It appears Arroyo Grande city manager’s days are numbered

June 21, 2016
Arroyo Grande City Manager Dianne Thompson

Arroyo Grande City Manager Dianne Thompson

The Arroyo Grande City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to immediately place its controversial General Manager Dianne Thompson on paid administrative leave.

In Aug. 2015, Thompson began working as 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.

For example, Thompson’s contract called for her to set a meeting to discuss her goals and priorities for the city within 45 days of employment. Thompson, however, never set the meeting. Thompson also failed to set performance reviews as required by her contract.

Upon her hire, Thompson touted the importance of transparency. However, under her leadership city phones often went unanswered and Thompson refused to return phone calls to many members of the press and public.

In closed session, the council voted to have Director of Public Works Geoff English serve as city manager for one week.

On June 29, the city council is slated to further discuss Thompson”s employment.

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.



Thank you AG City Council for the 5-0 vote to place Dianne Thompson on administrative leave. There is one more job to do and that is to terminate her and begin looking for a candidate who can do what McFall was able to do in his short time at the helm as Interim City Manager and that is bring a fractured city council together and build rapport inside the walls of city hall.

The City of Arroyo Grande deserves elected and employed professionals who will do the right thing, even when it is difficult. Keeping Dianne Thompson in her role as City Manger is not the right decision for the council to make, nor is it the right decision for the City of Arroyo Grande.

Our council and citizens deserve a City Manager who is responsive to questions, concerns, and requests. This should not be a combative relationship, and it is on many fronts. Our council and citizens deserve a City Manager who will build community and collaboration rather than bringing divisiveness and building factions.

Please continue to the good work you began yesterday and move to terminate Dianne Thompson, our city needs strong leadership from the council and from city hall.


Disappointing? Yes.

But this is far from the days of Ferrara led cover ups.

Good for Hill and the rest of the council for taking charge.


Quarter mil. Could be wrong but I don’t think technically potus would make much more. Super.

Ms. THompson is an introvert – something the city does not need. She was afraid of citizens and WORK. When the head hunter recommends someone, the Council must call past secretaries and fellow workers ( not the one on the resume either!).

The Council should continue with their goals – Ms. THompson seemed absent during the meeting anyways.

Maybe she wanted a nice place to retire to.

Gotta hand it to the headhunter tho’ – he placed her in A.G. And got her out of Cotati for their beleaguered City.

Try again.


I’m open to criticism on this, as it is coming from an AG resident that hasn’t worked in government.

Why must we continue to hire these cast-offs from other cities? Why not look internally to our staff or the staff of a neighboring community and pick a well-regarded local person with a good knowledge of our city. If that good person doesn’t have experience, pay them less, have them learn on the job, and even pay for some additional education. If you start with the right person and let them grow into the job, you will be better off than hiring a recycled failure.


I tried to make this same point when the SSLOCSD was looking for a new administrator. I would be interested in hearing why experience — no matter how bad — trumps both lower salaries and a dubious track record when selecting new administrators in public service. (I don’t know yet how the new SSLOCSD administrator will turn out. I was using that as an example of a process that needs examination.)

Is there such a shortage of people interested in doing these jobs that the only options are people with poor past history, people wanting exorbitant salaries or a combination of the two? Are those doing the hiring relying too much on headhunters who themselves rely on “networked” professionals instead of searching out potential up-and-comers?


It was clear from the beginning by Thompson’s actions that she saw herself working for staff more than working for the city council. This is a staff with many holdouts for the Ferrara days, a staff that needs a clearing, starting with McClish and there are several others that need to go. This fall we can hopefully also remove two more holdouts from Tony’s reign by replacing Guthrie and Barniech.


Hiring Thompson was a mistake, apparent almost from day one. She was able to undo the good work of McFall in nearly record time. Things went from hopeful to hopeless in a hurry. Thompson was not the right fit. It’s unfortunate, but not fatal. Learn from this and move on.

Thank you, council for acknowledging this and working to move AG forward in another direction.

It is imperative that the council research their next candidates more carefully.

A quick Google search of Thompson is revealing, almost none of it positive.

Put less faith in your headhunter, and more in yourselves to know what is best for the city.


1. Hire someone who knows who’s boss – the COUNCIL is in charge. The COUNCIL represents the people.

2. Hire someone whose goals are the COUNCIL’s goals for the City; not his/her own.

3. Tell the Joint Powers Insurance Agency to butt out and let the COUNCIL do its job.


Hmm, where else have I heard that word, “Transparency”? Oh well, must not have been important.


(way, way too hot today) Thank you for a laugh. Transparency and accountability appear to have disappeared from our government from the top down. Remember ” but if we were transparent, you would know what we are doing”. Thank you to Mary Malone for that quote.


BTW- whatever happened to Mary Malone? She used to be a frequent poster here.


CONGRATULATIONS AG City Council! It’s hard to admit to yourselves that this isn’t working and then have to make the costly decision to go this route. But, it’s best to pay the price to terminate than to let the collateral damage bleed on.

I have been critical of Ms. Thompson for a long time, it appeared to me early on that she wasn’t a good fit and violated her own contract in the first 3 months. What’s worse, in an effort to catch up and overcome those early blunders, she hired facilitators to perform her own duties and it looked like you all were OK with it. It is NOT OK to spend ratepayer money to hire others to do the job you contracted your CM to do.

Without the benefit of being in Closed Session, I have to guess that council finally sees that a contract is a contract and Ms. Thompson has been incapable of adhering to hers. The goal setting session last week was a terrible bore. The facilitator was preoccupied and can be seen texting during the meeting on the AGP video. Mayor Hill’s editorial yesterday clearly lays out the city’s problems and how the commitment made to the Fire Authority this next year will now cannibalize other departments of much needed funds during the remainder of their two-year budget cycle. That’s an inherent flaw in the FCFA funding system that hurts city staff and programs — something’s got to give.

The people of AG need to stand behind their council now and support the coming change. Help the council by reading the details of contracts and holding people accountable to abide by them. Better yet, help with some of the goofy language in the beginning. As an example, Ms. Thompson’s contract says she can’t be fired within 30 days on either side of an election. WTHeck? Council’s change, any council, old or new, should have the flexibility to change its city manager any time they want. Another change that needs to be implemented in these CM contracts is car allowance stipends have grown to be outrageous. Thompson’s was $400 a month whether she drove anywhere or not…insane!

Good luck AG, there’s a lot of work ahead of you. Change is hard, but it will be worth it.

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