Who fashioned the Arroyo Grande coverup?
September 20, 2014
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
As Arroyo Grande officials prepare for their third review in weeks of City Manager Steve Adams, municipal employees are raising questions about Mayor Tony Ferrara’s handling of a late-night interlude between Adams and a subordinate.
For more than two months, city official elected to ignore staff allegations that Adams had lied to officers, was belligerent when discovered, and had engaged in conduct that has cost other employees their jobs. Adams’ support from city leaders persisted until this week, when the Arroyo Grande Police Officer Association lodged a formal complaint and a vote of no confidence against Adams and Ferrara — the latter for his part in the alleged whitewash.
City staff has generally complied with public records request for documents and video recordings providing insight into the event, as well as a subsequent “investigation.”
The city recently provided 80 minutes of City Hall video recordings that had been missing from a previous recording received through a public records request.
From city documentation and recordings:
On July 3, Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish attend the grand opening of Robert’s Restaurant, across the street from City Hall.
At 8:27 p.m., Adams and McClish leave Roberts Restaurant and walk to Rooster Creek for another glass of wine.
At 9:39 p.m., McClish walks across Mason Street and turns the alarm off at City Hall. She then exits the building and sits in her car.
While in her vehicle, McClish phones her husband to say she is on her way home from work, and that her cell phone battery was dying, according to city documents and video recordings.
At 9:46 p.m., Adams crosses Mason Street about two car lengths from the brightly-lit crosswalk. As he nears McClish’s car, several people leave Roberts Restaurant. Adams then turns and runs back across the street.
At 9:51 p.m., the people who departed Roberts Restaurant drive away, McClish flashes her car lights and Adams dashes back across the street towards McClish’s car.
The two then enter City Hall and, by their admission, make drinks in the conference room. They then walk through the building, lighted only by emergency hall lights, into a dark office.
Shortly after 11 p.m., McClish’s husband calls 911 and notes his concern because of his wife’s heart condition.
At 11:09 p.m., the first of three officers arrives at City Hall. All three officers walk around the building beating on doors and windows with flashlights.
Adams and McClish do not respond to officers.
At 11:20 p.m., the officers leave to check other places in Arroyo Grande where McClish might be.
At 11:40 p.m., officers enter City Hall, begin opening one office at a time. Each room they enter, they turn the light on and then off.
In the 80 minutes of previously-missing video recording, other than emergency hall lights and the conference room while they made drinks, the building remained dark until officers entered.
Adams has stated previously that officer statements that the building was dark were incorrect. Adams claims he and McClish were in his office with the lights on drinking tea when officers arrived. Adams contends they were attempting to sober up before driving home.
As officers shout McClish’s name, Adams walks from his office, initially lying to officers, saying McClish was not in the building. When officers notice a partially-dressed McClish holding clothing in front of her chest, Adams becomes angry with officers, according to officer reports.
“McClish was hiding behind the door as I reached the entry way of the office,” Senior Police Officer S. Day wrote. “She peeked her head from behind the door and appeared to be holding a shirt to her chest….she appeared to have been sleeping due to her hair being messed up and her eyes being droopy.”
On Friday, July 4, Adams is in his office much of the day, turning the alarm off and on four times.
On July 5, Adams and McClish are at City Hall. Also on Sunday, Mayor Tony Ferarra allegedly asked City Attorney Timothy Carmel to conduct an investigation — apparently without securing even informal council approval.
Around this time, Adams applies for a city manager position at Temple City, city officials said.
On July 7 and 8, assistant city attorney Michael McMahon claims he interviewed officers and determined no wrong doing occurred and that McClish and Adams were not found in an intimate situation.
Officers have countered McMahon’s claims, saying the city assistant attorney interrogated them with “leading questions” and without a recorded account, and did not perform a valid investigation.
On July 8, the city council met in closed session for 90 minutes discussing both Adams and Carmel’s performance. While some council members say they voted to order an investigation after the fact, the council agreed to take no further action.
After receiving assurance from the council that his job was secure, Adams rejected an employment offer from Temple City, city officials confirmed.
In backing Adams, city officials made claims that the officers were being dishonest in an attempt to influence salary negotiations. Offices disagreed and contend this was a tactic used by city officials to silence officers.
In response to the failure to conduct an outside investigation, Arroyo Grande police officers lodged a formal complaint and a vote of no confidence on Sept. 18 against Adams and Ferrara.
Supporters of the police department are planning on joining officers and their families at Tuesday’s council meeting to demand an investigation into both Adams, Ferrara, and the alleged coverup.
Even though more than a dozen officers have attended the past two city council meetings to show their support for an investigation, Ferrara responded by claiming the officers should have let the council know their concerns about an alleged coverup before taking a vote of no confidence.
Seeking to head off a growing firestorm of community anger, the Arroyo Grande City Council announced a special meeting Saturday at 1 p.m. to discuss the job performance of Adams.
Nevertheless, supporters of the officers say they still plan to attend Tuesdays meeting, where supporters are asked wear black, in an attempt to hold city officials responsible for the alleged coverup.
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