Arroyo Grande planning commissioner retains his seat

November 11, 2015
Nick Tompkins

Nick Tompkins


The Arroyo Grande City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to retain John Mack on the Planning Commission following a conflict of interest complaint filed by developer Nick Tompkins. A vote that surprised most attendees at the meeting.

Following an unanimously vote by the Planning Commission to reject Tompkins proposal for a residential and commercial development at Courtland Street and Grand Avenue, primarily because of parking and density concerns, Tompkins filed a conflict of interest complaint against Mack with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

Before the complaint reached the FPPC, council members Barbara Harmon, Jim Guthrie and Kristen Barneich voted to place the removal of Mack on the council’s Nov. 10 agenda.

Since that vote to consider Mack’s removal, the FPPC determined Mack did not have a conflict of interest as detailed in Tompkin’s complaints.

On Tuesday, during public comment, Tompkins laid out his reasons for reporting Mack to the FPPC. Tompkins argued that when Mack quit claimed his home to another, he had violated conflict of interest rules.

“We must do what is right for the city, we need unbiased reviews,” Tompkins said before asking the council to remove Mack from the Planning Commission.

However, during an emotion charged public comment period, only three people supported Tompkins request while 12 speakers asked the council to retain Mack.

Robert Montoya, a professional engineer, argued that having an architect and planner with 30 year experience examining projects was in the best interest of the city. Several speakers questioned Tompkins motivation for seeking Mack’s removal from the Planning Commission.

“I believe Tompkins thinks Mack may be a threat to future projects,” Montoya said.

AG City Council 6

Following public comment, Barneich noted the inconsistencies in statements made by Tompkins and those made by Mack and his supporters as part of the reason that Mack should lose his commission seat.

For example, Barneich said she was concerned about reports that Mack had not transferred the property to a former girlfriend he had bought the home with, but had signed it over to one of his children. However, county records show the property was deeded to Paula Renner, Mack’s former girlfriend.

Along with Guthrie, Barneich voiced concerns about Mack quit claiming his home to another the morning of the Planning Commission vote.

“Mack has a right to speak his mind,” Guthrie said. “I am concerned about the quit claim deed.”
Guthrie then noted his intention to have Mack removed from the commission.

Mayor Jim Hill and Councilman Tim Brown noted that the FPPC did not find a conflict of interest as they both voiced support for Mack’s continued public service in part because of his planning background.

“Arroyo Grande has a history of poor planning; box stores on the freeway and the Brisco Road interchange,” Hill said. “I have found that Mack does ask the difficult questions.”

In addition, Hill questioned why in this case several council members were seeking to remove a public servant because of a rejected conflict of interest complaint, while if verified the FPPC lodges a fine and the public figure generally keeps their seat.

“The penalty should fit the crime,” Hill said.

Harmon, who made the original motion to consider Mack’s removal, said the issue was transparency and the appearance of a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, Harmon made the motion to retain Mack on the Planning Commission, which prompted Guthrie and Barneich to reluctantly vote with the majority.

Following the City Council’s vote to keep Mack on the Planning Commission until his term expires in early 2017, Mack said he is considering running against Guthrie and Barneich for a seat on the council in the Nov. 2016 election.

“I am definitely considering running for the City Council,” Mack said. “I enjoy serving the public.”

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  1. AGDUDE says:

    God What a mess , get the mop… John Mack clearly is using his position for the cash gain.. are you people that stupid? I assure you John Mack is not that smart..

    Sounds like Hill needs to get the broom too.. I knew he was a few bricks short but bloody hell!

    (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  2. sbjcl says:

    The whole incident clearly shows what a bully Tompkins really is.

    (21) 23 Total Votes - 22 up - 1 down
  3. joseywales says:

    it is like the world took a dump and it fell between harmon, barneich, guthrie, ochs, and adam hill’s ears. mary lucey loves to pick their brains while their at it!

    (14) 26 Total Votes - 20 up - 6 down
  4. MajorityFan says:

    I love reading all the conspiracy theories on here… It’s no wonder AG is so messed up and the laughing stock of SLO county. Pull it together, people!

    (-6) 16 Total Votes - 5 up - 11 down
    • joseywales says:

      republic vs. democracy wingnut.

      (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
    • agag1 says:

      Oh come on MF, be honest- – –
      you’re still amazed we got rid of Big Tony,
      and probably still angry Ray lost as well.

      (23) 27 Total Votes - 25 up - 2 down
      • kayaknut says:

        The talk is Ms. Ray is going to take another shot at it next year, shooting for Jim Hill’s job, I hope she does and then realizes our memories are not as short as she thinks they are and again gets soundly defeated in only her second election, again appointments to me are not elections. Now if she runs for Barneich’s or Guthries’s seat, and without any others running it might have to be “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”, but then again in this case we know all the devils.

        (19) 23 Total Votes - 21 up - 2 down
        • agag1 says:

          She should give some serious thought to losing that “used car salesman” line.
          It was very rude.

          (18) 22 Total Votes - 20 up - 2 down
      • MajorityFan says:

        I am more amazed by all the infighting going on there even after Tony and Steve left town. Hill has to stop being so namby pamby and step and unite AG. Grow a pair, Jim.

        (-8) 18 Total Votes - 5 up - 13 down
        • surferdude says:

          Guthrie & Barneich must STOP their juvenile antics.

          Guthrie must get over it all and stop playing the “I’m pissed Tony & Steve are gone so watch this” game.

          Barneich has been sulking for a year and needs to put a smile on her face and do something positive. Every project and agenda item has her in a scowl while she texts Daddy & Tony for advice from the dais.

          It’s time for them all to grow up and act like professionals.
          Mayor Hill had done an excellent job facilitating this fractured bunch!

          (17) 29 Total Votes - 23 up - 6 down
          • justbeware says:

            We’ll see her eyes light up when that Styrofoam ban comes before the council, just wait for it.

            (14) 20 Total Votes - 17 up - 3 down
        • justbeware says:

          There’s a big swamp to drain, these things take time.

          (17) 23 Total Votes - 20 up - 3 down
  5. citygirl says:

    councilmen Guthrie seemed to go straight for councilmen Browns throat.

    Mr. Guthrie seems to be spewing some hate towards Mr. Brown lately.That was quite the volley of words back and forth from both of them Tuesday night.

    Ms. Harmon’s reason for changing her mind was/ is puzzling. She was going to uphold the FPPC finding, yet she new about the findings prior to the meeting. Why then go through all the bashing and slashing the trio did.

    Guthrie was just playing politics, and the blondes are trying to.

    I think John Mack is going to be a hard candidate to beat if he runs for council. He thought he was doing nothing wrong, so he held his ground. Even through all the nasty words that the trio blasted him with, he still stood in front of his jury, and stated his defense. That takes a lot of self assurance to walk the walk, and talk the talk,to say your truth and sit back down, waiting for the verdict. John stayed calm,cool and collective and he showed his time line and then waited for the count.

    (20) 26 Total Votes - 23 up - 3 down
    • surferdude says:

      Did you see when Guthrie spewed to Hill:
      “interesting order tonight!” when he was called on to provide his comments?

      There is something very ugly and nasty going on at City Hall and we cannot blame Steve for this one( maybe Tony)

      Professional adults do not communicate the way that Guthrie and Barneich did Tuesday night.

      At least Harmon comes with her words perfectly scripted so she has tried to edit her not niceties.

      (19) 23 Total Votes - 21 up - 2 down
      • kayaknut says:

        But the problem with Ms. Harmon’s “scripted” comments is that they were scripted well before the meeting and before much of the truth came out and they didn’t take that into consideration, but then again that could be because they were not “scripted” by her but by someone else,(NKT).

        (15) 19 Total Votes - 17 up - 2 down
        • MajorityFan says:

          You’re right, it was like watching Arnold and Compton reading their COLAB scripted remarks.

          (-5) 11 Total Votes - 3 up - 8 down
  6. AGDon says:

    Well it was clear that Mack was doing some shady moves and far from the promised transparency we expect, but not enough for the council to make the very strong statement of removing him. Certainly a discussion that should have been had and I applaud the council for addressing this difficult issue, as well as coming together unanimously in the end.
    I think the real shocker for the night was Tom Brown. As a professed conservative Christian, it was shocking to hear him state that “ethics and morals are a personal choice”. Did he sell out his beliefs to appease his mob, or did we just hear him advocating anarchy? We will see how he goes when the marrijuana issues comes forward in the next couple months.
    Are ethics and morals an individual choice or was he just pandering? My understanding is that ethics and morals are the basis for all laws and foundational to a structured society. Perhaps Tim and his gang have other plans.

    (-12) 24 Total Votes - 6 up - 18 down
    • agag1 says:

      You mean TIM Brown the Dem?

      (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
      • MajorityFan says:

        What difference does him being a democrat have to do with a nonpartisan position?

        (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
        • joseywales says:

          libturd? welfare whore?

          (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
        • agag1 says:

          Absolutely NOTHING!!
          Just setting the ‘professed conservative’ record straight, although AGDon is well aware of this–he continues to intentionally misstate facts.

          (18) 20 Total Votes - 19 up - 1 down
          • MajorityFan says:

            I see no misstated facts and it’s easy to understand his concerns. You should try not overreacting and accept that not everyone agrees with you, but they don’t hate you, agag1.

            (-6) 8 Total Votes - 1 up - 7 down
            • agag1 says:

              You can choose to be blind to the facts.
              You’re right, not everyone agrees with me, that’s ok,
              but even less agree with you. That also is ok.

              (14) 16 Total Votes - 15 up - 1 down
    • doglover says:

      That discussion should have never occurred in public and should have been confidential just like would be afforded an employee.

      Perhaps you enjoyed the public bashing that you and the Council, except Hill just performed.

      It was the political suicide needed to remove both Guthrie and Barneich.

      Who cares how they voted. Their comments were personal and hurtful and no voter would stand for that type of humiliation.

      Thank goodness that SLOSPAN documented it all!

      (20) 26 Total Votes - 23 up - 3 down
      • kayaknut says:

        SLOSPAN yes, unless some more “technical difficulties” happen or weekend office visits. Let’s hope they have better systems than the camera system installed that monitors downtown AG and city hall, it apparently has some issues.

        (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Some “selling out” was done Tuesday night but it was not by Mr. Brown, look to his right and the opposite end of the council table to find the sell outs.

      (15) 21 Total Votes - 18 up - 3 down
    • doglover says:

      To AgDon
      Who is “his mob”?
      Who was doing the “pandering”?
      Harmon and Barneich with their smiles and winks to NKT?

      (21) 27 Total Votes - 24 up - 3 down
      • justbeware says:

        One man’s mob is probably another man’s community watchdog.
        Probably depends on which side of the fence you’re on.

        (17) 21 Total Votes - 19 up - 2 down
    • citygirl says:

      Promised transparency, show me that with Nick Tompkins. Shady moves, boy Mr. Tompkins could teach John Mack all sorts of shady moves, like the own he pulled with city hall.

      AGDon where is the venom for Mr. hill, I doubt you like him either.Nick sure did spew venom at Mrs. Spenser the other night like she had anything to do with the FPPC report. I think you would throw your mother in a ditch if you thought it would have gotten you the votes you so dearly wanted.

      Maybe Barbara Harmon got a little taste of what it is like to make a deal with the devil.

      A picture is worth a 1000 words. There were some great shots of the council,the body language is just priceless.

      (13) 17 Total Votes - 15 up - 2 down
  7. Pelican1 says:

    Time out! Could this be “Tony” tampering? Residual debris finding it’s way into current governance? I hope not.

    (25) 39 Total Votes - 32 up - 7 down

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