Should Arroyo Grande judge on appearances?

December 7, 2015
AG City Council 6

Arroyo Grande City Council

OPINION by BEATRICE SPENCER, LEANN AKINS and OTIS PAGE

Following is an open letter to the Arroyo Grande City Council:

Appearances: The way somebody or something looks or seems to other people.

What is the city’s policy on judging appearances of conduct, if any? There is a certain political issue here — particularly regarding the Arroyo Grande City Council’s appearance in judging Planning Commissioner John Mack’s appearance of conduct.

In the matter of John Mack’s indictment for violating the conflict of interest policy of the City of Arroyo Grande, there are two aspects of the matter of appearances:

1- The appearance of John Mack’s conduct as a member of the Planning Commission.
2 – That of the city’s administration and certain members of the Arroyo Grande City Council in indicting Mack.

The following facts apply:

A developer, Nick Tompkins, formally accused Mack, a member of the Planning Commission, of appearing to violate the conflict laws with a complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

The complaint alleged Mack appeared to have a conflict because he had property that infringed city policy. That he intentionally quit claimed the property to avoid the conflict.

City staff suggested, with the apparent cooperation with the developer, to have Mack step down from the consideration of the developers project.

Three members of the City Council, acting before a decision by the FPPC, ordained that Mack should be dismissed from the Planning Commission because of the developer’s complaint of an alleged apparent conflict of interest.

In a hearing by the City Council of the Mack matter on Nov. 10, the following was confirmed: That the FPPC had denied the developer’s complaint, that there was no actual conflict as complained by city staff and the developer.

But certain City Council members continued to allege an appearance of conflict and continued to disparage Mack, a citizen of Arroyo Grande with an outstanding reputation civilly, professionally and as a member of the Planning Commission.

Because of the FPPC’s declaration, and after being disparaged, Mack was excused from the charge of being dismissed from the Planning Commission by a surprising unanimous 5-0 vote of the City Council.

With this action on Nov. 10 there remains the apparent issue of the city’s administration and certain members of the City Council premeditatedly indicting Mack before the FPPC determination.

There is a definite appearance of a coordinated effort by the developer working with city staff, in concert with certain members of the City Council, to have Mack step down by alleging he had a conflict in hearing the developer’s project when he did not have a conflict.

It also questions the City Council’s action and the role of city staff in dismissing the integrity of the Planning Commission’s role that was apparently undermined by forcing the matter to the City Council by the developer’s insistence to have Planning Commission deny the project.

In summary, in a heavy handed attempt to have Mack step down, he has been disparaged. For even though there is the issue of his quit claiming his property, he did not do so with the intent to avoid a conflict charge.

And even had he not quit claimed his property — so what? He served the city well in his analysis of the developer’s high density residential project in Mack’s neighborhood that is critical of the high density project.

The suggestion was made that the Mack matter — item 12a of the Council meeting agenda of November 10 — be dropped. But one council member insisted that it be heard and it was “fulfilled by angry comments from citizens supporting Mack.”

There was a time when the City Council could have gracefully dismissed the issue. But the City Council on a 3-2 vote persisted in its crusade to disparage Mack. It may now, by admission of its error, apologize to Mack.
Because of this, to reconcile this matter — to place in perspective all the “appearances” in this matter — to move on putting this behind us — the City Council should apologize to John Mack and, further, admonish the city staff for its role in this matter.

But, I don’t expect the City Council to do the right thing on this — nor by any action by the staff — and the issue — like a lingering sore — will be continued in the election year of 2016.

The issues are obvious — the apparent conflict of the city staff acting closely — not at arm’s length — with a developer — with the apparent support of certain members of the City Council — suggests an apparent conspiracy favoring the developer — apparently contradicting the interests of the citizens as legitimately served by the Planning Commission.

Something is wrong here — appearances in politics can have decisive results.

Beatrice Spencer, Leann Akins, and Otis Page are citizens of Arroyo Grande.

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14 Comments

  1. AGDUDE says:

    What is with the City Of Arroyo Grande ??? does anyone believe in honesty any more?

    I was on the city ARC for 5 years, I would of ran off and found a village porch to hide under,

    seems like the state board of architects would like to look at this , conflict for sure. good job John ya wing nut

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

    I am confused by the entire concept around the “appearance of conduct.”

    Conduct: the manner in which a person behaves, especially on a particular occasion or in a particular context.

    How can you appear to conduct yourself in one manner but really mean something else? You either do or you don’t, will or you won’t.

    Mack didn’t “appear” to have a conflict of interest, he DID have a conflict of interest.

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  3. surferdude says:

    What the heck was going on at the Dec 8th AG City Council meeting?

    Staff is the only one setting the agenda for each meeting.

    Are you f….ing kidding?

    It should be the MAYOR and the MAYOR PRO TEM meeting with the City Manager and her administrative assistant. The City Attorney can be a phone call away.

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
  4. Slowerfaster says:

    The writers should look in a mirror first, before imploring others to judge on appearances.

    (-1) 21 Total Votes - 10 up - 11 down
    • Seecanyonrd says:

      Mack should be the one to apologize. Because, he lied on his quit claim re: divorce status; lied about city attorney’s advice;and cheated county out of property transfer tax. These are the Mack facts, Jack.

      (-1) 19 Total Votes - 9 up - 10 down
      • kayaknut says:

        And Mr. Tompkins lied when he said the Courtland project was his last project in Arroyo Grande, should we wait for his apology?

        (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down
  5. joseywales says:

    there are no appearances to the fact the KFB is dumb as a post.

    (8) 26 Total Votes - 17 up - 9 down
  6. sbjcl says:

    The Mack issue is a disgrace. Mayor Hill is the only one with any class, the rest are bought and paid for by Santa Nick. I hope they have a nice time at his Christmas party and enjoy their gifts.

    (21) 49 Total Votes - 35 up - 14 down
  7. justbeware says:

    With the exception of Mayor Hill and Tim Brown on most occasions, this council has been more of what we’d come to know and despise from the Ferrara days than not.
    Barneich and Guthrie are still team Ferrara (handed off to McClish) all the way. Harmon is more impressed with herself than anyone else is, and this action she brought forward to trash Mr. Mack was shameful.
    Many were hopeful the council would begin working together, but the opposite has happened. We sure do miss interim City Manager McFall. His leadership skills were undeniable, it is doubtful the bashing of Mack would have occurred if he were still here.
    Ms. Thompson is a do-nothing dud. She’s done NOTHING to show residents she’s the one running the city. Reports on Trick-or-treating and corn mazes don’t cut it, and those only after she’d sat mute through how many months of meetings?
    McFall jumped in and took the reins, Thompson barely speaks, and when she does it’s nothing of significance.
    We were sold a bill of goods. After five months, she’s done nothing that impresses me. Is there a lemon law for city managers?

    (24) 52 Total Votes - 38 up - 14 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Given that this city council selected Ms. Thompson does this surprise you? They certainly didn’t want a “real” city manager, one that would upset their apple cart.

      (30) 40 Total Votes - 35 up - 5 down
  8. FreeAGCouncil.com says:

    The Council should pass a resolution apologizing to MACK
    WILL NOT HAPPEN

    The Council should decide a PROTOCOL for future situations they are unhappy with.
    WILL NOT HAPPEN

    The Council should TRAIN their COMMISSIONERS.
    WILL NOT HAPPEN

    Big Tony would not have done any of the above either
    Still miss the big guy!
    Just imagine how rude and condescending he would have been!

    (18) 42 Total Votes - 30 up - 12 down
  9. dogeatdog says:

    Well written article.

    If you listen to the councilmen Barniech she always says I agree with Jim (guthrie) or staff told me. It is never I sat down with a resident or anything like that. She atleast responds to e mails sent to her.

    Councilmen Jim Guthrie will never respond to a single e mail sent from citizens. So how much does he care what the residents say. He just wants to be mayor and he thinks he is better than most of us.

    Councilmen Harmon will not respond to emails either. And the fact she comes to these meetings with her comments to issues already written out, what is that all about. She is so scripted it might as well be written in stone.

    Councilmen Brown wants to sit on the fence and try to make everyone happy most of the time. When Ferrera was mayor he let him do all the work he has said and knew nothing about big issues like Halcyon/Brisco interchange, now he is playing catch up and has to do his homework. He too can not respond to emails.

    Mayor Hill is the only one who listens, reads the whole packet he is given, does his homework and comes prepared. He returns emails and phone calls. He has stated many times he is there to do the people’s business.

    This council absolutely owes Mr. Mack an apology. For jumping the gun, for the lies council member Barniech told about Mr. Mack, for not removing the item at the start of the meeting since Councilmen Harmon knew then that the FPPC was not going to do anything. Tony Ferrera seems to have taught 3 of these council members how to ridicule the public quite well.

    You owe him an apology for not meeting with Mr. Mack before you brought this up at a council meeting Ms Harmon. To get his side of the issue, for not waiting until the FPPC ruled, for being so gung ho to attack someone so personally. Is that your new perspective?

    This council has 3 members who stooped to an all time low. Let’s see if you are adult enough to apologize.

    (16) 50 Total Votes - 33 up - 17 down
    • kayaknut says:

      Hopefully after the next election two of them will no longer be council members, but maybe Ms. Barneich and Mr. Guthrie will save us the trouble of voting them out by not running again, but something tells me their egos will make the run again.

      (12) 32 Total Votes - 22 up - 10 down
      • kayaknut says:

        I take that back about Ms. Barneich, if she decides to campaign in the next election it will not be for re-election only “election”, since she has only been appointed, she has never actually run for an office.

        (18) 32 Total Votes - 25 up - 7 down

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