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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sbjcl

These fools refuse to believe they are done. End the pain resign now !!


SamLouis

Imagine SLO County without CCN…


There’s no question that gov’t still gets away with plenty, but it’s remarkable how much political sewage a small organization like CCN can expose to the people.


Plenty of losers are publicly practicing mock indignation these days as they attack CCN. Yet time and time again their crap blows right back into their faces and CCN notches yet another win for the people.


The next 5-10 years will be difficult. I suspect in that time the Tribune will cease printing a paper and when they do, they’ll gain added competition for their on-line version. CCN will continue to gain influence and finally we’ll have some level of transparency — thank God.


StakeHolder

CNN will only continue if local folks step up and donate. They have some advertisers, but really it is considered free to the people. Consider the value of your reading, and write them a check.


Do it on an annual basis, so we can guarantee their great investigative work will continue. Otherwise, we will all be screwed.


agag1

Agreed StakeHolder. Cancel that Trib dribble, and support CCN!


dogeatdog

As a resident of Arroyo Grande I wonder how this whole thing is going to end, and what we will find out in the end.I will be wearing black next Tues to show support for the police dept.


The worst thing so far is the divide the council and Steve Adams have created with the police dept. So now officers have to work on eggshells,they fear for their jobs, and all they have done is their job. And they did it in a processional way, giving Steve the chance to do the right thing.


The city council can no longer be trusted to do the right thing for the citizens.


Do they realize how that leaves us feeling? I don’t feel good about my city officials at all, They set the standards for all of us in the city, and they do that with out a moral compass, how comforting that is.


To now hear the tapes have been messed with, I think who else in now involved?


I THINK AT THE HARVEST FESTIVAL WE SHOULD ALL HOLD SIGNS STATING HOW WE FEEL AND BOO AS THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL GO BY.


I feel the entire council needs to go, the mayor, city atty, Teresa and anyone else to be found doing anything wrong during July 3rd, 4th and 5th. We need to take our city back and it is time to clean house. This has gone to far and for far to long.


I THINK EVERYONE NEEDS TO STAND UP AT THE COUNCIL MEETING AND TELL THEM THEY NEED TO LEAVE OFFICE.Don’t just show up and not speak, they need to hear it from everyone.


I would love to to see people pack the council like never before, and every last person speak their mind. So what if it takes an hour, let them hear us out. We are the government we vote them in, let’s tell them to leave.


kayaknut

It would not surprise me that the mayor and city council, at least those not running for re-election decide they have other commitments that cause them to miss the harvest festival.


I’m not sure hearing anything from citizens would cause the mayor and council members to do the right thing. The mayor might be supporting the city manager because Mr. Adams knows what the mayor has been doing and would spill it should the mayor change course.


doglover

The Mayor backs the City Manager because he can completely and utterly manipulate him.

End of story


The council backs him because NONE of them have ever hired a City Manager and as hiring him and overseeing him is their #1 responsibility- it frightens them of the unknown.

TIM BROWN Speak up!


StakeHolder

Who is voting for the Charter City! =)


ironyman2000

Oh, get off this overblown story. T’ain’t nobody’s business but their own.


kayaknut

It would seem many of the residents of A.G. disagree with you Steve.


agag1

And this folks is the reason we are where we are…people just like irony.


doglover

Mr. Adams it is time to resign and apologize to your wife and family for the embarrassment you have bestowed on them.

King Tony time to go – a recall will not look good on your resume.

Thank you AGPD for being brave and doing the right thing.

I HAVE to BELIEVE in my police!


So long Steve and Tony and take your little lawyer Carmel with you.


agag1

Don’t forget Steve’s cupcake!


CAkarma

SLO County has a new, whistle-blower phone line to turn in corrupt bureaucrats, sneaky crooks and tax cheats.Jim Erb, SLO County’s Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector, described the new “Whistleblower Hotline” for County employees and citizens at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Nov. 5. “The Whistleblower Hotline is a best practice tool used in anti-fraud programs that will strengthen our stewardship of taxpayer resources,” Erb said, adding that, “the vast majority of SLO County employees, vendors and contractors are honest and ethical.” Still, as any taxpayer or employee might be able to attest to, not all bureaucrats or bosses are fair, open or honest. “The hotline provides all County employees and citizens the opportunity to contribute to the accountability, transparency, and responsibility of the County by reporting financial fraud, waste and abuse,” said Erb. No word on whether the phone is ringing off the hook. Make anonymous reports by calling toll free (855) 326-9623 or online at: http://www.reportlineweb.com/sanluisobispo. ✤


agag1

CCN, the original whistle-blower hotline!


wineguyjc

Just get over it. They are simply two consenting adults finding pleasure in each other’s arms. So, they cheat on their spouses, so they lie to the families, so they violated a few City policies, so they muscled some subordinates to help cover up their misconduct. So the mayor is an untruthful and speaks with forked tongue. Oh, now I see the problem, they are simply morally and ethically bankrupt.


GoldiandFord

Who is the guy named Aron Ochs who always seems to attack every story CCN writes ? He is always posting on the Tribune site and he seems like he has some twisted thinking and a vendetta. Is he a part of the Tribune or is he a member of the Adam Hill/Dee Torres/Caren Ray “out to lunch bunch”?


Whyaduck

Yes to twisted vendetta. Yes to part of the “out to lunch bunch.”


Lives in his dad’s basement and fancies himself a journalist.


TacomaRose

The basement is diefinately a good place for this wack job. Journalist? I think not!!!


agag1

Hence the strong affiliation with The Trib…a match made in heaven.


Otis

r0y. Respectfully rOy I disagree. As one who has stood on this — I can testify to the great courage of these respected police officers.


They have carefully and diligently rebuked the pressure on them — via personal gag orders on each of them — to expose the truth regarding the incident and the massive coverup that occurred thereafter.


As Judge Judy once said, “If something doesn’t make sense it probably is not true”. Well, this in my experience rubbed my belly-button instinct the wrong way — for it didn’t make sense. And I don’t to have specify to this sophisticated reading audience why.


So, I thank them and CalCoastNews. It is a serious business when you have to expose your boss this way — and not the least the ex police officer and Mayor — and those magnificent officers have done it.


It goes a long way in restoring some sense to this — that they have stood in a very professional and excellent way.


agag1

Amen Otis, well said!


changes

Very well stated Otis.


sloyal

Right on Otis!