Arroyo Grande’s city manager a bad fit

January 6, 2016
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker

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.


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Mitch C

Julie, what criteria did you use to determine the suitability of the current city manager? What expertise gleaned from what professional experience did you employ to judge the performance of the current city manager? What conversation with a member(s) of the city council (the manager’s bosses) to determine what direction the city manager was given and what specifically was the expectations? What dog do you have in this fight, why do you feel that you have the right to interfere in the business of a city that you have no ties or financial interest? Basically, Julie, on this one you are not the one to make the determination that you espoused in your editorial. It would be better, if there is a problem, to suggest positive ways to resolve it.


Local

YES these were my questions exactly. Julie loves to take people down – not even being involved in AG or the Village. There has to be other causes that Julie could be of better use other than attack people. Perhaps helping out the homeless or some volunteering in a hospital for older and or sick people might be a better option.


justbeware

If everything is above board then there’s nothing for anyone to look at or question.

This new city manager if getting off on the wrong foot.

If residents believed she was transparent she wouldn’t be faced with angry residents.

She made a mistake aligning with KFB and Harmon, both lack credibility. KFB was part of the cover-up for Adams, and Harmon lost a lot of respect with her attack, then sudden about face on the Mack issue. KFB took the bait on that too, hook, line, and sinker.


Thomas A

Dick Mason on the Congalton show discussing his recent battle with Adam Hill. Fire Adam Hill in 2016.

http://920kvec.com/podcasts/congalton/01-06-16.mp3


Slowerfaster

Holy pickle smoke, Batman !


Another suffering from AHDS !

QUICK ….Get the peppermint schnapps !


CentralcoastRN

City Managering isn’t something I know much about, so I am just going to trust you to enlighten me here while I just ask some questions if you don’t mind.


I’m trying to “pretend” I’m the City Manager. I have thoroughly sanitized the office. (Gross)

I have made a HUGE to do list, because I guess that’s what you do if you actually want to get something done. I don’t know. I pick one or two, because I remember who is on the City Council and know they are limited. I guess I have my assistant person pull the last meeting stuff that has been an issue, and then pick two items to email out to the Council with something like this:


AG Manager and City Council Goals and Vision Strategy meeting.

January 8th 10:00am conference room


Agenda:


1. Complement Kristin’s new outfit.

2. Discuss Brisco Road interchange

3. Identify City Budget

4. Discuss putting in sky rise in the tiny 5000 square foot lot on the corner of Grande and Courtland; there is totally enough room.

5. Whatever else we want to talk about.


So at this point, the City manager sends out her meeting request. The Council bickers back and forth about whether or not they can meet. They meet or don’t.


It seems none of this never happened. So who besides Jim Hill actually knows about politics and policy? I am really just trying to understand…


With regard to the FPPC, does Thompson have the legal right to stop a hearing that the City Council initiated by vote? Once it is happening, why not just let it run its course? This is what the City Council wanted, right? They wanted to publicly humiliate an architect, who knows more about planning a city than a probation officer and a real estate agent.


The irony in all of this is that for $179,000 plus $400 car allowance, what is she DOING?

That is my point of typing some of that out. She is getting paid a LOT of $$ to come up with some agenda items and get people to try and play nice. Am I missing something? I’m not trying to seem rude, I am just trying to understand it.


C.V.

This hysterical mewling gadfly once again knows not what she is haranguing and opining yet again. TACKER is a non-staff writer for CCN (MY OPINION is that SHE always represents clearly a conflict of interest) and routinely calls out numerous red herrings to divert the reader’s attention from the true meaning of the situation. TACKER has NEVER been a City official nor employee. Again TACKER doesn’t know squat on this one. The routine sewage spewed by the mouth of disgraced Los Osos CSD Former Board member cannot keep her pie hole closed and reeks contamination toward the fine City of Arroyo Grande. TACKER always digs up unnecessary histrionics to justify her means to an end. If you do not like the compensation, always remember it is an elected Board/Council that approves the employment agreement and THEY represent the Public. Go after THEM, NOT the public servant. The going rate of pay is available online from numerous sources including the State (www.transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/salaries/#cities) and it is something on the order of $170,000 to $200,000 plus vehicle and full benefits for a city the size and complexity of AG.

Ms. Thompson is a very able public administrator with a descent and honorable track record.


FreeAGCouncil.com

If the City Manager of Arroyo Grande was a public servant, then she should have yielded to the will of the Mayor and have him have a say on agenda creation. Aye.. the servant part is clearly an overstatement.


Mitch C

I have not been privileged as to why what transpired. There may be Council policy or protocol in place that could have prevented such an agenda change. If there is or is not a procedure to develop an agenda an informal meeting with all concerned to iron out how things are done should resolve any problems … if it doesn’t then maybe Julie blindly stumbled upon something. But before the first stone is cast, try communication and cooperation (it surely will be far better than the expensive starting over because of misunderstandings).


justbeware

Misunderstanding?

No

Deliberate?

Yes, Thompson is deliberately trying to neutralize Hill and his continued efforts to expose AG’s ongoing waste of taxpayer $$$ on Brisco and other staff pet projects. We owe him a big thanks for giving Thompson no choice but to schedule that $pecial meeting. McClish certainly isn’t watching out for our $$$, now with Thompson providing cover she can continue to pour more and more of our money into the roundabout pit aka Brisco.


Mitch, please watch the videos of council meetings since Thompson came to town.

You will see she is always treated in the same calm, polite, and respectful manner by Mayor Hill as is anyone and everyone who attends the meetings.

There’s no justification for the JPIA complaint whatsoever.

Watch and see for yourself.

Ms. Tacker is onto something…


PismoPat

Mitch,


There should be no “Why.” Traffic was moving like gang busters under the Brisco Underpass and the city staff knew it.


But Dianne Thompson wanted a power play and delay the public hearing until AG paid to re-open the ramps so they could say it would not be wise to spend money to close them again.


It’s bureaucratic BS to make the Mayor look bad, but he didn’t buy it.


The City Manager is a servant of the people and the Mayor is the people’s representative. The Mayor is the only member of the Council re-affirmed by voters every two years and, in a 2 person election, the Mayor is elected by a MAJORITY of the voters.


That should mean something to the staff.


There should be no WHY.


dogeatdog

communication means you can speak to the other person, Dianne DOES NOT speak to the public, residents included.


I think when you are unwilling to meet with people that makes you UNcooperative.


I am speaking about Dianne as to nobody gets in to see the GREAT OZ.


Slowerfaster

This is precious….”…then she should have yielded to the will of the Mayor….”.

When, it was the blustering explosions that Tony Ferrara was exerting his ‘will’ as Mayor, as a Peyton Place dictator, that made the current situation an ongoing black comedy.


These people are NEVER pleased. Attention whores that can’t be satisfied.


justbeware

Get a grip.

Ferrara ruled with an iron fist. Not cool, voters agreed.

Now we have a fair and honest Mayor who’s not out for his own personal glory. How refreshing.

How many meetings did you attend when Mr. McFall was running the city? Did you notice how he worked with the ENTIRE council to move things forward? He was personable, outgoing and heads and shoulders above Thompson.

McFall made it a point to meet each and every city employee within a couple of weeks. Keep in mind he knew his job was temporary. If anyone has a reason not to put in much effort, it could have easily been him. Yet, his performance as interim puts the new permanent city manager to shame!

Thompson has been here nearly half a year and has done NOTHING to earn the respect of those who work under her—her team. Check out the thoughts of the people she represented in Cotati–you’ll find the same complaints.

She acts like she’s the short timer—let’s hope she’s right about that.


FreeAGCouncil.com

Tony Ferrara had 100% control over the agenda.

Mayor Hill wanted an ongoing issue on the agenda. Sounds like a good idea.

Seems like Briscoe needs to be on the agenda until decisions are made.


QUESTIONS:

Why is the City recommending the most expensive alternative even though they have no hope of paying for it?

This is a City who has NOT be able to pass any bonds.

They better buy a powerball ticket today.


Each alternative should include the price tag and funding mechanism alongside of the alternative.


This circus keeps getting more expensive with no solution.


swampfrogge

C.V she has never run a full service city, honorable track record????


She won’t meet with residents to discuss issues, she has not even meet all the staff. Honorable track record, that is not what Cotati is saying. Maybe you should go read some newspaper article that are written about how she left the town.


Julie should not speak on this subject I agree with you there. I am a resident and I don’t see that Dianne is doing anything. At least Bob McFall was talking to residents, speaking at meetings, very cordial and approachable. He would return phone calls and emails, he had an open door policy, much the same way Steve Adams did.


Local

You are incorrect. Dianne has met with many people, merchants and residents. She is extremely smart and cordial and very educated unlike some of the residents …… Julie needs to stay away. She causes nothing but trouble – and needs to mind her own business …..


FreeAGCouncil.com

When Tony Ferrera was the MAYOR, you bet he had rein over the City Council agenda.


The Mayor and the Mayor ProTem should be meeting with the City Manager to set the agenda. It is the three of them that should decide the pace of things. Obviously the City Staffer would have access to routine items that need to be included and quite possible have a draft agenda to present to the two elected officials.


These conversations are undoubtedly happening at the meeting because the new City Manager is unable to communicate with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem in this manner privately.


May I suggest that the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem and Manager meet ASAP and decide protocols that are agreeable to all!


Thomas A

Check out FB to see the new FireAdamHill.com t-shirts and all three versions of fliers. Pictures of the flier plastering campaign of each neighborhood and business of district 3 will be posted by each team leader. Fire Adam Hill in 2016!


justbeware

I’d be taking a hard look at that headhunter.

Sounds like AG was sold a bill of goods.

Cut your losses before she gets her claws in too deep.


sbjcl

Another bad decision. The council needs to remove her NOW and cut their losses.


Mr. Holly

Sounds to me like she has met all of the qualifications to be a controversial, overpaid, not qualified and do nothing city manager in San Luis Obispo county.


Pelican1

No more a bad fit than you are as a so called community activist / critic.


Slowerfaster

Good grief !

More mewling from the resident gadfly.


Kaiser Bill

Gadfly is the correct word here.


Is there a community Julie Tacker is not involved in now?


Pelican1

No…its a kin to a spreading cancer.


coltrane

Gladys Kravitz


Pelican1

Bingo!