Battle to replace Arroyo Grande mayor begins

September 26, 2014
Jim Hill

Jim Hill

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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135 Comments

  1. Takara says:

    The article states: “He resigned after several of his fellow board members refused to investigate allegations of employee wrongdoing. Those allegations were later proven correct.”

    But from a past CCN article : http://calcoastnews.com/2011/04/hill-explains-oceano-resignation/ “The most important (of my resignation) is that, despite a unanimous Board vote to have staff turn the 2008-2009 financial records over to the certified public accountant for audit by March 11, that was not done.”

    So first, his fellow board members didn’t refuse, and also what allegations were proven correct?

    Here for the first time an insider of the OCSD will tell the real reason why Jim Hill resigned.

    Jim Hill, Mary Lucey and Rafelle Montemuro commited election fraud in order to get their person (Lori Angello) into office, who then voted lockstep with them on every item on the agenda. The election process was decided at least a week before the election, and that process required three votes. They knew they didn’t have three votes because Vern Dahl was already saying he would recuse himself, and Pamela Dean said she would not vote for Lori Angello. (This all prior to the election) Jim Hill then changed the election process along with Rafelle Montemuro to allow only two votes to elect, which was made known 5 minutes before the meeting began to elect this new board member. This caused the lawsuit which cost the district about 80,000.

    So to make this short and simple, Jim Hill resigned because then GM Montemurro who was at the time threatened to be fired, threatened back at Mr. Hill that he would tell all if Mr. Hill didn’t resign following his departure.

    Bottom line is CCN got it all wrong from the beginning because they used the Hill’s as their informants, as opposed to actually seeking the truth.

    (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
    • cathy says:

      Thank you Takara,

      You forgot to say the board lost the lawsuit because the courts ruled it was indeed an illegal process and election. The residents spoke out and asked for the election to be done legally. The residents were ignored. The refusal by the new majority of the board cost the people of Oceano $80,000. Money this small community could ill afford to lose.

      If Arroyo Grande residents want a new mayor they should recall the one they have and have a proper election with candidates having a chance to debate. You don’t want to exchange one set of problems for another. If you have enough people to have a successful write in vote you have enough to recall and hold a proper election.

      (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
    • Julie says:

      Takara,

      What “election”? Lori Angello was seated by appointment. The appointment was indeed flawed, but it was blessed by legal counsel. Pamela Dean rightfully won the suit she filled against the district, it wasn’t very nice of her to sue, but she was right and she was entitled to her legal fees. What should have happened? Someone should have filed a Cure & Correct (maybe they did, is that what Cathy’s referring to?) giving the district the opportunity to correct it. Angello was asked to step down to allow another appointment process, yet she refused. She could have saved the district the cost of the legal battle and the settlement. Fast forward to today, she is being reseated in November for a second (4 yr.) term due to the fact that no one chose to run against her. So apparently she’s the person the people of Oceano want in that seat.

      As for what happened with the appointment, it takes the board majority to pass any vote. Not the majority of who votes, which is what happened in the 2-1-1 vote for Angello. As for Dahl making his position known early, anytime a board member recuses themselves they must state their conflict. Dahl made his clear early on; he’d done business with the Angello’s. Pamella Dean was allowed her opinion and her choice wasn’t Angello. Leaving the remaining votes, Hill and Lucey. This was all done in public. The vote came after several others were nominated and the nominations failed for lack of a second. This was not “election fraud” this is an ill-informed attorney sitting in on the evening proceedings who allowed a vote to pass without the board majority (3 affirmative votes).

      Regrettably, Dean chose to sue the district, this was a devastating blow to the district’s finances, but she was right and ultimately legal council contributed $25K toward the settlement.

      As for Montemurro’s wrong doings and the board’s unwillingness to remove him from his position as General Manager. Only Hill and Henson tried to let Monte go earlier than what finally happened. His performance was dismal. Falling further and further behind in audits and budgets, failing to pay the State Water bill and too many other blunders to mention. Ultimately, only weeks after Hill’s resignation and thanks to CCN, it was revealed Monte he had over paid himself. He gave himself a raise and took some vacation pay, it wasn’t as much as Geaslen later did (under the noses of 4 of the same board members). Monte was fired without “Cause” and was given $17K in severance. The Angello, Lucey, Guerrero, Searcy and Hurdle board had “Cause” and could have terminated him without pay and demanded restitution. They didn’t.

      Cathy raises the point about, “Money this small community could ill afford to lose.” Oceano is bleeding to death since Hill left. He kept his finger on the pulse of the finances. including asking fellow board members to fore-go their stipends (only Angello doesn’t ask for stipend, all the rest do). I have only seen Jennifer Blackburn scrutinize the books since. The other Board members are too busy being friends with their GM’s, the firefighters, chumming it up with Supervisorial candidates and don’t pay near enough attention to the district’s rapidly depleting funds.

      Jim tried to raise revenue for the community. He had the $2M permanent water sale (plus the 100 home hook-up fees) for just 100 acre feet of water (your pipes are leaking nearly that much each year). He voted NO when it became clear the public did not want to sell on a permanent basis and he did so stating “the people have spoken.” The next thing he did was design a rate schedule (after the consultant who was paid handsomely had flaws in his recommendations) to raise that money for the district through 5 years of incremental increases based on the salaries at the time. The post Hill board hired Geaslen who promptly increased the GM pay by $40K annually, hired new staff, reinstated stipends, triggered litigation by his inexperience, and ultimately stole from the district. Those rate increases didn’t go to the infrastructure it was intended to improve, it went to salaries, consultants and lawsuits.

      Trying to cope with the hemorrhaging, last year the water fund borrowed $772,000 from administration to cover overspending since Hill resigned 3 years ago. This board hired Paavo Ogren ($250K a year including benefits) and adopted a budget $281,000 in deficit. They continue to borrow internally, making them ineligible for grants, grants this small disadvantaged community would otherwise easily qualify for.

      Cathy and Takara, Arroyo Grande is fighting an up-“Hill” battle already. Why tear down their best chance at ousting Ferarra? Look for the good in Jim and know that he’s intelligent, educated, qualified and hard working. He has invaluable experience at the San Dist. He could demand the forensic audit Debbie Peterson couldn’t get.

      Jim will do a great job if elected Mayor, likely starting with what should have happened on July 4th; ousting Adams and McClish for embarrassing the city. The rest of the cover up needs investigating and whomever is involved should also be removed — that includes council members.

      Calling for a recall is in error, election rules do not allow a recall this close to an election. That is why a ‘write in’ avenue is allowed at this particular point in the election cycle.

      Best of luck to Arroyo Grande! Write in Jim Hill.

      (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
      • cathy says:

        If you recall Julie the legal council came back to the next meeting and said he had been mistaken and the process appointing Ms. Angelo was not done correctly. He said he gave the wrong wrong advise and the process should be done over. You are correct that Ms. Angelo refused to step-down. Then the legal council had to argue with the court that the board did the right thing even though he admitted it was wrong and knew the appointment was illegal.

        No one wants to run for the board. Members trying to do the right things were hounded and personally attacked if they disagreed with the majority. I found it interesting that Ms. Dean was harassed over and over again with constant personal attacks for wanting it to be done legally. More time was wasted every meeting on personal attacks than getting the people’s business taken care of. How horrible Ms. Dean was for suing the district. Ignoring the fact that at anytime the law suit could have ended if they would have admitted they did something wrong and simply did it correctly. If this had been let stand without the legal challenge the same kind of illegal appointment could have happened again and again. Board members running amok and appointing who they wanted with disregard for the law. Ms. Dean was representing the best interests of the residents by standing up for what was right while others refused. She was accused of making money by forcing the board to act legally. The money did not even cover all her legal fees. She paid out of her own pocket because of the principle of what was the right thing to do.

        Searcy was appointed over qualified candidates who didn’t stand a chance because it was decided among the board members before the meeting he was going to be appointed. This is not a unfounded accusation. It was a clear Brown Act Violation.

        I’m sorry but there were many other voices and questions raised about Montemurro other than Hill and Henson. It was not a case where only they saw the wrong doing. It was going to happen that he would be let go and it did happen. The sinking ship was being deserted.

        Julie, my remarks or opinion won’t tear down anyone’s chance. I’m only presenting my point of view just as you do yours. If this is what the residents of Arroyo Grande want then they will prevail.

        (-5) 5 Total Votes - 0 up - 5 down
        • Julie says:

          Your response to Takara implies that Jim Hill had something to do with the legal counsel’s blunder. As I recall, Hill also asked Angello to step down. The OCSD District legal counsel DID admit he was wrong, it was Angello that once sworn in was the only one with the power to undo it. She didn’t. The cost to the district falls squarely on her shoulders.

          What’s happened since Hill and Henson left is worse than the Dean disaster, Angello (and the rest of the board) are going to continue to cost the district with their poor decision making. As I pointed out above, the district is over a million in the hole since Hill and Henson left — averaging a quarter of a million dollar deficit each year. Their intent now is to raise rates again to cover these losses. I don’t see much in the way of cost cutting on the table. In fact, they appear to be readying themselves to initiate litigation (a costly move, it better be a solid case with some sort of monetary recovery expected).

          Brown Act violations are a way of life in Oceano. I have pointed them out numerous times, but unless I want to take them to court (which I don’t — because they can’t afford it), no one will stop them. Even strongly worded letters from Brown Act experts have been ignored.

          Expenses at OCSD have increased dramatically since Hill and Henson left. They were successful in cutting costs to the bare minimum, in fact maybe too close to the bone. But, since the 2011 rate increase, that was designed to cover costs of infrastructure with very little intended for admin. costs have increased. The GM position alone has been increased by over 150%, (Monte was under $100K with benefits, Paavo is $250K with benefits). Staff was added without the board’s approval for new positions.

          You/Oceanoans pay a handsome price to treat and provide that “diverse” water supply, but your board is letting it leak out into the ground by not replacing/repairing the pipes. At least 10% of the water you pay for never makes through a meter to the homes and businesses. Lucey was all up in arms about AG emptying 30,000 gallons of water laden with sentiment from a tank last month, but she doesn’t look in the mirror to realize the system she’s in charge of is leaking more than 80,000 gallons of potable water every day.

          Did you follow the jetter fiasco?

          And Cathy, getting anyone to run for office is difficult and not unique to Oceano. Grover Beach’s only contested race is the Mayor’s seat. Arroyo Grande has two seats available on the council and only one challenger. Oceano has two 4 year seats and one 2 year seat available and only the two year seat has competition. Public criticism is common in all government. The only person in Oceano I see asking questions and analyzing expenses is Jennifer Blackburn, only to be overruled by the other four who continue to spend the district’s money without scrutiny. I hope you help her win her campaign; she’s the best representative you’ve got and the best representative you’ve had in a very long time.

          (-1) 3 Total Votes - 1 up - 2 down
          • cathy says:

            Mr. Hill as President had influence to have Lori step down and redo the appointment. In my view that makes him also responsible. For show, he may have publicly asked her to step down but as with other things it was decided beforehand that she would not. Everyone can change and perhaps Mr. Hill will forgo future personal attacks and ripping people to shreds and concentrate on the city and the people if he successfully becomes the next mayor of AG. Mr.Hill putting his thumb and finger to his forehead in the shape of an L (for loser) is an unfortunate image that I have. The residents of AG should be aware of past actions.

            Sometimes we get so eager to change we end up worse than we were before. Look at our current US government and the mess we are in.

            I agree that public criticism goes with the job. I don’t agree that personal attacks and name calling during meetings wasting the people’s time is the way to govern.

            I am happy to support Jennifer and agree with your assessment of her.

            (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
            • Julie says:

              Oh Cathy, you are putting way too much emphasis on a gesture made in jest.

              If anyone has snubbed (and continues to do so) the public it’s Tony Ferarra. Residents of Arroyo Grande should be aware of what’s been going on right under their noses.

              (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down
              • casappleton says:

                Tony is a liar. he has always lied to protect his buddies. if you believe he is honest and out to protect the citizens of AG…keep drinking the koolaid

                (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  2. Dave says:

    It’s official. Steve Adams is resigning as AG city manager. New Times has the letter:

    http://www.newtimesslo.com/commentary/11482/i-have-decided-to-pursue-new-opportunities-elsewhere/

    (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down
    • SamLouis says:

      Good. McClish and Ferrara still need to go.

      (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
      • kayaknut says:

        Also Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Costello need to go but that will have to likely wait until the next election. Mr. Brown still needs to prove he deserves to be re-elected, he has not done a good enough job of that so far.

        (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
        • agag1 says:

          No no no! Costello is up for re-election next month, as is Tim Brown. Barbara Harmon are also running.
          We NEED Tim and Barbara to be elected, as well as our write-in candidate for Mayor, JIM HILL.

          (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
      • roberttorrance says:

        for sure. dont take the eye off the ball.

        (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
    • agag1 says:

      His statement to the Trib is so touching, thanking the citizens, praising his team, and taking yet another swipe at the police officers. Now it’s because there was so much activity, and a possible threat…
      Why doesn’t he blame himself for not answering the damn door? Whats his excuse for lying to the officers? Let us hear an explanation for THAT Steve!

      (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
      • whoswho says:

        It all makes sense to me…When I fear for my safety I always cover my chest with my clothing.
        Also sweet that Steve is defending his tea drinking partners honor, wondering why her husband hasnt came out and defended her?

        (-4) 8 Total Votes - 2 up - 6 down
      • kayaknut says:

        ” I will continue to cooperate fully with the investigation” When did he start cooperating????

        “The so-called “missing 80 minutes” of tape resulted because the representative of the website that requested the tape submitted a flash drive that was too small to hold the entire file” When the location a file is being transferred to is to small for the file, the transfer is aborted, the file is not edited to fit on the drive. Perhaps Mr. Adams should have consulted a IT person before making that statement.

        “Ms. McClish was standing out of view in response to her fear for her safety.” Safety from the Police, why would that be the case???

        ” I believe it is important that the public be provided pertinent background information regarding the city’s labor relations” but wait Mr. Adams you just said ” Personnel matters are not publicized” why to two different policies????

        (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
    • whoswho says:

      He should have been FIRED. Just like Tony will be on Nov.4th when the good people of Arroyo Grande vote him out of office.

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
    • surferdude says:

      Sorry adage he might resign if Tony is not reflected.
      Read through the lines

      And AG city council just called Special Meeting for this Wednesday at 9 am
      We can all make it
      NOT,
      Unbelievable!

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. choprzrul says:

    Grassroots citizen action at its finest. Truly a pleasure to watch!

    Personally, I’ve decided to stop spending my $$ in AG while the current mayor/manager et al are in office. Perhaps I will donate some of those dollars to Mr. Hill…

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
    • agag1 says:

      That would be much appreciated!
      Write-in Jim Hill Mayor
      669 Garfield Pl
      AG, CA. 93420

      Please continue to spread the word about Jim’s campaign.
      Mr Adams’ resignation does not resolve the issues in Arroyo Grande. We still have a council which REFUSED to handle this correctly from the onset.
      The Tony bus just ran over the speed bump of Adams, but is still racing wildly out of control.

      (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
  4. agag1 says:

    Here’s the link to the much anticipated Jim Hill for Mayor FB page!

    https://m.facebook.com/WriteInJimHillMayor?_rdr

    Start liking and sharing!!!

    (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
  5. agag1 says:

    Well, well, well…apparently Mayor Ferrara is starting to feel like he may have to run a campaign after all.
    Is it any surprise he has a sign on NICK TOMPKINS property in the village???

    (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
    • BuelahBB says:

      Yes! Desperate people do desperate things..Why would you put a sign in the Village where all this started? Why not on the City Hall Building! Where it all ended!!!!!

      (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
    • Stunned says:

      I loved watching his pompous, smug face during the council meeting as officer after officer read their letters. I’m thinking he’ll need to work harder staying than Jim Hill will be and he’s the write-in candidate!

      (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
  6. AGDUDE says:

    Jim Hill ? ever seen this guy in Action this is the Best AG can Do? oh Brother!

    (0) 26 Total Votes - 13 up - 13 down
  7. Mike Byrd says:

    It’s time for everyone to step up to help elect Jim Hill. Volunteers are signing up but it takes money to produce the materials they need. Please consider your most generous donation to Write In Jim Hill Mayor today. Absentee ballots go out next week so there isn’t a moment to lose.

    (9) 29 Total Votes - 19 up - 10 down
    • agag1 says:

      Will you please give mailing address for contributions?

      (5) 13 Total Votes - 9 up - 4 down
      • changes says:

        Mike do you have a website or address to send contributions? The
        writeinmike website does not bring up anything?

        (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
      • Mike Byrd says:

        Checks payable to Write In Jim Hill Mayor may be mailed to 669 Garfield Place, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420 or you may call 805-441-5133 and someone will pick them up. Time is of the essence since absentee ballots go out next week. If there was ever a time now is it.

        (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
      • agag1 says:

        Send donations, PAYABLE TO: WRITE-IN JIM HILL MAYOR
        669 GARFIELD PL
        ARROYO GRANDE, CA. 93420

        (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down

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