FPPC rejects Nick Tompkins’ complaint

October 27, 2015


After the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject developer Nick Tompkins mixed use project proposal, Tompkins filed a compliant with the Fair Political Practices Commission against a city planning commissioner who recommended changes to the project. A complaint the FPPC quickly deemed invalid.

Nevertheless, the complaint prompted several councilpersons to seek the removal of Commissioner John Mack from the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission. Each city councilperson appoints one planning commissioner with council approval. Mack, a licensed architect and contractor, is Mayor Jim Hill’s appointee.

On Aug. 18, the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission voted unanimously against recommending Tompkins’ proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Courtland Street and Grand Avenue.

Earlier that same day, Mack quick claimed a deed to a former girlfriend for a home more than 1,000 feet from the project in a neighborhood included in Tompkins’ proposed master plan amendment. The home had been jointly owned by Mack and his former girlfriend. As part of their breakup, the former girlfriend was slated to take full ownership of the property, Mack said.

During the planning commission meeting, Mack voiced concerns about a lack of parking for the project. In addition, Planning Commissioner Glenn Martin wanted Tompkins to lower the number of homes from 38 to 28 to help remedy several density concerns.

Tompkins asked the commissioners to deny the project after it became clear that they wanted to continue discussing parking and density issues. The commissioners then unanimously voted against recommending the project as proposed and Tompkins took his proposal to the City Council.

The AG City Council then voted 3-2 vote to approve Tompkins project. Councilpersons Barbara Harmon, Jim Guthrie and Kristen Barneich voted in favor of the project while Mayor Jim Hill and Councilman Tim Brown dissented.

On Oct. 12, Tompkins, who has several other project proposals slated to be heard by the planning commission, filed an FPPC complaint against Mack. In the packet to the FPPC, Tompkins claims Mack used his public position to impact his financial standing on violation of conflict of interest laws.

On Oct. 13, before the packet had reached the FPPC, Harmon made a motion to consider removing Mack from the planning commission because there had been an FPPC complaint filed against him. Harmon expressed concerns of a possible conflict of interest.

Then on a 3-2 vote, Harmon, Guthrie and Barneich placed Mack’s removal on the Nov. 10 agenda.

Tompkins then pulled one of his projects off the Oct. 20 Arroyo Grande Planning Commission agenda. The commission will not review the project until after the city council votes on whether or not to remove Mack from the commission.

“They are hoping to have me removed before Nick Tompkins has another project before the planning commission,” Mack said. “They are trying to conspire against me to help push Nick’s projects forward.”
Tompkins did not respond to request for comment.

At the time she made the motion to discuss Mack’s removal from the commission, Harmon said she had heard there was an FPPC complaint, but she had not read it and did not know who filed the complaint. Nevertheless, Harmon noted the importance of bringing the complaint in front of the city council to promote transparency.

“Because of the perception and people who talked to me, I needed to make it public,” Harmon said. “I take a very conservative look at any impropriety.”

Mayor Hill said that anyone serving as a public official or volunteer on an advisory body can have a complaint filed against them, but that does not make the complaint valid.

“People should not try to second guess the FPPC,” Hill said. “I know people who have been fined by the FPPC, does that make them unfit for office? It is unfortunate that we subject volunteers to this type of treatment.”

On Oct. 20, the FPPC informed Tompkins that because Mack had divested himself of any ownership in the property, he did not have a conflict of interest.

“The enforcement division will not open an investigation into this matter,” according to the FPPC letter to Tompkins.

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At the count of three…everyone don your tin foil hat. One….Two…..Three….

where are your songs?

Did they leave town with Big Tony and little Steve?

I stayed through last night’s meeting, hoping that at some point one of the three council members who voted to put John Mack’s removal from the Planning Commission on the November 10 agenda would reverse their support for entertaining that item, none did.

As of right now, the the item will go forward to the next council meeting.

They did agendize the removal of the Brown Act violating policy put in place by Ferrara, Costello and Ray that requires (Hill has never enforced) the speakers to state their name and address at their next meeting. Barneich played a part in the FPPC complaint by setting up Mack to identify where he lives during the October 8 hearing.

Government Code Section 54953.3 A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

The intent of this section is to take the “who” out of what is said at a council or board meeting and let the content of the comment sway the decision makers.

Well of COURSE NOT!!!

What on EARTH does an architect like John Mack know about building stuff?????? I am sure the City Council has an app for that, so it’s legit.

Thank you for attending. The Council should be thrilled that people like you and others care enough about the City to show up and listen to their every word.

John Mack spoke in his calm, informed tone last night. He is an asset.


1. They ALL talk WAY TOO MUCH.

2. Some of the Council forget to use proper titles and call staff by their first name – so rude!

3. Council woman Harmon comes with scripts for everything. While I am pleased she has read her packet, it appears she cannot think on the spot.

4. The CLOSED SESSION starts at 10 pm or later – I’m guessing after 4 hours on their rears the best decisions are not made at that late hour.

5. The City Manager says nothing!

Mayor Hill does a fine job running the meeting.

This is a misreading of the Brown Act. While the BA prohibits sign-in sheets and the like requiring one to provide name and address “as a condition to ATTENDANCE at a meeting of a legislative body,” to quote the commenter, it most certainly does NOT prohibit requiring a person to identify herself if she speaks to the council during a public comment opportunity or a public hearing. What would be the point of anonymous public testimony? That definitely does not contribute to the “open meeting” spirit and transparency the Brown Act is set up to promote. Any mayor who lets people testify anonymously is weird, and I seriously doubt Hill allows that, unless he’s weird.

Ok. It is all time to put on our thinking hats.

The City Council needs to take an iPad or method of videography *cough cough* Calcoastnews, and perhaps get some footage so readers can get an idea of the area in question.

To begin with, let’s begin with what surrounds the 5 acre parcel. Directly east on the corner is a shopping center. In that center is Panda Express, Starbucks, CVS, Subway, A check n go, a church?, and an empty business. There might be something else.

To the north directly is a bank, a drive through Rite aid, another Sub shop, Yogurt creations.

Diagonal from the empty lot is a little gas station, a recycle can place, and then you have Smart and Final, Dollar Tree, a HUGE empty Commercial building where a Hallmark once was, Red Dirt Coffee, a BBQ place, an Empty Round Table place, Figueroa Mountain Brewery Restaurant, another Bank, CD’s Pets, a furniture rental place, and a couple of other little stores.

Directly to the South (or right behind) this empty lot is a 36 ish unit complex of low cost public housing/low income housing that already has cars parking on the street. (this means parking is already an issue *hint hint*!

Then you have the housing community of Berry Gardens, who was none too happy that the Public Housing was being built right in their back yard.

Adjacent to the empty lot to the West is another set of commercial stuff, like a 7-11, a mattress store, a coffee place, a dentist, a One stop can’t find a job shop, etc.

Parking– where would 38 apartment and 4 condo dwellers park? Let’s ASSume for a moment that we have a wholesome couple living in each one. Remember, we live on the Central Coast; that means employers pay in *sunshine and rainbows*– not money. Both couples need to work, so both need a car. So let’s use common core math!! Kidding, I don’t have all year. 38 apartments x 2 people= 72 cars. 4 condos x 2 cars=8 cars. 80 cars. Does that make sense and seem reasonable that POTENTIALLY a 42 unit complex (not counting the businesses) would add at LEAST 80 cars to that small area???

By that “small area”, I am talking a few hundred feet of parking space.

I know, I know, here I go again, being “reasonable”. I don’t have a snazzy Councilwoman title either. I DO vote that those of you who have some time in your day take a road trip to this vacant lot. Heck, we should all take our cars and see how many we can park down there!!! AG planning with Citizen on film. It would be AWESOME.

The hall mark of representative democracy is a respect for the integrity and differing opinions from multiple, sometimes conflicting, perspectives. The product of representatives comparing and discussing their differing points of view frequently brings a consensus and solutions better than any of those originally held by the representatives on a body like a city council or an architectural review commission.

The idea that each council member (including the mayor) of a small city appoints their own representative to an advisory planning commission is designed to take advantage of this premise.

The most corrosive element that any representative democracy faces is attempts by partisans of one viewpoint to convict and punish individuals serving in public positions, like Commissioner John Mack, based on rumor and accusation without any investigation by a neutral magistrate outside the political or policy debate. In this situation the FPPC serves as that neutral magistrate. Manipulation of rumors and accusations to remove a commissioner before the neutral magistrate has even received the accusation sadly demonstrates a lack of good judgment, self-restraint, and respect for the importance of differing opinions to the representative discussion. It is “pretense” rather than honesty in government. The manipulation did not, and does not in any way promote due process or transparency.

I hope that Council members Harmon and Barniech will repent of the foolish rush to judgment that has now blown up in their faces. Optimistically this sad tale will be an opportunity for them to learn the benefits of affording respect for differing opinions that appointees of other council members bring to Arroyo Grande’s planning decisions.

Sounds just like an old fashioned witch hunt to me.

Shame on Barnich and Harmon for their hysterical actions. I hope they have learned from their actions.

Stew, so I gather you don’t think much of the way things get done in SLO, where everybody’s supposed to be on the same team and see things the same way so nobody questions anything important and progress can move along faster? Indeed, we need a little more friction in the smooth-running Lichtig assembly line.

Arroyo Grande…always changing, never different.

Exactly how does one promote transparency when you don’t know what the complaint said? How can that possible promote transparency? Shouldn’t she be concerned about the lack of transparency from Nick Tompkins regarding that fact that he is not willing to go through the planning commission channels unless John Mack is removed?

It is time to actively work against those on the council who refuse to allow the polticial process to play out as it should. It is time to actively work against council members who insist on taking a heavy-handed approach to push through personal agendas, or those left over from Tony Ferrara.

First off, NICK asked the planning commissioner to DENY his project, that is why it was a unanimous vote. John Mack and the other commissioners were trying to work out a better fit for the city.

Nick knew he could just go to the council and get it heard there, and he knew he had Guthrie and Barniech in his pocket for sometime, all he needed was Harmon.

This project goes through and on the agenda tonight is for high density housing to be able to prove where their water will come from.I heard staff say over and over they had the water figured to max build out, WRONG. They had it figured until Nick got this project through, another great job by Teresa McClish, bought by NKT developers.

I doubt this will back Harmon off trying to get John Mack removed, she is working on all the commissioners the mayor put in place. Seem some just fold easier than others.

Just look at how she sits up there with a broom stick up her backside and her nose in the air. What a pompous politician she turned out to be.

Brown was right!

Now let’s hope Guthrie agrees to drop this mess and move on.

Deep down, we know Nick’s complaint wasn’t about Courtland and Grand anyway, this is about future proects.

Harmon claims she didn’t know NKT filed the FPPC complaint. Who does that? I can’t believe anyone with her background would make a motion to remove a commissioner without more of the facts, or at least waiting to see what the FPPC decided. it just doesn’t ring true.

I sincerely hope Harmon has a change of heart/mind about this and moves to work in a more constructive manner.

Council member Brown called it!

He said he has seen such complaints before and they rarely went anywhere.

He voted against the witch hunt knowing the broomstick would not fly!

Time to move on and get down to business.

This was a ridiculous waste of time and energy by Ms. Harmon and Mr. Tompkins