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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DennySLO

So this is where King Tony will fire Adams so no investigation happens implicating the mayor and councils cover up. Mark my words, this is all about putting out the fire and making it a personnel issue that cannot be discussed with the public.


nurse1

The Mayor of AG must be taking lessons from our incompetent mayor in Morro Bay Jamie Iron’s. Irons likes to call things “personnel issues” so he does not have to explain to his constituents his continuous blunders.


Mike Byrd

It has been suggested that the League of California Cities should know what their new president has been up to. Here is the address for the executive director:


cmckenzie@cacities.org


Mike Byrd

There will be a special council meeting tomorrow at 1:00p where they will go into closed session for yet another performance evaluation of the city manager. By my count this will be the third. The mayor preparing to clean out the lifeboat for himself?


dogeatdog

Mike tomorrow is Saturday, they are doing a closed meeting on a saturday?


StakeHolder

Yep! 1pm.

Place for Public Comment, and then closed session to discuss job performance for Steve Adams.


agag1

Can’t imagine his job performance has changed drastically in the past 2 weeks.

They’re taking action based solely on the pressure put upon them, but there’s no way Tony, Tim and Steve are going to change course this quickly.


Mike Byrd

Remember Tony stifled the forensic audit of South San so there would be no investigation that might show his involvement in the mismanagement and conflicts of interest. That saved his backside that time.


Maybe the same thing here. Do something that could negate the need for an investigation so nothing comes out about his involvement in any cover up. Hopefully the Grand Jury will appreciate that this whole thing is multifaceted and pursue their investigation anyway.


doglover

There is more here than we all know…


There is a candidates forum on Monday night at 5:30 pm at the Regional Center with Tim Brown, Joe Costello and Harmon.


Good time to meet others upset by what is going on and sk questions of Brown and Costello.


The Mayor needs to be gone too!


Mike Byrd

Yes. Fewer people will know about it than are planning to attend Tuesday.


SLOBIRD

Color Steve gone as Tony is going to throw him under the bus and hope this all goes away and his neck will be saved. This should not be stopped and the bigger issue is how Council attempted a cover up and the vote of no confidence against Tony!


Until Tony is gone this should not stop!


nurse1

WOW!!! JUST WOW!!!! looks like the mayor of Morro Bay Jamie Iron’s is being trained by Mayor Tony! Our fab mayor just said last week in the city council meeting what a fabulous guy Mayor Tony is!


Pelican1

They’re creepy and they’re kookey.

Mysterious and spookey.

They’re altogether together ookey.

The Addams Family.


The city hall is for meet’n

Where after hours you’ll come to see’em.

They really are a scre-am.

The Addams Family.


Neat


Sweet


Petite


So get a witch’s shawl on.

A broomstick you can crawl on.

We’re going to pay a call on.

The Addams Family.


ml1999

Maybe Adams was just doing his homework to see if we could rent out city offices – by the hour – in off peak time.


agag1

Well, the city manager’s job is to generate income…

so we can afford his salary and benefits.


agag1

Mayor Ferrara’s quote in the Trib this morning is cause for concern:

“It seems to me that a reasonable response to any feeling of coercion would not be left to simmer and that it would be made know to the council and to me much sooner than it is in this letter.”

First, he, Adams, Carmel, and the council throw the officers “under the bus” when they insinuate the officers have completely blown the incident out of proportion, then used it as a means to retaliate against Adams with respect to their negotiations.

That’s as believable as Adams’ tea story.

Now it seems as though Tony is prepared to back the bus up, and run over them again.


Did he not get the silent, yet effective message the officer’s sent the past two council meetings by their presence?

Is he really that blinded by his all out desperate effort to keep Adams in place that he can not see?


changes

Can someone post Ferrera and Adams responses from the City of Arroyo Grande

in regards to the breaking story on CCN I cannot find anything online.


I refuse to subscribe to the Telegram Tribune


agag1

Above is part of Tony’s quote, the rest is:

“We will be looking into the matter more closely and following up on some of the assertions that have been made.”

Adams and Carmel could not be reached for comment.


agag1

Thumbs down to info from the Trib, we’re making progress!


nurse1

The Trib? You mean the FIBUNE?


dogeatdog

As far as I know they have not returned any phone calls, or that is what was said on the news last night.


MaryMalone

They are too busy circling the wagons and destroying evidence to answer phone calls.


StakeHolder

Just go to the Tribune website, you don’t have to be a subscriber. What bothered me is how Tony questioned why the police waited so long! THEY were playing property according to procedure. They attended the first meeting, was told an independent investigation would be performed, waited 2 more weeks only to find out that NO it would not happen, and then on Sept 10 most likely meet to discuss their next direction. That is only about 8 days in my book.


dogeatdog

Crony tony is going to put everyone and anyone under that bus to keep Steve in place. With Steve in place Tony has total control.If we get a new city manager Tony has to start all over again manipulating and controlling them.


Tony is not listening to anyone at all, why did he think the police were there at the council meetings wearing the shirts they wore.Did he not read their reports, they felt uncomfortable with the situation as it happened July 3rd.


Tony is so into himself it is sickening.


I think we need to ask the entire council to RECUSE themselves as an independent investigation happens.


WE KNOW THEY LIED, NOW WHAT DO WE WANT TO HAPPEN? I think the whole council needs to be recalled, they have all lost our trust I feel.


The fish fry should be interesting tonight, let’s see what city officials show up for it.


Stunned

How sad and disgusting for the families of these two individuals to read of their people doing the drunken rut in the office after hours. So so pathetic.


AGDUDE

I am very Happy to see ,The Police Union Stand up , and tell the public they are the ones being treated Badly here, Not the People who are the leader’s /employee’s who can not keep to a set of rules they them selves put in place, The leader’s and staff have them selves to blame for acting Flat STUPID. I am happy to see the police telling ,the council in Your Face we are not going to take this! Three Cheers For the AGPD!


I saw one young Office at walmart looked like , there was a link here.. The Office parked his car in front of the store, some clown decided to take him self asking the office why he was parked in a RED Zone, This young office was so polite/professional to the guy, I hope the AGPD higher up look at this see how the office handed himself, I hope the office Family see’s it to so they may see what a fine man he is. To the guy taping the office,look knot head what if you crashed your car,and the office got a call, or someone decided to break into your home and steal your belongs, Would you not want the police there as soon as they could, Have you been to the walmart parking lot? Mr.running video cam, all you tape did was make you appear to be “THE VILLAGE IDIOT” ware that tittle like a hat! Happy to see The Police Union is awake!!


catdude

Dude, I share your sentiments, but your piece is painful to read; syntax, punctuation, grammar are wildly random. Perhaps you consider night school… (not Night school…)


OK, flame suit on….


Stunned

catdude….no flames here but, do you feel better?


SamLouis

“…Perhaps you consider night school…”


No.


“…Perhaps you should consider night school?”


DDAG

So proud of the Police Officer’s Assoc. for taking a stand. I have a few thoughts:


1. Why is no one reporting on the fact that Steve Adams submitted a salary increase for the city attorney on August 12? This sounds like perhaps a payoff for the cover up.


2. Although I agree that we need to have our voices heard, I hope that our family oriented Harvest Festival isn’t where people do that. Our city is stained enough. Let the families enjoy the village as it should be and do the dirty work at the council meetings.


3. Why is Aaron Ochs quiet all of a sudden?


agag1

At last year’s fish fry, when Steve Adams made eye contact with us he made an abrupt turnabout and scurried off, literally at a trot–quite strange…


Can hardly wait for the fish fry this year, yum, yum!


kayaknut

I do have to disagree with you regarding the Harvest Festival. Keeping quiet about this is exactly what the mayor and city council wanted and the only way to change this is for us to keep it in the light of day. We need to make sure that every time they represent our city, be it parades, grand openings and especially city council meeting, they can expect to hear and see our distrust of them. They are not mayor or city council members only when they want to be it is all the time job and if they do not like that then by all means find another line of work.


MaryMalone

I agree. The behavior of Ferrets, Adams, McClish and the attorney needs to be kept front and center so the peeps who don’t already know what is going on become aware, and for those who do know and are already active have ample opportunity to protest in a group setting.


My mother used to say “Cowards do under the cover of darkness what they fear to do in the light of day.”


I think this is literally true with Adams and McClish, and is figuratively true with the covert , behind-closed-doors, conspiracy-fed machinations of Ferrara, the city council members, Adams, McClish and the city attorney.


Pelican1

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….

Here is the first, last, and only clue needed to get to the truth…FOLLOW THE MONEY.