Ashbaugh evades punishment for Brown Act breach

November 11, 2014
John Ashbaugh

John Ashbaugh

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.


With due respect, you should not be reporting as fact that Ashbaugh violated the Brown Act. John has problems and John acted intemperately but at Monday’s meeting I argued in his defense that he didn’t violate the Brown Act, as no confidential info was divulged. Jan Marx admitted the arguability and in today’s Tribune two experts agree. It is an open question that has not and likely will not ever be settled. So if he didn’t violate the Brown Act, merely acted intemperately, do you want public officials “condemned, criticized and disapproved” for acting in a manner that might be characterized as intemperately?

And please, can we stay on issue? It isn’t that he’s aligned with Adam Hill or that he’s a Biz Dem or that he is trying to subvert the airport authority, although he is. It’s about due process, freedom of speech, and an objective, fair reading of the Brown Act. Thank you, concerned citizens that we all are.…/3344515_john-ashbaugh…


So all the no-growthers have been bought off by a developer who wants to build high density housing in an area already plagued with terrible traffic problems. But none of the Council livethere, so why should they care?

Question: will the developers be taxed (as proposed for other residents) because of its proximity to Laguna Marsh? Or will their campaign contributions give their future owners a pass?

Why can’t Cal Poly buy the property and use it for a farm? Or the city purchase part of it and build some vegetable plots for locals, or a campground, a skate plaza, a golf course, or whatever? The original plan was for mixed use. I think a mini-storage and other uses not keeping a lot of people around should be considered.

Bottom line is, the airport authority will tie this up for years and rightfully so, but SLO will hireoutside counsel at taxpayers’ expense to help the developer get this through. Another ripoff of taxpayer dollars (is that where Measure G money is going? How much did the developer contribute to that?) . Nice going.


Ashbaugh has absolutely no integrity. I’m not sure that any of the current council members do except for Carpenter. This sort of behavior takes a real toll on a community and it shows more and more.


Just a developer covering all the bases. Bribe the government, the bike nazis, and anyone else who might be a potent “squeaky wheel” when the time comes to pave over some nice openspace.


Anyone really surprised?


Here is a classic example of public officials acknowledging that at least for them, laws are made to be broken. Business as usual.

Rich in MB

What did you expect….

All Pigs are Equal, but some are More Equal.

SLO Government just officially became the Book Animal Farm


“They had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.”

Yep. That’s SLO County government in a nutshell.