The fight to clean up Arroyo Grande

November 21, 2014
LeAnn Akins

LeAnn Akins


I attended the special meeting in Arroyo Grande on the evening of Nov. 19 to learn the much awaited and anticipated fate of City Manager Steve Adams. While the council has placed him on paid administrative leave until a new manager is hired, there are so many things left undone with regards to this situation in particular.

The information shared Wednesday night by Councilman Tim Brown regarding Mayor Tony Ferrara’s attempts to keep information from the council about a prior incident involving both Adams and Teresa McClish alone points to the idea that this entire situation has been grossly mishandled by AG’s City Council as well as the City Attorney Tim Carmel.

Mr. Carmel should not be commended for bringing the above information to light at this late date, he participated in the engineered cover-up and has not absolved himself of anything. He has continued to play a role in our city which assists in creating a climate where people cannot talk about what they know to be true, not to mention that he has clearly given our elected leaders, bad advice.

It is time for Mr. Carmel to resign.

The fact that there were glaring omissions from the investigation points to the very apparent fact that this investigation was neither independent, nor was it impartial. An additional conclusion is that the choice of the Sintra Group to undertake this investigation was not fully vetted as originally promised by the council itself at the special city council meeting on Oct. 8.

The report from last night continues to attempt to cover up a known fact of an inappropriate relationship at City Hall. We paid for a report that is keeping the truth from being known—a complete waste of money. I have to be honest; I am not pleased with the outcome of last night’s meeting or the “investigation,” if you can call it that.

The council and Sintra should be ashamed for thinking that the report from last night would suffice and put an end to citizen frustration with the council, their actions, and their decisions. I can assure you, it has not.

While no other investigation will happen with regards to Adams and McClish, please understand that a large number of citizens in Arroyo Grande will not stop holding the current council accountable for their actions. Make no mistake about it, this council still underestimates the citizens of AG, they still think they are untouchable, they still are not listening, and they still refuse to take responsibility for their decisions. The leadership continues to try and dupe the citizens of AG, or they are still hoping we will tire of being vigilant and just go away. I can assure you that will not happen.

As Jim Hill takes the seat as Mayor, healing needs to happen in our town. However, there is much more to clean up and change as well, this disruption is bound to cause more hurt feelings and emotions to arise, but cleaning our own house must continue—even though it might hurt a little bit. In the long run AG will be better off.

I truly hope that new leadership will continue to take up the cause of transparent, honest, and open government for the sake of the citizens and the well-being of AG. We need to remain active, aware, and alert about what our elected (appointed in some cases) leadership is doing. We cannot allow the continued dismissal of the citizens of AG. We deserve better than what we have experienced over the course of this year (and prior years for some), but we need to continue to work for those changes—the fight is far from over.


I predict the bellyaching will continue, no matter what happens in the future.

Witch-hunters always need a witch. They’ll never be satisfied, no matter how many they accuse or drown.


You are wrong. Some of us were not trained to be doormats. Your mileage may vary.


Wonder what predictions could be made about you??

That no matter what you will always support the activities of those who abuse their positions……


To Slowerfaster, no one went on a witch hunt. I and many others do not want leadership that doesn’t have the best interests of the community in their sites, and Mr. Ferrara and Mr. Adams do not and did not. The remaining council members also played a role—are you truly satisfied with the leadership on the current council? I have asked myself that question many times and came to a resounding “NO”. Mr. Carmel also does not have the best interests of the city in his sites—he is too busy trying to protect people in house rather than make sure policy is applied properly.

No one drowned here, but an unethical mayor and and an equally unethical city manager have been given notice that their services are no longer required.

Additionally, I am satisfied with our new mayor and our new city councilwoman, I am not satisfied with other leaders who were part of the lies and deceit–you shouldn’t be either, but if you are, that is your business.


In fact, we have not given due credit to Mr. Carmel for his months, if not years of really bad advice.

Steve Adams himself should have recommended they put him on Admin leave and then get a report like Hookstras to exonerate him and place the whole bunch back in place.

Those dummies,


Oh that would not work.

Steve could not have the independent investigation because there were too many secrets and skeletons that Tony feared.

That is why the scope was so narrow and Sintra was selected.

The investigation was NEVER about the misdeeds of the MAYOR or CITY ATTORNEY

The question is now….

Did Hookstra uncover ANY CRIMINAL actions in his 34 interviews?

As a retired peace officer, what is he gonna do with that?

Who owns those interviews?

Does the City own the private personnel full report?



all great questions…the issue is finding the answers to those questions…


Since the City paid for the report, I doubt they’re going to just hand it over.

Why would current officials start being open and transparent at this point?


“New brooms sweep better”

As part of the new brooms, sweeping out muck and dirt, city attorney Carmel has to go!

Obviously, he contributed to the shenanigans, gave unsound legal advices, showed incompetence. His recent work was NOT in best interest of OUR city. He must be dismissed, as our city deserves more competent counsel!

LeAnn hit the nail on the head, earned her say as her actions are right out front. She actively participated in the political process that turned this election around; “BRAVO” by the way!

No wonder people like “cowabunga” take cheap, chauvinistic pot-shot’s at her; as this is what it is! She is supported by many more who don’t bother to click on “LIKE” / “DISLIKE”, but support what she says and feels. …I, for one, can see her run for a council seat, she has my vote already!




In response to willnose


So for those 8 people who disliked willnose’s comment, be brave and list out why—is that you think:

1) we don’t need a “clean broom”?

2)Mr. Carmel does not have to be replaced?

3)I didn’t hit the nail on the head?

4) That I didn’t earn my right to speak?

5)that cowabunga didn’t take a cheap shot?

6)that I am not supported?

7) that I shouldn’t run for a local government seat?

8) all of the above?

You must feel very brave disagreeing with a supportive statement from behind your thumbs down votes—cowards.


Thank you to those who spoke up on my behalf – I just noticed as I seldom go back to look/see. I say my piece, move on, and let more capable voices speak.

Those “Red Thumbs-Down” are an indication that I hit a nerve – I consider it a badge of honor. My comments tent to hurt the bleary-eyed reveler of long night’s misdeeds caught in the light of day. With the light comes truth for all to see, power to heal, to grow anew.

It is seldom enough that I feel compelled to add to the cornucopia of opinions on any given subject. This has been especially true in regards to our beloved City of A.G.

My rare posts tend to be more of the “bird-eye” type, summation of the big picture.

I strive for the “What would I do, what needs to be done?” perspective, commentary.

My motivation is as simple as identify the problem(s), what needs to be done to right the situation, fix, and avoid future problems. By doing so, I hope to contribute to those who participate in our citizens forum of public input, are charged to carry out these duties.

Operating a cities business is hard work, to be taken seriously, not an enviable task. Thankfully, we do have someone in JIM HILL, willing to take on this arduous task in this time of need.

Mine is, but one voice, joining the choir of public opinions. I am an engaged voter, cherishing my privilege; proud to be a resident of Arroyo Grande.



That’s a funny pair.


So we have a new mayor who has not even been sworn in yet and people just keep going on and on about getting rid of Tim Carmel, Kristen Barniech , this person and that person, what will it take to start healing from all we have been through?

How about you let Jim take office and see what HIS plans are.

Have you even considered what it would be like to be a new mayor and you are trying to get to know the staff, but also on that plate is replacing your city manager? And then a new city atty, and what about Teresa, you think she needs to be replaced too. And you have a council member you don’t like, and a traffic engineer, the list goes on and on.

You want to talk about setting someone up for failure, a lot of you seem to want to do just that. Why did you not put your name is as a write in if you thought you knew what needed to be changed so badly.

I can say I wanted a new mayor and I got one, I have talked to him and I know some plans HE has for this city and I want to give him a chance to do what he thinks needs to be done.

People need to just accept that some things went wrong and that there is no changing those facts. We asked for an independent investigation and we got one, it did not say what we hoped, but it is over, let it go, move on.

Be more proactive in your local council meetings, go to san dist meetings, run for office in the future if you like, BUT give Jim Hill a chance at doing a good job.

Do changes need to be made, YES, did we elect someone to do that YES, are you going to give him the opportunity to do that?????????????


This is an opinion piece.

We’re all entitled to our own opinion.


Good suggestion, but it won’t happen.

The biggest complainers …the ones that make the most noise…have some kind of a personality disorder that precludes being anything but angry, paranoid, contemptuous, and just plain troublemaking.


Bingo! You just described the former mayor and some of his council to a T (or Tee, which ever you prefer).


Probably tea, don’t you think in this incident?


Grow up.

There is a difference between someone being a complainer and someone standing up for what they believe needs to be right.

Do try to learn the difference.


The waiting period between election and filing for a recall will give our new mayor, Jim Hill, to decide if he supports a recall of at least one city council member and AG’s legal counsel. I highly doubt Jim’s supporters will do anything but follow his lead.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a new mayor, with city council, city attorney, and city manager who cannot be trusted?

1 Remember, it was the treatment of AG’s residents, including the cover-up and horrible treatment of residents at city council meetings, that inspired the voters joined together to the new mayor.

2. The city council members and legal counsel have already shown us that they will do Ferrara’s bidding, no matter how much it harms our city and its residents. They have shown themselves to be without ethics and without regard for the best interests of the residents of AG, who they are supposed to be serving.

3. Ferrara, based on his comment to the SM Times, is still attacking Jim Hill, even after Jim won the election. It seems clear he has a bone to pick. Based on his comments in SMT’s the recent article, it seems clear Ferrara still has a bone to pick with Jim Hill, and will do what he can to use the media to meet his goals. Based on this, I think there is no question that Ferrara will continue to attempt to manipulate HIS (and they are his) city council members and legal counsel to do his bidding.

You put those three realities together, and it indicates the city council and legal counsel cannot be trusted to suddenly develop a shiny new sense of ethics, and do anything other than continue to do what Ferrara manipulates them to do.


The mayor is only one vote in a general law city.

That is all we ask for…. Just one honest vote.

Thank you Jim Hill.


well said

election was democratic process in action.

I don’t know Hill but willing to wait and see

no one is all good or bad, lets wish those who have served well and move forward

I love Arroyo Grande and there is much good that has been done by prior council

and am hopeful the same will be true of new council


Much good, but sadly a lot of bad as well.

And that we are just beginning to learn about…

Wish the new council all the best.

Hopefully the holdovers are listening, and have gotten the message.


good insight


It is a beautiful day here in Arroyo Grande.

I have watched this all unfold in city I call home, as the drama winds down I want to publicly express my support and faith in Jim Guthrie.

I have known and worked with and for him for 20 years, He has my vote and my confidence that he will do the right thing,

Personnel issues are never easy, and they way through them is always difficult as you are dealing with peoples lives.

Thank You



Mr. Guthrie did a fine job leading the meeting on Wednesday.

Perhaps he can do it again this Tuesday?


He will gladly do a good job on Tuesday…for a hamburger today.


OK…he’ll do a bad job on Tuesday for a hamburger today….


He’ll do a bad job on Tuesday whether or not he gets a hamburger…based on the fact that Guthrie and Brown chose the conflict of interest-laden Sintra investigation, they are still stepping and fetching for ex-mayor Ferrara.


I don’t think he did a “fine job.” He did nothing but what he has done before…facilitate ex-mayor tony ferrara’s agenda and coverup.


With tensions high, it was nice for speakers to have more than 3 minutes to speak.

Speakers seemed respectful of the non-clock.

I’m sure they appreciated Mr Guthrie’s gesture.


I don’t think tony will show up.I do however, suspect that until Jim actually takes the gavel, Tony will continue to influence the council in absentia.


Even after Mr. Hill is mayor Ferrara will continue to influence Guthrie and Barneich.


And Brown…remember, he could have told us about the first Adams-McClish unprofessional and degrading “incident,” but he chose not to.

He says he didn’t tell the rest of the city council members, but I don’t trust him to be honest about that, either.

Brown is as much to blame for the coverup as is Ferrara and Carmel. He actively facilitated, and participated in, the coverup.


We usually agree Pelican, but we differ a bit on this one.

I think there is a high probability they will continue to be manipulated by Ferrara after our new mayor, Jim Hill, is sworn into office. And that’s not all…I think the city’s legal counsel, Mr. Carmel, and Ferrara’s other cronies working for AG, or involved in AG by contracting, etc., will also be taking their marching orders from Ferrara, both before and after Jim is sworn into office.

As my mother used to say, “a skunk can’t change its stripes overnight,” and AG’s city council, legal counsel, and others have some pretty deep stripes.


Well, as far as I’m concerned the citizens of Arroyo Grande have sent a clear mandate.

That mandate DOES NOT include Tony or any of his cronies as part of the new consent agenda.

As I have said before, if we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

I don’t believe the community wants to, or will put up with anything but a new direction.

I hope that I am right.


Let’s just assume that only 1/3 of the garbage we hear about that’s going on at City Hall is true.

That’s more than enough to justify throwing the bums out and starting fresh.

Jim Hill is only one vote.

One vote can’t move a mountain, or do all the work alone.

He will need support unless/until the others regain their senses, if that’s even possible at this point.

Time will tell, but we’re off to a good start.

Looking forward to Jim taking his oath and watching him go to work.


I agree, but we must remember what Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address….”Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

The PEOPLE of Arroyo Grande have spoken.


It doesn’t mean that Brown, Guthrie and AG’s legal counsel will listen.

They have so little ethics they willingly screwed us, the city’s residents, over in their coverup of the Adams-McNish pathetic tryst AND the previous pathetic WHATEVER between Adams-McNish.

You can’t just snap your finger and bring back an ethical mindset you lost.

It is like we get a pristinely ethical mindset, represented as a square shape. But everytime we do something unethical, it rounds off the corners of that square just a little bit. Over time, the more unethical things you do, the rounder your ethics square becomes, until finally you are just left with no ethics and it is reflected in a round ethical “square.”

There is no such thing as making the rounded square into a square shape again.

I think Guthrie, KB, Brown, and legal counsel Carmel have pristinely round ethical squares now. They are good for nothing that involves ethical behavior.


Now, just because they all flunked that part of kindergarten when they were tasked with Playschool’s “Plan Toy Shape and Sort It Out”…It’s time to fish or cut bait.

We know what we want and what we expect, and it’s up to us to make sure that happens.


Walt Kelly, the creator of the cartoon strip Pogo, coined the phrase..”We have met the enemy, and they are us.”

The last council meeting could be summed up in that now famous saying. Unfortunately, until Jim is seated, we can no doubt look forward to more of this poor decision making…that is inevitable given the current lack of leadership.


Already looking forward to Tony’s Tuesday night lecture.

I’m sure he will once again say too much.

He gave us voters, we did not have to solicit them.


Do you really think he will show up?

His post-election m.o., so far, has been to hide out, except for the one public comment he made to the Santa Maria Times (published November 18, 2014 (, in which he belched out bile-filled lies about our new mayor, Jim Hill.

I would not be surprised if his toady, Jim Guthrie, will continue to run the meetings.


My vote is he will not show up, in part his ego will not allow him to look the voters in the face and take “crap” (his words) from the voters.

My bet…. medical reasons will the excuse given


Does it really matter if Tony shows or not? I think not!

Jim Hill is our Mayor.

Tony’s just keeping the seat warm if he shows up.


I think it matters because Ferrara has been abusive to the residents who attend the meeting, even when he had no reason to be…he was still mayor.

I think he will be an unmitigated @sshole to the residents of AG if he shows up to run the council meetings.


Not if we don’t just roll over and give in to Tim Brown’s kumbaya intonations.


What would really help is if we don’t just lay down and accept the bull$hit coming from AG’s city counsel and legal counsel.

It would also help if folks could steel their spines against the feel-good, seductive intoning of kumbaya that frauds like the ones now running our city use to manipulate us.

I could not believe my ears when I heard the last meeting’s audience applaud as Tim Brown spewed his self-serving, manipulative bull$hit about all we need to do to fix things is to just roll over and take the harm Brown, the rest of the city council members and legal counsel have done to us.

We deserve something better than just accepting as city council members the same @ssholes who have advanced and participated in this horrible coverup, and the abuse they visited upon residents who attended city council members. But that “something better” won’t come to us as long as we are willing to welcome into our fold the very people who have harmed us.


So at what point did Councilman Brown realize that he had important information that he was withholding from the public?

Could it have been at the July 8th special meeting when they discussed this recent incident of Mr. Adams an Ms. McClish?

Could it have been prior to the Nov. 4 election?

To sit there after the final verdict was announced, and THEN come forward with important information, which most likely the WHOLE council knew about…does anyone else think that this new information could have changed the outcome?

According to today’s Tribune, Mr. Adams could be terminated for “conduct unbecoming the position of city manager or likely to bring discredit or embarrassment to the city,” This certainly has brought discredit and embarrassment to the city of AG.

So, why didn’t they consider terminating Adams without cause? Maybe because this WAS GOOD CAUSE to terminate! They would not have to hide behind the fear of paying a lump sum equal to six months’ salary and benefits, if in fact 2 incidents equal good cause.

All they needed to do was ACCEPT his resignation and find an interim City Manager immediately. This would save the taxpayers at least $10,000 which is an estimation of his next 3 weeks salary for his “paid termination” while he sits at home NOT working.

The Sintra Group report states that they found a significant number of city employees who were interviewed and perceived there was “something more than just a casual or business manager-subordinate relationship between the two.”

Sintra Group found it, and our Council knew it. Shame on them.


I SO agree with your post, WorkingClass.


They all had to have their head in the sand for. July 4th to be the “first time”.

This was well known.

Mr. McClish did not give his wife much wiggle room.

Perhaps he wanted her home to start the 3 day weekend.

BTW… How many City staffers went to the “soft opening” at Roberts?

My Sintra report did not provide that to me.

Were Adams and McClish the only city staff? Did the Council and mayor attend?

Anyone know?


Watch–AG’s legal counsel will claim because it involved personnel, it is protected information.


You got it.

And Adams and Ferrara knew from the beginning that the AGPOA had nothing to do with any of this.

They were looking for a distraction since the tea party story was not believed by anyone.

Even the camera man laughed when Adams spewed that sh#t.

All they had to do was tell the truth.

Why was that so difficult?

What does Adams know?


According to the latest Tribune article, Ferrara says it is ALL Brown’s fault that the residents of AG were not informed of the first Adams-McClish sad incident.

I’m glad Ferrara threw Brown under the bus.

AND I think any of the council members who dare to criticize anything Ferrara has done in the past will get the same treatment. I think that was the reason for his comment to the Tribune–a warning.

THAT is why, unless we recall us some city council members, we will be stuck with the same city council catering to whatever Ferrara tells them to do, LONG after our new mayor, Jim Hill, has been sworn into office.

That is not fair to AG’s residents who clearly showed they wanted Ferrara out of office, nor will it be fair to Jim Hill.


Well stated LeAnn.

I agree, in order to truly get our house in order,

and bring some level of trust and transparency to our Council, and City Hall,

Tim Carmel must go


For too long now, he, Ferrara, and Adams have been in the driver’s seat.

If we want to change direction it is time for new drivers.

It is doubtful our newly elected council member and Mayor

will choose to keep Carmel considering all that has come to light.

Knowing he’s been involved in all the muck

up to his eyeballs is reason enough

for him to pack his briefcase along with Steve and Tony.


Great op-ed, LeAnn!