Arroyo Grande city manager a bad fit
June 27, 2016
OPINION by JULIE TACKER
Arroyo Grande should say goodbye to Dianne Thompson as its city manager.
Over the course of her short tenure, she has been unapproachable and standoffish. Public records reflect Thompson was unwilling to meet with members of the public and even refused to meet with a planning commissioner.
Thompson repeatedly asked citizens to put their concerns in writing before she would determine whether or not she would speak with them.
Only recently, she took a page out of Mayor Jim Hill’s playbook, where he has had some neighborhood “coffee with the mayor” chats. Thompson held a couple of “coffee with the city manager” where she’s met with a handful of residents and business owners to discuss their concerns about the city.
Early on, Thompson violated her contract by failing to have a goal setting session with her council by her 45th day on the job. An early goal setting session would have been helpful in setting the city’s priorities as the council (her boss) sees them.
When she was finally forced to have her contract required six-month review, in her eighth month of employment, she hired a facilitator to perform the review. This was the job of the council and it came at a cost of nearly $5,000 to the cash-strapped city. Later, when she decided to follow through on goal setting, she again hired a facilitator — to do her job. Final cost yet to be determined.
Thompson has been divisive, rather than placing matters of importance to Mayor Hill on the agenda, she sought a consensus of the council to give her direction.
The mayor has legislative authority to hold a special meeting to have an item heard. To force his hand, having to call a special meeting, is time consuming and as such is a costly maneuver for the city. Only once or twice did Mayor Hill exercise that ability, had Thompson simply put the items on the agenda, the items could have been thoroughly considered and not in haste.
Thompson did not take kindly to constructive criticism, when the mayor and Councilman Tim Brown (two of her bosses) challenged her in public on the Brisco Road closure, somehow the city’s insurance company’s assistant executive director wrote a scathing letter to the mayor suggesting he and Brown’s comments “…made in a public setting could lead to allegations of harassment and a hostile workplace at your city. We consider these practices, if continued, to be serious in nature and inconsistent with good governance.”
A second letter from the insurance company, this time from its chief executive officer, quickly back tracked from that statement.
The city has been suffering without tax revenue from the former Haggan grocery store. The building has been empty since mid-November. The mayor took a lot of grief for writing a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in February expressing his personal views about the vacancy.
It’s important to note that Hill’s views mirror those of the majority of the council; all are concerned about the lost revenues to the city.
Further investigation using the California Public Records Act, showed Thompson was untruthful in answering an Arroyo Grande citizen’s question about the grocery store vacancy.
“We have been doing outreach to property owners, the leasing company and potential tenants for the vacant Haggen’s site since last fall,” Thompson said.
Yet, Thompson’s emails and calendar don’t begin to reflect interest in the empty store issue until mid-April.
Arroyo Grande can do better. The council can make lemons into lemonade — move on, get down to the business of setting goals and buckle down to tackle the important issues such finances, water, sewer, fire and police protection, parking and traffic.