Arroyo Grande’s city manager a bad fit
January 6, 2016
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
A year ago, in its search to replace embattled City Manager Steve Adams, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted unanimously to retain the same recruiting firm, Peckham & McKenney that the city of Bell had hired to help its city leaders there find a new city manager.
The Arroyo Grande Council authorized the use of $26,000 in taxpayer funds to recruit Adams’ replacement; Adams had been at the helm of the city’s business for over 14 years.
The council, and the public, put their faith in Peckham & McKenney to find a good fit for Arroyo Grande. The city had been through a tumultuous scandal involving a late night sobering up of two high level employees found after hours in a compromising position.
The city’s decision to seek expert advice from a recruiting firm gave no reason for the public to question the unanimous choice for a city manager when they hired Dianne Thompson. It wasn’t until recently that questions have arisen as to who Thompson is and what is her background. A simple Google search reveals Thompson had troubles in her last city manager position that appear to be mirroring her performance in Arroyo Grande.
Thompson was interviewed in 2013 by California City Management Foundation where she said, “My job as city manager to help the council toward completion of their goals.”
Yet, Thompson, whose contract requires a meeting of the council and the city manager within 45 days of her start date to “establish agreed upon goals for the first year…” has failed to agendize such a meeting with the council. Additionally, Thompson’s contract requires the council review her performance at her six month anniversary, with little to show for her first months on the job, the city council needs to take a good hard look at what they want in a city manager.
A city manager’s job performance is everything. The Dec. 8 Arroyo Grande City Council meeting battle in which Mayor Hill and Councilman Brown tried to get the Brisco Interchange discussion on an agenda proved something was wrong. For the good of the city and the benefit of the public, no battle should have ensued.
Thompson had to have known that the mayor has the authority, given to him by state law, to agendize an item for a special meeting. Thompson should have saved the taxpayers the cost of a special meeting and simply agendized the matter as had been the mayor’s request.
Additionally, Thompson appeared to play along in the much ado about nothing, developer Nick Tompkins verses Planning Commissioner John Mack’s Fair Political Practices Commission complaint. The FPPC confirmed Mack had no conflict yet Thompson allowed the public flogging of both Mack and Tompkins in a hearing that never should have taken place.
Furthermore, Thompson often hands the reins over to staff. Watching her in action at a city council meeting, she has little to say or little knowledge of the matters before the council. After six months on the job, a $179,000 annual salary, a $400 a month car allowance and a full benefit package, the city must expect more from its manager.
These costs, compounded by the money spent on a recruiter, the city council needs to consider that Thompson simply may not be the right fit for Arroyo Grande.