Arroyo Grande coverup, a lie of omission
October 7, 2014
OPINION By OTIS PAGE
Why would the citizens of Arroyo Grande approve an investigation contracted by and controlled by its city council when its police, the Arroyo Grande Police Officers’Association (AGPOA) has stated certain members of this council have chosen to prejudge the so-called evidence and have already pre-determined what the outcome should be? Why, especially since there is a record of cover ups — a pattern of omitting the facts from the citizens?
This begs the following question? Was the cover up of the incident involving City Manager Steve Adams and Teresa McClish a lie of omission?
“Also known as a continuing misrepresentation, a lie by omission occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception. Lying by omission includes failures to correct pre-existing misconceptions,” according to Wikipedia.
The question becomes acutely focused given the council has announced a regular meeting for Oct. 8 at 9 a.m., a very awkward time, to announce the selection of an investigator.
Here we see a lie of omission for the announcement ignores that a legal process will be used, that there will not be sworn depositions, that there is no provision to gather sworn testimony about the council’s cover up, that when the interviewer’s report is finished it will be submitted to the council for its decision, that based on a vote of the majority the council may dismiss it.
What is the history of omitting the facts by this council?
The July 3rd “incident” involving Adams and McClish was disclosed in a closed meeting of the Arroyo Grande City Council on July 8. The incident was not revealed to the citizens of Arroyo Grande then or thereafter. It was hidden from the citizens subject to the lie of omission until subsequently revealed as a “tryst” by CalCoastNews on Aug. 19.
So what is the lie of omission as applied to the Adams/McClish incident? It is the omission of the facts regarding the incident, with the objective to foster the misconception that everything was okay at City Hall. That whatever happened to the two executives of the city was an indiscretion of unimportance. That the citizens of Arroyo Grande did not need to know the facts of the matter — with this huge exception: the police who observed the matter state facts that have been omitted in the first investigation and the subsequent comments regarding the occurrence by both Adams and Ferrara.
For the citizens, at the time, there was no possibility of an incident that could be construed as a scandal involving either the reputation of Mayor Tony Ferrara or Steve Adams.
The incident on July 3rd was covered up until the August 19 revelation in CalCoastNews. In response to this Mayor Ferrara on Wednesday, August 22, confirmed the cover up at a Chambers of Commerce luncheon. He stated “the incident was looked at and followed up by the city council” which then determined no further investigation was required. It was a “personnel matter” about which he would provide no details.
Ferrara omitted the details of the incident since the event was hidden in closed meetings on the subject — even though a substantial time period had past — one and a half months — before the matter was reported by CalCoastNews.
But here we have the lie of omission where Mayor Ferrara does not disclose “important facts in order to foster a misconception,” in order to refute the Aug. 19 CalCoastNews article. Ferrara insisted the reporting of the “tryst” was not true.
Was the council obligated to inform the citizens of the issue? The facts were withheld — omitted — because it was a personnel matter?
Or was it just a cover-up — the lie of omission — an orchestration to contain the matter to assure Ferrara’s reelection as mayor and protecting his becoming president of the League of California Cities — the prominent group promoting charter cities. Why was it necessary to cover up and omit the facts of the incident so long after the incident when in fact Adams was held to be not guilty of any policy or legal infraction?
Here we see the ugly application of the lie of omission: the misrepresentation, the failure to disclose, where important facts were left out in order to foster a pre-existing misconception that everything was/is okay at City Hall.
The council’s conduct on managing the lie of omission is clearly established by its conduct using closed sessions It is a fact the council has consistently handled the matter in closed sessions since July 8 when the matter was first discussed after the incident on July 3.
There are no minutes or recordings of these closed meetings. And the council is sworn not to reveal them. Nevertheless, council members, in a brief moment of moral clarity, responded to citizen complaints and agreed to openness on the matter in the council meeting of Aug. 26. It proclaimed an open process with transparency regarding the incident.
But the council reneged on this commitment to the citizens. The council ignored the commitment made in the meeting of August 26 for an open meeting on the substance and transparent process of the matter.
Here we see the instrument of the lie of omission — the closed session — its practice hiding all details of the facts of the matter — and with no good reason to follow this out of sight of the citizens on this matter since the Council declared both Adams and McClish not guilty of any offense on July 8.
The council continued to hold the meetings on the matter in closed sessions. It had a closed session in the general meeting of Sept. 9 where it decided not to reinvestigate the incident. And then a surprise with one day’s notice: a special meeting for another closed meeting held on a busy Saturday, Sept. 20.
But the word got out among the citizenry. The meeting became largely attended — where the council was overwhelmed by the citizen’s reaction and it turned away from the prior decision to reinvestigate the matter.
Finally, there was and is a lie of omission in not disclosing the incident to the citizens of Arroyo Grande. There was a significant cover up with alleged gag orders, intimidation and coercion of staff and police to keep the matter quiet. The incident was disguised as only a personnel matter a conclusion now contradicted by the facts of the matter that confirm the lies of omission.