Sex scandal sinks AG police officer confidence

September 18, 2014
Steve Adams

Steve Adams


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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The truth will set you free.

Hopefully we’ll soon be free of Adams, Ferrara & Carmel.

Glad to see you adding Carmel to the mix!

Can we add in ‘Ole Joe Costello too!

Absolutely, the more the merrier at this point.

The only ones we want left are the good, honest employees, undoubtedly they do exist.

If AG residents and AGPD do not keep pursuing this, it will just *poof* disappear like Paso’s Chief Lisa Chittygate did. There will be another $250K payout of taxpayer dollars, maybe a resignation (“early retirement”), and that’s it.

AGPD needs to contact 20/20, Nightline, CNN, HuffPo, Fox News, Oprah, 60 Minutes, etc…

Cal Coast News is great (again) for exposing the truth but unless a national media outlet picks up the story, it will sadly all just fade away…

No wonder the POSs of this county detest CCN. Viva CCN!!

“It is part of the business of a newspaper to get news and to print it; it is part of the business of a politician to prevent certain news being printed. For this reason the politician often takes a newspaper into his confidence for the mere purpose of preventing the publication of the news he deems objectionable to his interests.” 1903 Alfred C. Harmsworth

Old news to the trib.

the tribune parrots what the government tells them….hoping not to piss off the monied political allies of the government, who are the newspapers advertising base. PERIOD”””””””””””

No kidding. Indeed, the quote sounds like it could be the Tribune’ s Mission Statement.

A resident(s) of the City of Arroyo Grande needs to start an on-line petition at voicing their demand that Ferrara, Adams, McClish, et. al. are not of sufficient moral character to continue in their jobs. Effectively a vote of no confidence by the people. Make sure the California League of Cities is also aware of the petition…

I completely agree. I stated this weeks ago. I don’t have time to put together the petition, but I will sign it and help promote it. Maybe CalCoastNews will post the petition on their site. Let’s move to get the entire City Council removed and a new City Manager and City Attorney. Time for a fresh start. Democracy is great that we are allowed to vote in new people but when the entire crop is bad, it is time to start new.

The petition would take 5-10 minutes to craft (cut-n-paste is your friend) and another 2 minutes to advertise it here and on the Trib’s website.

I would have done it now if I was an AG resident.

Not sure where it goes from here. What has been proven is that the Mayor and council have zero credibility and should not be able to make any further decisions regarding this matter. I certainly don’t see any of them doing the right thing and stepping down, as they have shown they will do what’s necessary to stay in power. If the right thing had been done, this would be over by now. The Mayor has no one to blame but himself. His job was to find and tell the truth. From past experiences, these bottom feeders will probable be given a handsome payout for their bad behavior. Politics in general leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths, and for good reason. Thanks to CCN for letting the people be heard and for fearless reporting of facts. Where would this investigation be without the original reporting by CCN? Look at the other benign “reports from other agencies. It’s almost like the Mayors office did the report for them. Nothing to see here folks, just the emperors new clothes.

Leaves the same bad taste in your mouth as the city attorney’s office investigating city employees, or the IRS investigating themselves.

Impartial? Fat chance.

I think the Police Officers should be SHAMED for giving special treatment to the corrupt politicians/bureaucrats. Shamed.

Thankfully it blasted back into their face, and now they are FORCED to do the right thing – the thing they should have done from the very beginning: tell the truth. Discretion my ass!

It is because we treat them special that they think they are special. It is because you do not apply the law equally that they believe themselves above the law.

I hope this was a lesson learned for the Officers. Take your shame, swallow that humble pie, and evolve. We can no longer afford such corrupt luxuries as treating government employees as though they’re anything special (trust me, that vast bulk are NOT).

Did you not read the article, they are in fear of losing their jobs. And they expected the city to do the right thing. It does not sound like they covered up anything ROY. Read over the story and the police union statement.

What the heck is r0y talking about?!

Not too sure if I’m hearing sarcasm in Roy’s comment or not?

Shout out to the police for filing the complaint.

I think you’re all missing what r0y is really saying. He is saying that the police officers gave these people preferential treatment in the first place. They should have been public and open about what they say from the very beginning and handled corrupt politicians the way they handle the rest of the public.

I can’t wait for Tony to roll by in the Harvest Festival this year and waive to all of his subjects. Perhaps the residents of AG will show him how much he is loved and admired with an appropriate “salute” as he slowly moves through his Kingdom’s Village.

Perhaps Adam Hill (waste-of-skin) will accompany him as well, and run-his-mouth for us at the microphone too.

All Hail King Tony!!!

From the very beginning this whole thing has stunk to high heaven.

Tony, Adams, and Carmel in their infinite wisdom, and based on the fact that sweeping things under the rug has become their forte, decided to give it one more go.

One can only imagine the pressure applied to the officers to sanitize their statements.

One can also safely assume pressure was applied to convince enough of our council members that enough of an investigation had been conducted to sufficiently downplay the incident.

We in AG owe our LE and CCN high praises for not letting them get away with this behavior AGAIN.

Finally! Truth is getting out. The police statement that “they clearly saw Adams, their boss, engaging in inappropriate activity”, is a firsthand eyewitness account by several trained professionals, yet the Mayor and Adams are calling them liars.

Adams originally told police that McClish was not there. If they were doing nothing wrong, why would Adams lie about McClish being there? Adams wants us to believe that the officers “made up” seeing McClish hiding behind the door holding up a piece of clothing up to cover herself.

You know there’s a cover-up when the police are requesting chain of custody evidence of “missing video” that just happens to be missing ONLY the most important time in question. Anyone involved or who had firsthand knowledge, needs to be fired for obstruction.

I’d give this police department a raise for not falling in line with these despicable liars who expect to be able to get away with whatever they deem above question, without question.

The only thing the police did wrong was waiting for the city to do the right thing.

Diamond, after reading your comment it makes think would the Federal Bureau of Investigations look into public corruption? Could the city of Arroyo Grande have used public tax dollars to cover up this inquiry.

It just seems so bizarre that the city council is fighting so hard to not investigate the incident. Did they realize they are over their heads? I would bet if public money was used for an intentional cover-up maybe the FBI or State Attorney General should look into this.

This is what happens when cover ups occur you get people looking into your business, people or government agencies that you would rather not have snooping.

Is anyone else wondering just how many of our tax $$$ the city has spent with Mr Carmel and his firm

(not counting the $1254 for the initial interrogation, or (oops) investigation)

in their efforts to keep this on the DL?

No doubt the phone lines have been burning up (best not leave an email trail), while Mr. Carmel’s meter ticks away…CHA CHING!

It is usually the cover up that brings down a politician.

Does anyone know if a Grand Jury investigation was filed against the city?

Two…so far.

Just curious if it was filed by a citizen or the AG police association? I

know several citizens wrote about it but wasn’t sure if anyone

followed through.

Glad to see this story was not swept under the huge City of

Arroyo Grande corruption rug.

Two citizens…so far.

Yes, thanks to Otis Paige and Julie Tacker. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for filing the complaint.

Yes thank you Otis and Julie for not dropping the ball. It’s one thing

to talk or write about this ongoing outrageous behavior but it is

another thing to actually follow through.

Is there a online petition citizens can sign for an investigation and


Yes how? time to act and clean out the corruption.

The fact that the investigation was more like a temperature reading by McMahon instead of an employee investigation which the process is strictly delineated. Shame on King Tony for knowing better and acting against putting the two employees on administrative leave and a face to face interviews with people involved, then a written report generated.

Looks like King Tony did not want a paper chain.