Sex scandal sinks AG police officer confidence

September 18, 2014
Steve Adams

Steve Adams

By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

Arroyo Grande police officers lodged a formal complaint and a vote of no confidence Thursday against City Manager Steve Adams and Mayor Tony Ferrara fueled by disagreements over the city’s failure to investigate an alleged violation of city policy following a late night romantic interlude between Adams and a subordinate.

Allegations against Ferrara come at an embarrassing moment for him — he’s the newly-elected president of the League of California Cities.

The police association letter accuses city officials of participating in a coverup. It is addressed to the entire council and is “being sent on behalf of the Arroyo Grande Police Officers’ Association to communicate several concerns regarding the ongoing situation involving … Adams.”

According to the letter, police officers were faced with a decision following a July 3 incident. On that date, several officers were conducting a welfare check and had arrived at City Hall shortly before midnight to discover Adams looking “disheveled,” and a partially dressed Community Development Director Teresa McClish peeking from behind her boss’s door.

Adams originally told police McClish was not there, and then became angry with officers, according to officer reports.

Police representatives said officers recognized hours after the incident “that the situation involved a matter of significant public concerns…” but that all agreed “discretion was also needed.”

The letter continued: “Ultimately, the decision was made to remain silent and wait, for the expressed purpose of allowing our city council the opportunity to conduct an appropriate investigation.”

Instead of an “appropriate investigation,” however, the officers said, the citizens got “a sham.”

In the past, Adams has insisted on firing employees discovered to be in romantic relationships with subordinate employees. However, in this case, assistant city attorney Michael McMahon called the officers on the telephone, and then asked “leading” questions during what the officers describe as a “hostile interrogation instead of a fact finding process.”

From the association’s letter:

“As the ‘investigation’ was conducted, several issues and concerns were raised immediately. The ‘investigation’ consisted of very short telephonic interviews with our members. The collective consensus of the officers involved has generated a concern that the questions may have been asked or interpreted in a way, which made the officers feel as if it was a hostile interrogation instead of a fact finding process.

“During the telephonic interviews, the questions were asked in an attacking manner that made the officers feel as though they had done something wrong. The questions themselves appeared to come across as being uniquely focused, leading many to believe there was possibly a one-sided result being sought. In fact, the focus on the investigation seemed to imply that the officers were at City Hall for some improper reason.

“Most significantly, the interviews were not recorded and were conducted by an ‘attorney.’ This presents two issues: one, no record was made of what was said since it was not recorded, and two, having an attorney conduct the investigation gives the City the ability to claim attorney client privilege and withhold the results of the “investigation” from the public. This “investigation” was so far from how normal investigations occur.”

Mayor Tony Ferrera

Mayor Tony Ferrara

On Sept. 9, council members veered from earlier promises to probe deeper into the pair’s late-night rendezvous in City Hall and elected not to have the incident investigated.

“Our belief in our city management to do the right thing, and our belief in our city council to do the right thing, was severely misplaced,” the statement says.

This city council’s decision not to conduct a formal investigation was made after several city officials made allegations that officers were being untruthful in an attempt to impact labor negotiations.

“Additionally, there have been insinuations that our association’s contract negotiation process is to blame for this incident occurring,” the statement says. “Nothing can be further from the truth. Any attempts to blame our involved officers or our association, is irresponsible and offensive.”

The police officers voted unanimously to file the formal complaint.

“The members of the Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association have a Vote of No Confidence for City Manager Steve Adams,” the statement says. “Adams still has a professional, ethical, and moral responsibility to hold himself accountable in the same way he has held other city employees accountable.

“He failed in his responsibility. We can no longer trust that he serves the best interests of our citizens and our city employees.”

Officers were particularly critical of Ferrara.

“As a former experienced peace officer familiar with investigative techniques and internal affairs procedures, and as the long-time elected head of our City Council, we feel Ferrara should have ensured this situation was being dealt with in a more appropriate manner. He either knew or should know that this ‘investigation’ was a sham and was not conducted according to proper law enforcement procedures and guidelines. As the elected representative of our city, Ferrara should have exercised better judgment and we can no longer trust him to serve the best interests of our citizens and our city employees.”

Teresa McClish

Teresa McClish

In their statement, the officers also demand that the city preserve all video and other data regarding the incident and provide a chain of custody for video recordings.

The day after the incident, July 4, Adams spent much of the holiday at City Hall turning the alarm off and on four times, according to city alarm activity reports. He would then spend portions of Saturday July 5 and Sunday July 6 at City Hall. Also, on July 6, McClish and several other employees were also at City Hall with the alarm set for the evening at 11:14 p.m.

On Sept. 2 at 4 p.m., CalCoastNews made a public records request for the recordings from the eight video cameras located at City Hall. That night, Adams secretary Kitty Norton arrived at City Hall at 10:01 p.m., she did not enable the alarm and leave the building until after midnight.

On Sept. 3, a night meta-data from the videos show the files were modified beginning shortly before 5 p.m. Adams was last to check out leaving at approximately 7 p.m.

On Sept. 4, the city provide what it claimed was a copy of the tapes noting that the last six minutes had been left out because of space on the thumb drive. However, 80 minutes is missing from the middle of the tape during the time Adams and McClish were together in City Hall.

On Sept. 8, City Clerk Kelly Wetmore responded to a public records request for the missing segments in an email that says “staff is working on it.” It has been 16 days since the request for the video was first made.

“The integrity of our entire city and its police department has been called into question,” the officers’ statement says. “Public trust has to be restored by safeguarding public confidences, restoring the integrity of government, and avoiding any appearance of impropriety.”

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Arroyo Grande Police Officers’ Association Vote of No Confidence Final by CalCoastNews


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gangsta1

Way to go AGPD! By lodging a formal complaint you are truly showing your commitment to the service you provide and to the citizens of Arroyo Grande that you service.


agag1

Let’s hope they wear “LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE!” shirts for Tony, Steve, Carmel and McClish to look at all night.


SLOBIRD

No, they need to be more professional than the idiots holding power. Idiots are trying to cover this up and look where it got them!


Thank you Police Officers for your service and dedication!


Pelican1

It’s time to break out the brooms and clean house. Teresa, you can keep yours.

What we are seeing is a repeat of what the city of Paso Robles has gone through with their city manager, mayor, council and police department.

This is no way to conduct city business. It lacks professionalism, integrity, honesty, and any sense of leadership.

SWEEEEEEEP!


agag1

Not sure why Teresa gets a pass.

She’s as much responsible for her behavior as Adams.

Those city cameras didn’t show Adams dragging her in the building by her hair, and the fact that she gave him the coast is clear sign by flashing her car lights tells me she’s a willing participant, who is also in violation of the employee conduct code.


Pelican1

Well…in her case the broom represents basic transportation.


SLOBIRD

No pass for her. Look what she has been a conspiracy too not too mention what she has done to her family.


No free passes for anyone involved in this mess!


pasodowny

Right on Po-lice!


I’m sure Gibson is on retainer to Adams and Ferrera, providing consulting services on how to fraternize and cover-up the SLO County way. Hey Bruce! Cambria has no water! I can’t wait for Debbie Arnold to step into your district and call the shots.


changes

This isn’t the first time tapes and recordings of meetings or public records have

been lost by Police Chief Annibali and Mayor Tony Ferrera.


Former AG resident

Changes:


As a former AG resident, I occasionally read CalCoastNews for entertainment or thought provoking articles or comments. Some of the comments provoke thought about how they could be offered without any proof offered. Such is the case with this comment from “Changes.” It would be interesting to know how “Changes” is aware of any prior tapes or recordings “lost” by Chief Annibali or Mayor Ferrera. I would suggest that “Changes” provide some concrete evidence regarding that allegation. Or is it just another conspiracy theory without any supporting documentation/evidence?


While I am in no way defending Mayor Ferrera’s conduct in this incident, I suggest that “Changes” double-check his/her facts. The videotape system at City Hall is not under the control of anyone at the PD, including Chief Annibali. It is a stand alone system. The surveillance cameras in the Village area are the cameras and video system controlled by the PD.


If you check with Karen Velie, who viewed the videos from the PD system, there is no “lost” video from the PD system. Sorry, “Changes,” but Watergate does not exist at the PD. Now at City Hall………….


MikeB

Remember the Tribune opinion piece “Why is Arroyo Grande wasting time on inquiry into ‘incident’ involving two staff members?”


Here are some excerpts from that disingenous opinion piece:


“As for reports that Adams looked disheveled and had his shirt partially or fully untucked when police arrived, Adams told Tribune reporter Cynthia Lambert that he was wearing a casual shirt, which he left untucked THE ENTIRE NIGHT.


We don’t believe it’s a crime to leave a casual shirt untucked. Nor is it a brickbattable offense. As far as we know, it’s not even proof of sexual activity.


So, again, why is the City Council seriously thinking about funding another investigation? Is it to satisfy the contingent hollering that the city is conspiring to cover up inappropriate conduct on the part of two top employees?


If so, the City Council is wasting its breath, along with its money. Some self-righteous conspiracy theorists are never going to disbelieve slimy reports of a “sex scandal,” no matter how much money is poured into investigations.


We strongly urge the Arroyo Grande City Council to stand by its employees. An investigation has been conducted; there’s no need to follow that up with an inquisition.”


————————————


So now that the truth is emerging I suggest that the Tribune (Duerr, Finucane and Lambert) flog themselves with a bagfull of brickbats for yet again shirking their journalistic responsibilities.


I have every reason to believe the Trib was aware of certain statements made by the police officers and yet these statements were slanted to protect the executive managers.


Is it any wonder why governmental misdeeds are so prevalent? Certain members of the press are failing miserably in there journalistic endeavor and it is we the public, who suffer.


I am still waiting for the Tribune to apologize for making the claim that I had egg on my face for first blowing the whistle on Kelly Gearhart. Initially they tried to protect him and we see how that ended up right?


Julie

Can we give a vote of confidence to the Tribune?


agag1

A vote of confidence…ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!


A vote of no confidence…ABSOLUTELY!!!


kettle

What I really want to know is who really wrote the the Anonymous “editorials” , ironic with the facebook commenting.


Also if you speak critical (but factual) about the tribs chosen candidates in the comments, it’s deleted.


I wonder if all the other McClatchy papers try to steer politics the way these people do?


Downtown Bob

Chief Annibali, I heard you awkwardly speak to young folks at the Sheriff’s Day at the Ranch last Saturday. I turned my stomach to hear you talk about integrity and being honest on your application to be a police officer. How about you be honest about the video you claim is missing key portions when the company that makes the recording device directly contradicts your explanation. Those in the public as well as the LE Community know that you are not the man of integrity any longer. Come clean, admit your “mistake” and take the honest way out of being dishonest.


whatisup

Downtown Bob – This is very important information. Could you provide your record of this information as it would be helpful.


Downtown Bob

See the CCN Article about 80 mins of video missing.


Here is my basis for Chief Annibal’s deception specifically:


Chief Steve Annibali explained the missing segments as issues with the wireless feed, and then provided complete video copies taken from the hard drive inside the Blue Watch camera unit, which included the previously missing segments.


Each of the city’s ten Blue Watch surveillance camera units sends a wireless signal to a tower above the city, which is then sent to the police department where a copy of the wireless feed is kept. Another copy not impacted by wireless interference is kept on the hard-drive, Annibali said.


Nevertheless, employees with Security Lines US, the company that installed the cameras, said that segments missing because of wireless feeds would be uniform amongst the four camera lenses on each unit, impeaching Annibali’s explanation.


SLO LOCAL

It’s never the “stain on the dress” that causes the real problems. It’s always the “I never stained her dress” lies that follow the romp that ultimately get the politicians in trouble. Won’t you guys ever learn?? I like how the LE sat back silently, giving Adams and Ferrara all the noose rope they needed. They grabbed that rope and used every inch of it. And these guys are supposed to be smart enough to run a City?


Former AG resident

Downtown Bob:


See my comments to “Changes.” In short, ditto. Know your facts or offer some proof/evidence before you attack anyone’s integrity or honesty. The missing video is not from the PD surveillance system. It is from the City Hall surveillance system, over which Annibali has no control.


A suggestion: Use your brain to check your facts before you engage your mouth or keyboard.


Downtown Bob

That is true on the City Hall system, however the separate system with the 4 video wireless feed is under the control of the police department and the discrepancy has been noted by the system provider if the information in the article is correct. So check your facts before you think i am wrong there son.


Here is the quote~


Chief Steve Annibali explained the missing segments as issues with the wireless feed, and then provided complete video copies taken from the hard drive inside the Blue Watch camera unit, which included the previously missing segments.


Each of the city’s ten Blue Watch surveillance camera units sends a wireless signal to a tower above the city, which is then sent to the police department where a copy of the wireless feed is kept. Another copy not impacted by wireless interference is kept on the hard-drive, Annibali said.


Nevertheless, employees with Security Lines US, the company that installed the cameras, said that segments missing because of wireless feeds would be uniform amongst the four camera lenses on each unit, impeaching Annibali’s explanation.


Former AG resident

Just two comments as I do my periodic check of this site. I have more important things to do. First, I am not your son. Second, you miss the point. You are correct about the Blue Watch surveillance cameras. They are fed to the PD. But not the surveillance cameras at City Hall. Separate stand alone system not fed to the PD.


Downtown Bob

I just did my occasional check of this site, son, and if you can concentrate enough between hits of your bong, you will see that Chief Annibal tried to explain the “blue watch” missing feed as a bad connection, yet the company stated that if there was a bad connection it would be all four feeds not the important one. Wow……youth today….


agag1

The list of those “who need to go” keeps growing.

Steve Adams, Teresa McClish, Tim Carmel and his cohorts, Mayor Ferrara…

Did Ms Norton just get her name added to the list as well?


Mike Byrd

No. She’s doing her job and producing what’s available to her under difficult circumstances. I’ve heard nothing but praise for her responsiveness. We need to take care not to paint everyone who works at city hall with the same broad brush.


kayaknut

If indeed she is she needs to speak up, sooner than later, that what is going on is wrong. Otherwise she risks being part of the problem by seeming to be okay with it. Even if she at this point wanted to anonymously provide documentation to help clean house.


diamond

With the police publicly and uniformly coming out against the Mayor, Adams and those involved, it will be interesting to see where the rest of the staff lines up now. Job security can play a heavy role in duplicity. All we want is the truth. Do you believe the Mayor and Adams, who have already been caught in several lies, or the police department who are first hand witnesses?


agag1

One has to wonder why Steve’s secretary, Ms Norton is needed at city hall from 10:01pm until after midnight. Surely most cities conduct their above board business during normal business hours.

Kelly Wetmore is the city clerk who responds to records requests, no mention of her keeping questionable hours.

I do believe there are some good honest people who work at city hall.

I’m also hoping that very shortly they will be the only ones left.


willnose

As a resident of Arroyo Grande, I am proud of our Police Department’s officers for their conduct, consideration, and consequent action as revealed to the public in the CCN article. This finally, and irrevocably, lifts the veil on the conduct, or lack thereof, of those we trust to uphold the law and spirit of Arroyo Grande.

Our elected city council, the mayor, and the parties causing this scandal, fall far short of moral and legal standards they themselves are so willing to administrate to others. The cover-up is the real crime disgusting residents of our city, it will not “just go away”…!


A Grand Jury investigation is the least we expect, resignations by the guilty to follow.