinion.
Because you are dismissive of facts and public opinion, you have a very limited scope or view of your role in our community and of the situation facing all of us. Your dismissiveness of facts has also led you to use phrases like “bad judgment,” when in reality, you should be using phrases such as “city and department rules and policies were broken and we are taking action to terminate Mr. Adams.”
You are also misguided. You insist that your independent investigation will be impartial because you have created a list of possible candidates to conduct this investigation who work outside of our city or have no ties to our city. No offense, but not one person at the meeting on Tuesday believes your list of investigators is impartial of your leadership, nor independent of your leadership. The only way to truly have an independent and impartial investigation is to let an outside agency make the determination of who will undertake this investigation. Don’t miss this, your independent investigation must be impartial, or it will be a waste of time, money, and resources. These items are not mutually exclusive; independent and impartial are the two requirements for this proposed investigation and something the citizens of Arroyo Grande demand be a goal and an achieved outcome of this investigation.
You are unaware. I use the word unaware because as public comment closed on Tuesday night at the council meeting, Mayor Ferrara shared he understood this was a very emotional situation. Public outrage is not couched in emotion as alluded to by the mayor. It is couched in the knowledge policies and rules were broken. The outrage is aligned with the fact people in authority looked away knowing rules and policies were broken. The outrage is connected to the fact tough questions were not asked nor were tough decisions made. Individuals who should be terminated based on policy and employment agreement violations remain in their positions. This leads the public to conclude authority is being misused. This is not merely an emotional topic.
This is a situation which was handled inappropriately as soon as it left the hands of the Arroyo Grande Police Department. You are also unaware that it is you who created this situation and because you are unaware that you created this situation, you are unaware of why the community is showing its outrage. You listen but you do not hear and you do not understand.
You are policy breakers; you do not follow your own rules. I have read several documents available to the public including, but not limited to the 1995 document with the Personnel Regulations and the Employment Agreement with Steve Adams. Within the binding language of each of these documents, it is clear that violations of these policies occurred. It is also clear that you did not treat the behaviors displayed as violations, but again, merely as bad judgment.” Rules were not created to be ignored, broken, or violated. They exist for a purpose and that purpose is to provide a broad spectrum of protections. You have not only violated policies, you have violated the spirit of the law and in so doing, are restraining the laws from doing their job, providing those protections. I have included a short list of violations from the current situation:
Munincipal Code 1.16.020 Violations—“Aiding, abetting, and concealing Every person who causes, aids, or conceals the fact of a violation of this code is guilty of violating this code.”
Sadly, from where I sit, you are all guilty of this. Mr. Adams is definitely guilty of this by initially lying to the police officers who responded to the call on the night of July 3. That lie should be grounds for dismissal.
Section D: Behavior:
“1.Improper Employee Conduct. The term “improper employee conduct” means not only any improper action by an employee in the employee’s official capacity, but also conduct by an employee not connected with the employee’s official duties that brings a discredit to the City or that affects the ability to perform the employee’s duties officially or any improper use of the position as an employee for personal advantage.”
Where to begin with this one…the behaviors of the city manager on the night of July 3 has brought discredit to the city. That is a fact that you cannot ignore; you only needed to attend the meeting on Tuesday evening to realize this.Discredit is defined as: (verb) To cause to be no longer believed or valued, to prove or show to be false, to give no credence to, to damage in reputation. Mr. Adams’ actions have caused shame and dishonor to his position. The community does not believe him, or value his services. He has lied and continues to cling to those lies. There does not need to be any further proof gathered with regards to this violation; his actions meet the definition of discredit. We have no confidence in Steve Adams’ ability to run the city. We are asking for him to be terminated.
f. Improper or unauthorized use of city vehicles or equipment or misappropriation of supplies.
“Using city buildings as a sobering center (or an additional place to partake in some alcohol) is not only improper and unauthorized, but a misappropriation as well. Misappropriation is simply defined as improper or wrong. Again, Mr. Adams’ actions meet that definition.”
j. Willful violation of these rules and regulations, departmental rules and policies, or any written policies that may be prescribed by the city.
There was willful violation with regards to the policies and rules Mr. Adams is subject to and the council is standing by him (therefore standing by his actions). Willful violation is an “act done voluntarily with either an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to,” the requirements of Acts, regulations, statutes or relevant workplace policies.” As city leaders, you have also ignored your due diligence with regards to the policies and rules you are bound to.
l. Any action, including negative attitude or behavior, that is a direct hinderance to the effective performance of city functions.
The focus should be placed on “any action.” That road is broad and should be interpreted as such. Couldn’t we all agree that the actions demonstrated by Mr. Adams and Mrs. McClish fit the part of this regulation which points to the ‘direct hinderance to the effective performance of city functions? How could they feel that their choices and actions would not impact their ability to effectively perform their duties?
n. Sexual or other illegal, improper, or inappropriate harassment of another employee.
Given the half-dressed subordinate to Mr. Adams, you could point to harassment just on that basis. Nothing about the events of the evening of July 3 were proper.
2. An official or employee of the City shall not engage in conduct that would tend to discredit or dishonor his/her position with the City. (discussed above)
“Whereas, it is the desire of City to (a) secure and retain Employee and to provide inducement for him to remain in such employment; (b) to make possible full work productivity by assuring Employee’s morale and peace of mind with respect to future security; (c) to act as a deterrent against malfeasance or dishonesty for personal gain on the part of Employee; (d) to provide a just means for terminating employee’s services at such time as he may be unable to fully discharge his duties or when City may desire to otherwise terminate his employment; …”
Now, therefore, in consideration of the mutual covenants herein contained, the parties agree as follows:…
“It is understood and agreed that the employment relationship established hereby shall be “at-will”…In the event Employee is terminated for good cause, then City shall have not obligation to pay the sum designated in this paragraph. For the purpose of this Agreement, “good cause” shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, any of the following:
(1) A material breach of the terms of this Agreement;
(4) A failure to perform his duties in a professional and responsible manner consistent with generally accepted standards of the profession;
(5) Conduct unbecoming the position of City Manager or likely to bring discredit or embarrassment to City”
This agreement certainly did not deter against malfeasance or dishonesty. Nor has it given the city council a reason to terminate Mr. Adams, even though it is clear he has not met the terms of said agreement. This is a covenant; very strong language for a document being disregarded. A covenant is a binding agreement made by two or more individuals to do or keep from doing a specified thing.
So, this employment agreement is binding. Binding isn’t a word used lightly. Binding means that you hold to that agreement, promise, etc, both with regards to the policies and the results of not following those policies. The use of “at-will” ‘means, at least in theory, that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. Given the circumstances, I think we can all agree that ‘cause’ has been met. The idea of ‘good cause’ focuses on the idea of legally adequate or substantial grounds or reason to take a certain action. Without stretching too far, I believe that ‘good cause’ has been met to terminate the agreement between the city and the city manager.
Malfeasance has been met and exceeded. Malfeasance is defined as a wrongdoing or misconduct, especially by a public official. The list of misconduct is fairly lengthy. With regards to conduct unbecoming, Mr. Adams’ actions on the evening of July 3 fully fit with unbecoming conduct. Conduct on the part of a certified professional that is contrary to the interests of the public served by that professional, or which harms the standing of the profession in the eyes of the public is one definition of conduct unbecoming. It is fairly easy to see the parallels between the definition, Mr. Adams’ actions, and the results of those actions.
What I have learned over the last few days is that our city government has no intention of using the tools it has as its disposal to truly deal with the situation at hand. I have also learned that the people of Arroyo Grande are raising their voices to the deaf ears of the council, I witnessed that first hand. I have also learned that our community is hungry for strong leadership and leadership that will hold itself accountable to the rules, policies and statues it is bonded to follow.
I will continue to learn more and continue to bring this to the public’s attention as well as yours. Please understand that this is an issue which will not die, there are too many of us who are concerned about the outcome because we deeply care about our city. We want our city leadership we were promised when you were voted in and hired. You have not met the terms of our binding agreement with you and we vote to terminate that agreement.
LeAnn Akins is an Arroyo Grande residents and an educator for more than 20 years.