Are we treating our volunteers fairly in Arroyo Grande?

October 26, 2015


I was appointed to be an Arroyo Grande  parks and recreation commissioner in January 2015, and looked forward to serving this year. However, I stepped down this month because of political mudslinging from some of our council members.

The backlash of speaking my mind as a resident at council meetings was not well received by some on the council and they threatened my seat on the commission.

Many years ago, the council decided each member would choose an appointee to each of the city’s commissions. Almost without question, and as a matter of courtesy, the appointees have been approved by the council. Most are approved unanimously.

Yet, my potential replacement has learned one of his references was contacted by Councilmember Barbara Harmon and asked to pull their support of this volunteer. Councilmember Kristen Barniech wants to interview the volunteer prior to considering him for an appointment.

During last year’s campaign season, Barniech attempted to stop me from putting up political signs. She called the police, not once or twice, but sometimes 12 or more times a day for weeks. All she accomplished was having the police contact me again and again to be assured I was following the rules, which I was.

Arroyo Grande is a city that relies heavily on volunteers. At issue is the motion made by Harmon at our last council meeting. To my knowledge, no council has ever voted to remove a commissioner, yet council members Harmon and Barniech are now trying to remove AG Planning Commissioner John Mack. By weighing in on the Courtland and Grand avenue project, he tried to make the gateway project a better fit for our city by making positive suggestions as well expressing numerous concerns.

The project developer, Nick Tompkins, has since filed numerous complaints with the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) against Mack. Harmon wants to remove this volunteer, before the FPPC even has a chance to decide if Mack has done anything improper.

Councilmember Harmon stated it is because of the “perception” of wrong doing. Barneich quickly seconded Harmon’s motion. Councilman Jim Guthrie asked for the item to be discussed by the council on Nov. 10. This will allow the FPPC time to determine if the complaints have merit.

We have some great new appointments to the Architectural Review Committee, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation, and Traffic Commission. These advisory bodies are part of the process for approval of any big changes going on in our community. These residents are volunteers who ask hard questions, and they take these positions seriously.

It seems as though Council member Barneich has forgotten that she herself was appointed to her position. Harmon has only been on council for 10 months, the same as Mack and I as commissioners.

Rather than attempting to remove a commissioner, let’s all be thankful for our volunteers, give them proper training and the chance they deserve to be successful and contribute.

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Mike Byrd

This is an opinion piece that refers to some alleged events that are not detailed and which have not been reported here or elsewhere to my knowledge. It would be my hope that whatever occurred would be explained so we citizens who didn’t get the memo might know what happened in order to understand its import.

Thank you in advance to anyone who can explain this.


Mike, this is the memo.

What else do you need? A play by play?

Patty has laid it all out here for you. The council has agendized John Mack’s removal from the Planning Commission. Nick Tompkins filed multiple FPPC complaints against John Mack. Patty felt pressured to resign from Parks and Rec. Her replacement’s references have been called and pressured to retract any support. Barneich wants to interview him (approval on consent tomorrow night) before appointing him — unprecedented.

As long time community volunteer yourself, you can surely appreciate that volunteers need not be scrutinized to the point they resign. They’re terms are just one year…they only make recommendations, if the council doesn’t like the recommendation, they can overfturn it…just as they did with the Courtland Project.

It’s a sad day in Arroyo Grande.



I’ve found that in the volunteer work that I have been involved in, there should have been more scrutiny. I have been on volunteer boards that were ruined by one bad apple. Many people volunteer for all the wrong reasons and it is difficult to remove them once they get their foot in the door.

I am absolutely not saying that this is the case here as I know none of these volunteers, but I would say that background checks and a personal interview should be a part of the selection process.

Mike Byrd

Thanks, Julie, that helps a little but not much. What pressure by whom, both as relates to Patty and to her replacement? What is the substance of the FPPC complaints? Or is there anything substantive?

I’m left with the impression that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes and it would be helpful if CCN or someone could let we who live here in on it. I’m pretty sure that the first most citizens like me heard about any of this was Patty’s editorial yesterday.

And, yes, I do agree that volunteerism should be encouraged. I also support the longstanding practice of each councilmember being allowed the choice of her/his appointments, barring some sort of serious transgression that could negatively impact the city. Which all leads back to the original question. What’s going on here? I would sincerely appreciate anyone who could enlighten us. Thank you.


Obviously HARMON and BARNEICH think they are big fish.

ARROYO GRANDE is a very small pond, folks!

Especially for the FPPC!

The last thing Arroyo Grande should want is more investigations.

Remember the one that investigated former City Manager Steve Adams?

It cost $17,000+ and NO WRITTEN REPORT after dozens of interviews!

SHAME! Sham!


I have found out Patty did not give a reason for stepping down and wanted to just leave well enough alone.

I think it took some courage to speak out about this, and like so many other issues in AG they stay quiet until something happens, or someone comes forward.

Mike from reading your post, I think if you got more answers, you would just have more questions.That is just my take on your statements.

Mike Byrd

Is there something wrong with wanting to know the facts? If Patty, an appointed public official was threatened by elected public officials, I think the citizens should know what happened. These are our public officials for crying out loud.

I’ve located nothing in public sources concerning an FPPC complaint about John Mack. If Barbara Harmon (or anyone else for that matter) has evidence of one or more allegations that should be shared with the public. He’s our planning commissioner.

For some reason it seems to be bad form to be asking, what to me seem to be very obvious, basic questions. If something improper is occurring in my city government I want to know about it. It really is that simple and I’d hope I’m not the only resident of AG who becomes concerned about improper happenings at city hall.

Mike Byrd

Julie, one more question if I might. I’m not seeing anything that seems to relate to John Mack on tonight’s agenda. Where and when is it agendized? Thank you.


At the last council meeting Harmon asked to have Mack’s removal put on the next meeting, which would have been tonight. Guthrie had the sense to slow the train and asked for it to be placed on the Nov 10 agenda. He at least wants to hear from the FPPC before voting. Harmon reluctantly ammended her motion which was again seconded by Barneich. I suggest you watch the video. Harmon is swinging for the fence on this one.

Mike Byrd

Thank you. I’ll have to read the minutes again. It seems I overlooked this.


The motion that Councilwoman Harmon made at the close of the last meeting was awkward and unprecedented.

Years ago, Rob Strong, then acting Community Development Director, advocated for a project and even entered escrow on a project that he himself was planning for the city. The house Karyn Ray lives in. The FPPC had nothing to do with it!

Harmon is confused if she thinks Mack’s actions ( advocating in the neighborhood he lives in, and more than 300 ft. from the subject property) is a violation the FPPC will entertain.

Both Hill and Brown knew better than to act on a complaint without a resolution.

These are the actions of a rookie elected official overstepping her authority.

Mike Byrd

Are you referencing the special meeting? I just reread the minutes and am not finding that action there. Referencing Julie’s prior comment, maybe we do need a detailed play-by-play to understand this. Maybe I’m the only person who is confused but I doubt it.


Basically, HARMON asked for MACKS removal to be on the agenda citing that an FPPC complaint had been filed against him.

She made it seem that she had information NO ONE ELSE had.

Perhaps she should embarrass herself more and SPILL the BEANS for us all!

OTHERWISE, be quiet and do your JOB!

All we have seen is MACK. after NKT begged to have the PC deny his project, advocated for less density and a better project ( much of what the PC wanted, but was unable to accomplish)

FYI CITY COUNCIL : wake up. When a developer says they want 80, it means they will settle for 40. AG just gave NKT & Maganno lots of $$$ at the expense of increased parking and traffic issues at Courtland and Grand!


When the project was denied at the end of 2014 I personally asked Andy Mangano if he was going to stay attached to the residential component of this project he said no.

Now Andy is building an office on Branch Street.


Oct 13 meeting. See below for directions to video


Mike, got to city website, Oct 13 council agenda. Click on the little tv icon then go to #12 council communications. Click the first film reel and watch it all unfold.

Harmon should provide copy of her script for meeting minutes.


And about those scripts Councilwoman HARMON reads from…

She comes to the meetings with her decision made. It’s like reading a job application, making up your mind, and sitting through the interview for no reason.

HARMON is unable to compose her comments off the cuff after deliberating the staff report, applicant and community comments.

She appears to be in the pocket of every applicant and showing the public they really do not matter.

She seems uncomfortable with her decisions and uncomfortable in the public’s eye.

Mike Byrd

Thank you. I did find the video.


Certain members of this council continue to demonstrate how they truly picture the voting public—they think we are not smart, not politically savvy, and that we do not truly see them for who they are—didn’t the last election teach them anything??? Apparently not–I guess we have some more lessons to teach them…they need to know they should never underestimate the voting public.


Those smart, political savvy voters elected Harmon, Now you want her gone. Maybe they aren’t as smart as you think.


I actually did not vote for her…I would be careful at how you characterize the people commenting on this site. Other than the individuals who outed themselves with regards to their vote, you cannot assume that we all voted for Harmon—for me, there were just too many questions and her campaign was a little too polished…she didn’t get my vote then, and she won’t get my vote ever…


I never asked how you voted nor did I characterize the commenters on this site.

If you look at your original post it insinuates that the voting public are smart, politically savvy, and see the politicians for who they are. If this is true, then why was Harmon elected?


Just remember who she was running against!


Hello Fellow Citizens of AG—if you haven’t realized it, we are facing similar struggles with the city council, even though Ferrara was unseated. The culprits? Barneich and Harmon–primarily. we need to mobilize and begin to form a group to deal with this—mobilization similar to the prior campaign year.

Otis was right—we aren’t finished cleaning things up yet. We need to pay attention to who is doing what with whom and determine why they are doing it….then we can plan accordingly.

Who’s in???


I don’t post on boards but read often. This one requires a comment even though it will likely be deleted.

Since it is mayor Hill’s small but vocal group of supporters who make up most of these commenters ( Patty Welch herself, Beatrice Spencer, Colleen Martin, and John Mack), it should be noted that all the appointees with questionable activity are Mayor Hill’s and this also goes to his judgement.

Starting with the writer, we will probably never know what Welch is hiding that she doesn’t want exposed, but she has long been an advocate for dragging other volunteers private business into the public light and attacking them. It seems this group does not want to live by the rules they set up. Certainly her arroyo grande antics come well documented online and in police records. Those by themselves should have had the Mayor questioning this appointee.

Mayor Hill’s traffic commissioner works for Cal Trans and votes on issues where the city interfaces with Cal Trans. If this was not Mayor Hill’s appointee, how loud do you think the screams of conflict of interest would be?

These are all small signs of the Mayor’s poor judgement. John Mack took it to a whole new level. Mr. Mack advocated against the courtland and grand project numerous times before being appointed commissioner. That in itself establishes impermissible bias. As a resident of and property owner in Berry Gardens he had a conflict of interest when he voted against the project. Both this and the vote with impermissible bias were Brown Act violations of the type where his supporters would have formed a lynch mob if it was anyone else. (It should be noted that planning commissioner Glen Martin has a financial interest in the adjacent commercial property and also violated state law with his vote)

But it gets worse. Mack then comes before the city council to speak against the project. Something any citizen has the right to do. Yet, he chooses the illegal act of identifying himself as a representative of the planning commission. Again a brown act violation.

Then as the icing on the mess, Mack comes before the city council one last time to to propose a “compromise” plan. This is all in the public record. He takes the copywrited work product of another architect and the marketing materials from another architect and presents a new design in an effort to thwart the approval of the project. The list of legal and ethical violations against his architecture license are numerous. He is lucky someone has not reported him to the state board yet.

So after all these way beyond the appearance of impropriety actions, Mayor Hill votes against a review of this very public activity and goes on local radio to defend the actions. This is a mayor who came to office through people making claims of wrong doing far less in nature but has made every effort to establish a network of unethical appointees. If anyone has betrayed the public trust, it is our Mayor.

Let’s see how he deals with this at the November meeting


AG Don

Looks like you gotta a lot of facts wrong.

“Creating networks”, “groups” “betrayal of public trust”

Hmmm… I think it was a little over a year ago that Tony Ferrara, Tim Carmel and Steve Adams conspired to keep the public in the dark about the July 3rd incident until the filing date to run against the mayor had passed.

BTW Mr. Adams had been “spoken to” about his improprieties with Mrs. McClish.

It was the past Council (old Joe included) that made unethical actions toward the citizens of Arroyo Grande.

Once someone is appointed to a commission – it is on that adult to behave responsibly – not the Councilperson.

Get your facts straight or come to the meeting! Better yet, run for office or become a commissioner!


Dog Lover states: “Better yet, run for office or become a commissioner!”

YIKES! Watch what you wish for! Do you really want this prejudicial individual governing our commissions?



It must be comfortable in your armchair being so right, when you are so wrong!


Hill was elected to be mayor of Arroyo Grande by a small, but vocal MAJORITY!

First line…”I don’t post on boards….”

I remember you AG Don from a year ago; sticking up for former Mayor Ferrara and lying former City Manager Steve Adams.

Your first line is a mistruth. Go figure?

Glenn Martin

AGDon–as Glenn Martin, I do not have any financial interest in any adjoining property to this project. As a licensed real estate broker, nor have I represented any individual or business on adjoining property. Yes, I voted on the project before the Planning Commission, but did not violate any laws in taking that vote. I await your acknowledgement and apology for erroneously dragging my name through the mud hole you play in.



Since you hide behind a moniker we have to ask, what are you hiding?

First of all, all of AG’s commissions are advisory. The FPPC Code of Regulations Basic Rule and Guide to Conflict of Interest Regulations 18700 -18707 apply to “Public Official” and does not apply to a member as defined by 18700(c)(2) which states “Member” does not include an individual who performs duties as part of a committee, board, commission, group, or other body that DOES NOT HAVE DECISION MAKING AUTHORITY (emphasis added).

Legally there are no conflicts for these volunteers to give advice to the council that they can take or leave.

I met Patty Welsh just about a year ago, after the few conversations we’ve had, I’d have to say she strikes me as open as a book. What “questionable activity”? She clearly has nothing to hide, fears nothing, and speaks her mind.

Mr. Hinkle is employed by CalTrans, so are hundreds of other people. If Hinkle is not assigned by CalTrans to an AG project, then there’s no “conflict”.

Mack is a qualified architect, who would not receive any benefit or detriment from the project any more or less than those of his neighbors. As I recall he is on record shaping the project over its many iterations, that does not correlate to “advocated against” the project.

As to whose work product was used to show what could have been, let those whose product it was take issue with it, but if he wasn’t selling it for a profit to anyone and didn’t “thwart” anything (the project went just as NKT asked for) why have a problem with the visual aids?

Mayor Hill is a stand up guy. I met him a few times when he lived in Oceano, but have come to watch him very closely in AG and am impressed over and over again by his amazing work ethic and due diligence. He’s at all kinds of functions, never late to a meeting, always prepared and is generous with his time for all constituents. I’ve said it before; he is so refreshing to watch. As a regular at government meetings, I am always pleased to see transparency. Arroyo Grande is lucky to have Jim Hill.

Lastly, your reference to Hill’s “small but vocal group of supporters” is interesting and gives me great pause. At least Hill has supporters who show up and share their ideas with the council, helping in the decision making process. Makes ya wonder, where are the supporters for the other council members?


Hiding from people who attack the individual instead of the argument.

You may be correct on the appropriateness of the FPPC jurisdiction. That is outside of my knowledge base and not relevant to whether the council should review the commissioners conduct.

Patty Welche’s words and conduct speak for themselves. No other comment needed.

The comments on Mr. Hinkle seem to be more of convenience than actual belief. We could dig up many comments and opinions over the years stating the opposite but it is more productive to approach from the other side. Your suggestion is that it would be perfectly reasonable for an employee of the developer or the architect on this project to be on the planning commission and vote on this project as long as that commissioner was not assigned to the project at their place of work. I suspect you would have a very different opinion if that was the case.

Yes, small but vocal. With the exception on Byrd and Rice trying to bring foundational issues into the conversation, I am the loan decenter in a a love fest of vile and hate by 5-6 posters. Yet, by and large the attacks focus of individuals without addressing the conduct of the commissioner in question.

Yes, this is a small vocal group shouting down all who have other opinions. The very thing that this small group said they were changing.

Since Pelican’s lyrical comments are not on this thread, let me offer

“Meet the new boss.

Same as the old boss . . . “


I remember a year ago a Fest of vile and hate when Chuck Fellows and his daughter created the Save the city council or some such website. Placing blame on our police.

I would have liked to have seen Barbara Harmon speak to Mr Mack privately to discuss her issues with him, instead of going about it the way she did. she was a probation officer so where is the innocent until proven guilty, HUH Ms. Harmon.


So scratch my previous post.

Let’s make everyone commissioners and then they lose their voice!

Makes no sense!

I’m sure Mr. Mack has had enough, especially with the above the fold exposure in the 2 day late on news Tribune.

If I were to gamble, I’m guessing his future tenure on the Planning Commission will be stellar with no bumps such as this.

Move on and welcome citizen voice and involvement as Mr. Jenkins so eloquently described.



Does anyone else see this AGDon paragraph as completely incoherent?

“The comments on Mr. Hinkle seem to be more of convenience than actual belief. We could dig up many comments and opinions over the years stating the opposite but it is more productive to approach from the other side. Your suggestion is that it would be perfectly reasonable for an employee of the developer or the architect on this project to be on the planning commission and vote on this project as long as that commissioner was not assigned to the project at their place of work. I suspect you would have a very different opinion if that was the case.”



Kristen Barniech has never held a job as far as I know. She either lived with daddy or with her husband, she brings no life experience to the table.So what she has 2 kids and has to balance a family budget, that is all you bring with you.

It is always about her kids, or her. I know more about her than any other council person, and it is because her comments are always personal.

I don’t think she reads the entire staff report prior to meetings, because she just follows however Guthrie votes. Tony appointed her because she is so easily lead, she is not a leader.

Barbara Harmon just thinks she is the cat’s meow. Just the way she sits up there, all prissy. I didn’t vote for her and boy am I glad for that. Her “new perspective” is not my cup of tea.


Kristin has never run for any seat as well, only been appointed. Let’s see how strong and independent she can be if she does decide to run in the next election.


I maintain she is not that strong. She may have a following, but her voting record speaks for itself—aligned with Ferrara through and through… makes for truly interesting reading…more to come on this in the coming months…..


One quick lesson for all elected officials…

NEVER NEVER NEVER Air your dirty laundry in public.

Certainly Commissioner Mack deserved to have a confidential conversation; not a public hanging on such a short noose!


While the recent election brought about some much needed change in AG it was not the solution to all the problems.

Hill can only do so much, he is only one vote. Clearly Harmon has decided to make his term as difficult as she can. Can anyone think of anything she’s done since she was elected? I realize she’s new, but c’mom, even Barneich tried to wow us with the styrofoam ban–genius.

Brown has stepped up to the plate and more often than not gives thoughtful comments and votes accordingly. His comments relating to this stunt by Harmon and Barneich were spot on.

Seems the two women on the council have their panties in a wad over NKT’s project. Harmon especially looked VERY uncomfortable as she once again tried hard to hey important. Is she the only one who thinks she ‘does her homework’? Give us a break Barbara, everyone can tell you’re motivation is the mayor’s seat, we’re not stupid. How’s that going to play with Gutherie and Karen Ray?


Sounds as if the AG council is getting to be as rude, ignorant, inappropriate, arrogant and detached from residents as the SLO council has been now for several years. Poor AG. Wouldn’t want you to end up with the sort of corruption Katie Lichtig has brought to SLO.


The tone on council has sure changed since the gals decided to join forces.

Let’s see if Guthrie joins in the cat fight.


Council member Guthrie asked to have the results of the FPPC complaint before this was on the agenda. I believe he will be fair and NOT create the perceived “voting block” the ladies have created.

Guthrie has been there far longer and knows the antics of all the city.

He can finally be his own member with Big Tony gone.

He should be the leader of the council helping Mayor Hill to accomplish good things!


Hill’s too nice for his own good.

He’s been nothing but patient with council members and the public. This is the thanks he gets, Harmon and Barnich (clearly orchestrated beforehand) put his appointee on the agenda for removal. Is this Harmon’s ”new perspective”?7

Recently Gutherie has started to come alive, who thinks that’s not because there’s an election coming up?

Seems now that Ferrera is gone, Barnich has decided to buddy up with Harmon, what a pair.


Why don’t these 2 women leave their attitudes on the Jr. High playground? You are right, Ms. Welsh. We should be welcoming our volunteers, who give up many hours in their week to study the issues brought before them, yet not receiving any financial benefits.

Ms. Barnich has a short memory, as you mentioned. But you forgot to mention that it was her father who appointed her on the planning commission when he was a councilman. Tried to sneak it through since they have different last names. Does Ms. Harmon remember this as a “perception” of conflict of interest? I sure do.

It saddens me greatly to still see Ms. Barnich up to her shenanigans, trying to “get” Mr. Mack. He always has such great insight, and being a licensed architect, he has the most valuable information and input on the planning commission. Her efforts to try to get him let go, is not looking out for the best interest for our city. It is obvious she will go to great lengths to try to get him off the planning commission. Last I checked we lived in a democratic society, which means everyone has the right to speak their opinions. But, if it is different than Ms. Barnich’s, she just tries to go around get rid of anyone she does not like. Shame on her.

Do I see a shadow following her with Ms. Harmon?


My perception is that Harmon thinks she’s a big deal.

We got a raw deal with her.


We did, I for one wish I could take my vote back.


Ms. Harmon continually told the public she was not a “pawn” of Tony, even though he was there for her campaign from the beginning on. The people wanted to believe her, now I think we were fooled. She has lost the support of this voter.


Classic bait and switch!


Wouldn’t surprise me if Ferrera didn’t leave his ‘to do’ list with Barnich.

Top of the list: help NKT and Magano.

Continue taxpayer rip-off on Brisco Rd unaffordable plan. Back McClish to max.

Harmon obv got the message too.