Battle to replace Arroyo Grande mayor begins
September 26, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
Following police officer allegations that Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara participated in a cover-up over a city sex scandal, a group of city residents have announced their plans to unseat the controversial mayor.
A group of citizens seeking a “transparent and law-abiding city government,” announced Friday they are supporting write-in candidate Jim Hill for mayor. A write-in candidate’s name does not appear on the ballot, but is a candidate residents may vote for by writing in the person’s name.
Before moving to Arroyo Grande, Hill was twice elected to the Oceano Community Services District Board. He resigned after several of his fellow board members refused to investigate allegations of employee wrongdoing. Those allegations were later proven correct.
Hill also sat on the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District. At that time, he was the only member questioning if it was a conflict of interest for John Wallace to serve as district administrator while giving engineering work to his private firm, the Wallace Group. The San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury later determined there was a conflict of interest.
Hill is an engineer at PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. He has a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering Technology from Excelsior College and a Juris Doctorate from the University of San Luis Obispo School of Law.
“Jim considers reestablishing trust in local government by providing openness and respectful, fair treatment of citizens and employees alike, in full conformance with the requirements of the Brown Act, to be a top priority,” his campaign flyer says.
While write-in candidates rarely win, candidates such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy won presidential primaries as write in candidates.
For more than two months, city official elected to ignore police officer reports that City Manager Steve Adams had lied to officers, was belligerent to employees, and had engaged in conduct that has cost other employees their jobs.
On July 3, shortly after Community Development Director Teresa McClish’s husband called 911 to report that his wife had not arrived home and he was worried because she has a heart condition, police, after knocking repeatedly, entered and began searching the darkened building. As officers yelled McClish’s name, Adams walked from his office initially lying to officers, saying McClish was not in the building.
After officers noticed a partially-dressed McClish holding her clothes in front of her chest, Adams became angry with officers, according to officer reports.
Ferrara responded by asking the city attorney’s office to conduct an investigation, which officers said was more of an interrogation aimed at silencing the police during salary negotiations.
Local developers and business owners have accused Adams and Ferrara of providing favors to friends through contracts and lax development procedures while pushing others to use their associates for engineering and design services.
For example, a recent vote to give a $70,000 a year, five-year contract to Verdin Marketing to provide Water Conservation Education to the citizens of Arroyo Grande, included discussions of the need to give a developer with close ties to Ferrara a political favor, a council member who did not want their name used said. In this case, the spouse of Mary Verdin had been a private pilot for the Arroyo Grande developer, the city official added.
After a CalCoastNews exclusive about the July 3 incident, Ferrara announced at a 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 last week issued a vote of “no confidence” in both Adams and Ferrara.
According to city policy, managers cannot engage in intimate relationships with their subordinates. In the past 15 years, the city has paid out more than $1.5 million in sexual harassment claims.
At 3:50 p.m. Friday, Hill is scheduled to discuss his candidacy with KVEC’s Dave Congalton on AM station 920.
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