Arroyo Grande’s leadership cannot be trusted with a charter city
October 28, 2014
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
Arroyo Grande voters are facing the question of “Charter City” on Nov. 4 ballot. As they do, it is important to look at its current leadership’s questionable spending and ponder; is now the time to relax the standards in which to spend the people’s money?
Notable charter cities include, Bell, Stockton and Compton, need I say more?
At tonight’s city council meeting, another in a long line of questionable expenses is the $26,000 being considered to hire a consultant to search for a new city manager. Weeks after the “resignation” of Steve Adams, it officially has not been publically accepted by the council.
Tonight’s action sets the stage for as long as nine-months of “transition” allowing Adams his full $13,000 monthly salary. This should provide ample time for Adams to “hide skeletons” and “bury bodies.” This collateral damage is just more in the wake of destruction since the July 3 late night rendezvous with Adams and Community Development Director, Teresa McClish.
The city can’t stop now as it gyrates to clean up the fall out of the cover up as it spirals out of control.
Adams and McClish should have been put on administrative leave immediately and dismissed months ago.
The city hired an “independent investigator” at an early morning special meeting. The very narrow scope focused on the days between July 3 and July 8 when the council exonerated Adams and McClish of any wrongdoing. The impression given was that Mr. Hookstra would be conducting an investigation of the investigation done by Arroyo Grand City Attorney Michael McMahon. The urgency of the meeting and statements made by council members implied work had either already begun or would begin early the next day.
Weeks later and as of yesterday, that $120.00 an hour investigator had only requested the video tapes from City Hall from July 3; he had not sought any documents from the city clerk, not even the officer involved memos or dispatch records. What is he waiting for? The election perhaps?
The risk-taking allowed by charter cities has no place in Arroyo Grande; its current configuration as a general law city takes too many risks as it is. Examples include, spending a cool million dollars on its current creek side city hall. The building needed costly retrofitting to comply with the American’s with Disabilities Act; this included adding an elevator to the two story building.
Additionally, the city has tried to build a police department; voters rejected paying for it — twice. The city pressed on with an expensive remodel; suffering delays and costly overruns. Ratepayers continue to pay for the project’s blown budget. The city attempted, but failed to consolidate police services with Grover Beach, fought against police department staff by hiring special counsel to “negotiate” the contract.
Furthermore, Arroyo Grande was successful in dumping their costs of a standalone fire department onto Grover Beach and Oceano when Five Cities Fire Authority (FCFA) was formed. Keeping control of its administration; city accounting staff reconciles the FCFA’s budgets and dwindling funds. While the city is saving an approximate $400,000 annually, where is that money going? As FCFA cries poor, failed to assess the property owners, while the city is hoarding money that once went to fire protection.
Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara has held a seat at the sanitation district for far too long. His defiance in splitting the Wallace Group contract into two and unwillingness to seek a forensic audit has prevented recovery of ratepayer funds. His stubborn stance, protecting John Wallace, has proved costly to the district and ratepayers in Arroyo Grande, Oceano and Grover Beach.
Ferrara kept the district from settling the dispute with the water board. Instead choosing to gamble, the district fought the eight-hundred pound gorilla and lost. Legal costs topped three-quarters of a million dollars; the district still faces a $1.1 million fine.
In light of the recent expose’ by CalCoastNews, the City of Arroyo Grande, with its current leadership can’t be trusted to be a risk-taking charter city and can no longer afford Tony Ferrara as its mayor.