Arroyo Grande Council attendees pick sides, the mayor or police
October 29, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
At Tuesdays Arroyo Grande City Council meeting, proponents and opponents of Mayor Tony Ferrara spoke out during public comment while three San Luis Obispo sheriff deputies and a police commander stood by in case of any altercations.
Fifteen people spoke during public comment, five in favor of the mayor and 10 supporting the police department or speaking out against Ferrara. At one point, a speaker asked those who support the mayor to stand up and about half the room rose to their feet. Than another speaker asked those who support the police officers to stand and the other half of the room stood up.
Members of the public and the police officer’s association have accused Ferrara and the council of attempting to coverup a late night romantic interlude between City Manager Steve Adams and a subordinate employee.
On July 3, police officers found Adams and Teresa McClish, the city’s community development director, in Adams’ City Hall office. Memorandums written by five officers the night of the incident reported McClish was discovered partially dressed, an apparent violation of city policy. A few years ago, Adams terminated a police sergeant for violating the same policy.
Immediately after the incident was first reported by CalCoastNews, Ferrara and Adams began claiming the police officers had fabricated the story in an attempt to manipulate salary negotiations between the city and the police officer’s association.
The officers fired back with a vote of no confidence against both Ferrara and Adams.
Since then, supporters of the police officers have shown their alliance by attending council meetings.
Two weeks ago, city staff removed several rows of chairs lowering the amount of public seating in the council chambers. Consequently, the 140-person capacity room was limited to about 55 people, with another dozen-plus in an adjacent room.
On Tuesday, the council chamber doors were opened at 4:45 p.m., more than an hour earlier than usual. Multiple people arrived early and quickly took up the bulk of the still limited seating.
In addition, the benches outside had been painted earlier in the day and had wet paint signs on them until after the meeting started prompting some to claim the city was attempting to dissuade Ferrara opponents from attending.
Members of two unions which have endorsed Jim Hill for mayor, the Arroyo Grande Police Officers’ Association and the Carpenters Local 1800 in Arroyo Grande, and off duty police officers attended the meeting to show support for a change of leadership in Arroyo Grande.
Shortly before the meeting concluded, Ferrara took time to explain why city staff had removed a fallen tree from his yard. It is a violation of city and state laws for public officials to use government employees to do work at their private residences.
Ferrara said he arrived home and tried to move the tree, but wasn’t able to. And because the Harvest Festival was the next day, Ferrara then called the city’s public works department to have staff and equipment sent to remove the tree which had branches blocking the sidewalk.
Ferrara said he helped staff load the branches into a city vehicle to be taken to the city’s corporate yard for disposal. After CalCoastNews inquired about the use of public services, the city sent Ferrara a bill for $198 for the use of three employees, two trucks and backhoe for an hour while stating that the removal was justified because branches were blocking a public right-of-way.
At the end of the meeting, Ferrara took a few minutes to tell the public that after he is reelected on Oct. 4, the city will return to the way it was before the scandal.
Ferrara’s opponent, mayoral candidate Jim Hill, announced plans to run after being approached by critics of the mayor and the current council. He is running as a write in candidate.
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