Ashbaugh evades punishment for Brown Act breach
November 11, 2014
The San Luis Obispo City Council condemned Councilman John Ashbaugh Monday, but opted not to formally punish him for violating California’s open meeting law.
During the Oct. 21 council meeting, Ashbaugh chastised Councilman Dan Carpenter for not asking question during a closed session hearing on a city plan to override the county airport commission in order to usher in high-density development. Ashbaugh’s outburst violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, which prohibits the disclosure of closed session activity without council approval.
On Monday night, the council responded to Ashbaugh’s confidentiality breach by choosing to condemn him, rather than formally censure him or refer the incident to the grand jury for an investigation. Condemnation is the only option of the three possible responses that is not considered legally punitive.
Prior to Monday’s vote, Ashbaugh apologized and recused himself.
Carpenter, however, said during the council discussion that he wanted Ashbaugh to resign.
Ashbaugh’s Brown Act violation came amid an ongoing battle the council majority is fighting to override the airport commission. Several developers stand to benefit from the council allowing high-density residential development on properties in the regulatory sphere of the commission.
One of the developers, Gary Grossman, has contributed heavily to the campaigns of local elected officials who support his bid to develop the ranch currently owned by Ernie Dalidio. Grossman gave maximum allowable donations to the reelection campaigns of Ashbaugh’s allies on the council, Mayor Jan Marx and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson.
Grossman also donated large sums to county supervisors Caren Ray and Adam Hill. Prior to Monday’s meeting, Hill lobbied the council to drop the issue of punishing Ashbaugh.