Arroyo Grande city manager terminated

June 29, 2016

Dianne Thompson

The Arroyo Grande City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to fire its General Manager Dianne Thompson, who the council placed on paid administrative leave last week.

Thompson will receive six months severance pay, or approximately $115,000. While the council did not provide a reason for Thompson’s termination, inside sources said that several high-ranking city staffers had voiced concern about Thompson’s job performance.

Because Thompson worked for the city for less than a year, if the city council engages the recruiter who vetted Thompson, Peckham and McKenney Executive Search, they will only be charged expenses. Even so, some members of the public question the firms vetting process as a quick internet search shows that Thompson had similar issues with previous employers.

In Aug. 2015, Thompson began working as the Arroyo Grande city manager for an annual compensation of approximately $229,000, including salary and benefits. During the past 10 months, members of the public and the council have questioned Thompson’s performance.

While Thompson touted the importance of transparency, she failed to return phone calls to the press, members of the public and even some council members.

In closed session, the council voted to have Director of Public Works Geoff English serve as interim city manager while they begin the search for a new city manager.

After 14 years as city manager, in Nov. 2014, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted unanimously to place Steve Adams on paid administrative leave after reviewing an investigation into an alleged sex scandal. The council then voted to terminate Adams and search for a new city manager.

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Where else can you be a complete failure and get fired. and rewarded for your services? But worst of all get paid $115,000 dollars for being incompetent. Only in governmnet. All of us who are business owners know how it would really happen.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is followed up with some type of harassment or discrimination law suit that will be settled for another large payout.

We the taxpayer celebrate Christmas thru out the year by giving these gifts away.

You know what would piss you all off? If you had an actual accounting of their day-to-day “work” – i.e. a bunch of time “preparing for” and “digesting” meetings; reading e-mails; sending e-mails; deleting e-mails; more meetings; more e-mails. It’s a tough job! Heck, they may actually have to direct someone (or some out-sourced third party) to draft up a letter or two… or put a report together to attach your name to… why the work-load is STAGGERING for the paltry $229,000 position!

You’ll never admit it, but you miss Adams just a little bit.

No, I miss intelligent, responsible adults being paid realistic wages for competent, quality work. Or at least as close as they can, as government employees. Government employees should ALWAYS make LESS than employees in the private sector, because most of these public leeches could not survive in the professional world, much less do something on their own competitively, so why are we paying them like they can?

The public sector has overrun the public sector. It doesn’t get any better except maybe for the crooks on Wall Street and the New York Bankers.

Would love to hear from both Guthrie and Brown, weren’t they responsible for working with the firm vetting the candidates? Mostly Mr. Brown because we all know Guthrie is a lost cause and hopefully gone after this fall’s election

“Even so, some members of the public question the firms vetting process as a quick internet search shows that Thompson had similar issues with previous employers.”

This shows total lack of due diligence by the city council members who hired her. This is unfortunately totally typical. SLO has a poorly performing city manager found for the city by another costly head hunting firm. Why don’t council members do their own independent research on people they hire — Google, call people in places the prospective hire used to work, etc.? In SLO’s case, the manager’s present shortcomings can be verified as happening in the past with a 5 minute Google search of news articles. A half hour of phone calls would have revealed more. Had the SLO council done this before hiring her, would they have still hired her? The fearsome part is the answer’s probably “yes.” Maybe they’re happy with defective merchandise.

The City must do it’s homework and add a probationary clause within the job description. There’s no reason NOT to have one! Further the City needs to quit offering these huge salaries right off the bat. Offer less along with the probationary clause with the caveat that upon completion of a satisfactory probationary period (at least one year) the employee could qualify for a certain percentage of a raise.

Lots of people would love to live in this area, so you are selling yourself short not to tighten up your requirements and hold people accountable.

Pshah! Come on, that’s a lot of work for a measly $229,000 a year position.

The incident of the City Manager’s firing is truly a very sad event. I stated to her in a personal interview with her at the time she was hired how very important it was that she succeed in her position – that she must defend the Council.

But in my first interview she appeared careless and in “fact rude. And she instead of being a factor in bringing harmony to the Council she in fact contributed to its disharmony – particularly in not recognizing the grace and articulate influence of the new Mayor, Jim Hill.

But at the time I was not offended, hopefully believing she was just new to the job and the “hard edges” would wear off. As subsequent events unfolded the hard edges remained, much to her and the citizen’s loss.

We must recognize that the failure here is that of the Council’s. The hangover from the Ferarra administration was a factor – but there has been been an acknowledged contention here that contributed to the new city manager’s demise. But instead of managing this she appeared to contribute to it.

Let’s cut to the net on the issue now facing Arroyo Grande:

The citizens of Arroyo Grande do not need a “superior executive” to manage the budget of the city. It has a capable person in Geoff English to perform this function. The Council needs turnover of certain members this year, recognizing that in Guthrie’s case, he has especially been a loyal and confident contributor in the past. But, like a good wine consumed, it is time to go.

The city has a competent financial manager in Debbie Malicoat and a dedicated and competent Chief of Police. The City should consider abandoning the FCFA, and recognize that doing business with Oceano unbalances the quest for good government.

This begs the question if waste water is managed as a district then why not water consumption? But these issues are shadowed by the agony of the city manager’s firing.

It is time to come to recognize that in this year of political turmoil it is a time to become sensible – that 85% of the the city’s budget is managed in closed session dominated by union considerations – Fire, Police and SEIU. That it does not take a genius to manage these largely political issues — where in the total world-wide format — the questioning of governing institutions – local, County, State and Federal – and International – are framed in the context if the citizen receiving the right return for the ever growing burden of taxes being administered.

As a requiem for the parting of its city manager, it all starts here in Arroyo Grande in this political year.

I really liked this reply. Very good, Otis. Thank you.

Well, again- let’s not rush to pop any champagne corks just yet.

Let’s keep in mind that Peckham and McKenney recommended her above all the other candidates for the job, and then the Council went ahead and hired her in the first place.

Now, it’s time for somebody to step up and make damn sure that Arroyo Grande gets the competent qualified effective city manager that they deserve.

How do I apply for the position. I’ll do the job for 100K per year. Then when they fire me I can get 50K severance. Look at all the $$$ I can save the city.

It’s really quite a racket, isn’t it?! Do a crappy job and get bounced from one city to the next. With these fat, taxpayer funded severances, a crappy manager can make a pretty decent living and travel the country getting fired every year or two. I’m guessing the city likely paid to pack her crap and move her here as part of her hiring incentive?

Oh, that whole “moving allowance” incentive, frosts me so much.

It is a deduction that a taxpayer can take on their own tax return. The city, if they would like to be generous, should require receipts for the ACTUAL cost of moving, to reimburse (up to a certain amount), versus the thousands of dollars that are thrown at the new employee, with zero accountability.

It totally is a racket and the city wastes taxpayer dollars on it every time.

Don’t even get me started on the grossly imbalanced “health insurance” racket the city council members abuse.

Kristen Barneich can insure her entire family, for thousands of taxpayer dollars, while her employed SB County fire-fighter husband doesn’t use his and the SB taxpayers pay him to NOT use it. Racket, racket, racket, racket.

Why would a city want accountability for a measly few thousand dollars of moving allowance, when they don’t give a crap about 100’s of thousands, or millions?

It is an accountability problem: they see no problem, because they have no accountability.

Hold your horses – I’ll do it for $99K per year. Just a joke, but so is most of the overly paid

employees of cities in this county. Just look at the old geezer Paso hired recently.

Salary + benes of over $350K. And name just 1 confirmed thing he has done for the proven good of the citizens of this city? 6 months on the job and what do we have??

There’s no way I could afford to out-source my job on the tax-payer’s dime for a mear $100K/year. It’d take giving me at least $200K/year to fake it…