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


Very much looking forward to a post from SadInsider…


The signs need to just say one word big and tall


Everyone must encourage their neighbors and friends to attend Tuesday night and keep attending.

We are gonna need a new Mayor and at least a replacement for Joe Costello ( Tony’s sleepy puppet)

This Council has a lot of trust to rebuild.


I was at the last city council meeting and Jim Guthrie and Kristen Barneich seemed as much sleepy puppets of Mayor Ferrara if not more, but really all members need to re-examine their actions


I’m sorry, but Kristen is enough to put anyone to sleep when she starts talking trees. Her suggestions to the gentleman with the tree issue made me wonder where she got her MD degree from.


One friend told me she got her degree at the University of KIA (Know it all)


Is that online?


she has no degree, no experience in business, just tree hugging. what a tool


We have an option for replacing Costello this election, her name is Barbara Harmon.

Any change we can make to upset Tony’s apple cart will put him on notice,

it may not be his turn now…but he’s next.


I wonder if anyone has considered organizing a public rally to show support for the police officers prior to Tuesday night’s council meeting? The meeting is at 6 p.m. at City Hall so a public gathering there, say at 5 p.m., with signs, etc. might get some local media attention and underscore public concern. But such an event clearly has to come from Arroyo Grande residents. Just a thought.

Mike Byrd

Do Arroyo Grande police officers wear audio or video devices on their person such as is common in many other police agencies. If so that should clear up at least the first phase of this controversy.


Unless, of course, the video is subject to the same storage, and possibly creative editing procedures as video from cameras located in city hall…


It is absolutely absurd that Mayor Ferrara was elected head of the California League of Cities

( Really, how out of touch are they with those they choose to head their organization?

I believe I will write a letter of complaint to the league over their choice, and include attachments of CCN articles.


All those two had to do was apologize to the officer in charge at the scene for wasting their time and then doing the walk of shame to their vehicles. The following day they could have separately and verbally apologized to the council, member by member and that likely would have been it.

Instead Adams gets rude with the police officers. Both Adams and McClish have the arrogance to then publicly lie as they denied their dirty deed while Fat Tony felt the need to wade in as the “fixer” and makes an ass out of himself in the process.

Then the rest of the council jumps into the muck when it voted not to truly investigate this matter. This is one the people of AG cannot let pass…

Mr. Holly



Let’s not forget this incident occurred on city property. Who but Tony and a couple other council members could possibly believe Mr Carmel’s firm when they claim no city policies were violated?

Is the city setting a precedence here?

Will other employees be allowed to use the “Adams/McClish defense” if they’re ever caught doing something similar, or does this special exemption apply only to these two?


Karen and Dan, absolutely stellar work in this investigation. This particularly particular installation was a jaw-dropper.


Let’s hope Steve and Teresa are dusting off their resumes.

When does Tim Carmel’s contract with the city expire?

If he’s advising Tony that his position with regards to McClish and Adams is on sound legal grounds he needs to be replaced ASAP. For someone who makes a very good living at representing cities, he seems to have especially poor judgment when it come to HR matters.


Carmel is “At Will,” he can go at any time. But, it has to be the will of the council to agendize his performance review and call for qualified replacements to bid the job.

On July 8 both Adams and Carmel were on Closed Session for “Performance Review” this is when they discussed “the incident” and subsequent McMahon interrogation/investigation and put the matter to bed…in their eyes. Subsequently, Carmel got his 3% raise on August 12, before CCN broke the story August 19.


There’s no time like the present!

A new city manager,

a new Mayor,

and a new City Attorney…

Sounds like a good start.


Seems some could care less about what happened, you deserve what you get in the way of politics and leadership. For the others you have two choices, believe Ferrara and a lawyer, or believe the entire police department are liars. Consider that if the two alleged in misconduct did not even exist, one of the two parties is lying and taking you for idiots. I still say there is only room for one true Village idiot, and we know who that is.


for once i believe the police….although this is a highly motivated political situation…..


The police department really didn’t have much of a choice about issuing a vote of no confidence, in my opinion. To remain silent after the egregious treatment of the police officers involved in tracking down McClish, who happened to be hiding out with her lover darkened city hall, long after hours, it would have equated agreeing with the lies by Ferrara, McClish, Adams and the city attorney.

Their entire department was wrongfully maligned by Ferrara, Adams, McClish and the city attorney when, in fact, it was members of the AGPD who were the first-person eye-witnesses to what happened. Ferrar and the attorney were not even present when Adams and McClish were caught in a state of disshevelment and undress WAY after hours in the city offices.

Now it is clear that , at the very least, Ferrara, Adams, The city attorney, and McClish are in the process of destroying records in their attempted conspiracy to cover up what actually occurred.

Meanwhile, the PD has to try to deal with the clearly hostile workplace Ferrara, the attorney, Adams and McClish created as a result of their hostile actions towards the PD, and the retaliatory behavior towards the PD and its officers for simply doing their job…responding to a call from a worried husband because it was 11:00 pm and this wife still was not home from work.


If indeed Admas and McClish were “at work” then why were they drinking, especially to the point they needed to sober up before they drove home?