Mayor Jim Hill responds to allegations

January 31, 2017
AG Mayor Jim Hill

AG Mayor Jim Hill


At Tuesday’s Arroyo Grande City Council meeting, Oceano residents and former South County Sanitation District directors Mary Lucey and Matt Guerrero alleged I acted inappropriately on the San District Board. By no coincidence, earlier that day SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow brought criminal conflict of interest charges against former sanitation district administrator and engineer John Wallace.

During prior service, I attempted to bifurcate Wallace’s contract to end his domination and engage other engineers.  Former Mayor Tony Ferrara and Grover Councilman Bill Nicolls blocked that, endorsing Wallace.

Later, attorney Guerrero joined the board supporting drawn out litigation orchestrated by Wallace against the Water Board regarding the 2010 sewage spill fine. Fearing intent to evade limitation statutes, former Grover Mayor Debbie Peterson opposed Ferrara and Guerrero but was outvoted.

Matt Guerrero

Matt Guerrero

Even after a SLO County Grand Jury report highlighted Wallace’s conflicts, Lucey and Guerrero sought to impede the district’s investigation by Carl Knudsen which prompted the criminal charges. Lucey often called the citizens’ group recommending Knudsen “haters.” Guerrero filed intimidating records requests on group members.

With overwhelming support, I prevailed with efforts to engage Knudsen.

Council member Caren Ray, who at the time was quick to denigrate the Grand Jury report and defend Wallace, immediately asked for investigation into Tuesday’s allegations:

·         Distributing unapproved employee contracts from closed session:  The attorneys retain documents discussed in closed session. I’ve never had copies to distribute. Finalized unapproved contracts are included in public board agenda packets.

·         Talking about closed session items: I may have spoken generally about a subject but not specifically confidential or attributable information. I am informed that a resident gadfly has listened at the door and reported discussion during several closed sessions.

·         Acting unilaterally: Intending to prevent wasting district resources, I’ve insisted that a costly investigation demanded by Mary Lucey’s partner not be authorized by Board Chairman John Shoals alone.

The sheriff’s office determined there was nothing substantive there. Related, Lucey’s continuous verbal sniping at sanitation district Superintendent John Clemons appears an attempt to belittle Clemons’ excellent record in comparison to Wallace’s.

·         Giving statements about an investigation in progress. This refers to the “he said she said” claim by Mary Lucey’s partner which the sherriff’s office deemed without merit. No investigation was in progress. I reiterate my intent not to engage in costly investigations to no purpose. Perhaps Lucey wants to waste district funds to make the draw down under Wallace seem more normal comparatively.

·         Giving my wife my email password: I haven’t given anyone my password. I will continue routinely to converse with my wife about issues.

·         Attempting to remove Administrator Gerhardt Hubner: On the contrary, although Mr. Hubner ‘s ties to John Wallace go back to the Avila Beach oil remediation and he has no prior wastewater treatment experience, he did assist positively in settling the Water Board litigation.

I have so far attempted to facilitate better relationships between Mr. Hubner and the staff of licensed operators who have done an excellent job running the plant and building a financial reserve since Wallace left. However I have serious concerns about Mr. Hubner’s management style and effectiveness leading the district. We’ve had personnel grievances, investigations, and contracting out work previously done by staff.

·         Commenting about ongoing litigation: Despite Guerrero and Lucey’s apparent past efforts to unnecessarily prolong Wallace’s Water Board lawsuit, there is no ongoing litigation to comment on.

Lucey and Guerrero know I oppose their campaign against Superintendent Clemons. As mayor, the Health and Safety Code provides that I be the Sanitation District Board member. I take that responsibility very seriously. I will continue there to act in the best interests of ratepayers, employees and regional cooperation.

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While Mayor Hill has to be frustrated by some of the irrational and dishonest attacks on him by those who oppose his positions, he almost always keeps his responses dignified and to the point. It is the type of maturity that we need much more of in local politics.

Mayor Hill,

Thank you for your service. I have worked on and off with you for the last 20 years or more: you in one department and I in another. Over that time I have come to know your honesty and integrity to be exemplary. You and Peterson have done an amazing job at correcting the South County Sanitation District’s deficiencies. Please don’t stop. The criminals haven’t yet been brought to justice.

Shoals = Shame

RP Tech that just retired

Well said! Many others agree with you.

I really feel we are getting close to exposing the other political leaders who will soon be brought to justice…their time will come!

Thank you Jim. I stand with you. Good work trying to expose and unravel the dirty politics.

I appreciate Mayor Hill’s attempt to clear the allegations against him. But, look at the source?

We all know Mary Lucey has a screw loose somewhere, but Matt Guerrero has a lot more at stake to start attacking. He is trying to become a Judge from what I hear! I am surprised that he’d involve himself in a petty fight.

I recommend we keep our eyes wide open with Caren Ray now back in the council seat. She is self serving and protects her “friends”. She will do anything to attack Jim Hill, because he unseated her friend Tony Ferrara.

What ever happened to looking out for the best interest of the City and ratepayers?

The other accuser is Patty Welsh, who is well known in the community to be physically aggressive and unhinged.

Here’s the transcript of Caren Ray’s comments supporting Tony Ferrara and John Wallace at the AG 6/14/11 council meeting.

“I wanna focus a little bit. When I read the Grand Jury report I spoke to a county supervisor (Adam Hill, who she was dating, and not the supervisor for her district) to understand the process. For members of the public and people reading the Tribune, and our constituents, when you hear the word ‘jury’ it makes it sound final. The Grand Jury makes a series of recommendations and the response, and it’s a process. The exercise of patience is important. The Grand Jury report is step one and not the final. The Grand Jury is not a court process and a finding and the truth. There’s not a one of us here on this Council who has more integrity than any I can think of. We all come up here with the utmost integrity. The purpose and findings of the Grand Jury are whether there is a perception. It is counter productive to argue about it. The rates are good evidence. In order to move forward what we are going to do from today to make sure this public perception is being taken care of.

Notices of Violation are being taken care of at other levels. From my point of view, I would like to offer that the recommendations in the Grand Jury report are based on the worst case scenario. If we were to accept the Grand Jury Report, which I do not do, the recommendations are telling us to go back and do what has already been put in process. The process is going forward properly. The board made good faith moves before the report came out. The Grand Jury report was written colloquially, with unprofessional finger pointing. The budget process should be modified to give information – easy fix. It will be addressed. It’s all being taken care of. In the worst case scenario, they’re all being taken care of assuming the Grand Jury report is correct. I’m sure when we see the Sanitation District responses there will be some middle ground. This is pointing us toward how to fix the perception problem. This report was in error in many places and this will restore public confidence. The essential problem is a perception. I hope I’ve helped to give people some vision as to the breadth of this process.

Tony (Ferrara, who she had dated) suggested taking contracts and Grand Jury reports back to the councils for a second opinion. I want to assure customers that the plant is working just fine. The America in Bloom judges took a tour of the sanitation district. They went out there and visited the plant because one of the categories we were judged in was environmental. They commented that the Cogen plant had cut utility costs in half (Actually, it only did for a few months. After that it never worked and the supplier bankrupted out. This cost the District around $1m and they’re still repaying the loan on the defunct equipment.) They were amazed that five people could run that plant.”

How do you put Patty Welsh as “an accuser” in this issue? She has been on the opposite side of the fence from Mary Lucey/Matt Guerrero/etc. all along. She is quite vocal and intense about what she thinks but the comparison ends there.

She is now working with Mary Lucey and was one of the accusers at the city council meeting that Mayor Hill references. She has been vocally abusive to Mayor Hill at several meetings of late. Check out the SLOSPAN videos and you can verify.

The ultimate political swamp!

The likes of Ferrara, Ray and Guerrero have never had their primary interest be the ratepayers and the community they serve.

Ray wants back in the saddle at the Supes table.


Hopefully, this sordid matter will be unfolded by SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow’s conflict of interest indictment of John Wallace.

The specific roles of Lucey, Guerrero, Bill Nichols, Tony Ferrara and Karen Ray should be detailed in depositions on the matter,

Mayor John Shoals would best serve the management of Sanitation District by appointing Debbie Peterson to the three member Board. She and Jim Hill were responsible and courageous in highlighting the issues that have been covered up by tactics to impede the full disclosure of the facts of the matter.

Something stinks here, and it is not the effervescent emanations of District facility. The stench is political and appears deep and compelling.

There should be no deals to settle this matter. District Attorney Dow has the reputation and character to establish the truth here. I pray he does so ehe citizens will know the facts on the matter. “The truth will out!”

When it came time for the Grover Beach City Council to appoint people to the SSLOCSD board this month, Mayor Shoals again wanted Bill Nicolls’ wife, Barbara to be his alternate, despite the fact that other council members, including Peterson, had said they would like to be the alternate. Council member Peterson reminded Nicolls that she had twice said she had a “vested interest” – once in a SSLOCSD meeting, and once in a Grover Beach City Council meeting. Peterson went on to ask if Nicolls could explain what her vested interest is, and if she felt it was in her best interest, the City’s, the Council’s and the Ratepayers’ best interests for her to continue as alternate if she had a vested interest.

Her response? “I don’t remember saying that.” Here’s what she said with regard to being the alternate for the SSLOCSD:

12/21/15 Item 9. Appointment of Council Members to Various Boards, Commissions, and Committees “I kind of have a vested interest in staying on…”

At the 8/9/15 SSLOCSD Board Meeting Barbara Nicolls voted to approve 5 separate agenda items: Minutes, Warrants, Emergency Action, District Billing and Vacation Policy. There was only one agenda item she refused to approve, and that was the Knudson Report investigating her husband, Bill Nicolls, item. 5B. SSLOCSD Status Report & Request for Additional Resources by Carl Knudson Associates for Review of Past Management Practices. She refused to second a motion for approval and moved that it be postponed.

“Something stinks here, and it is not the effervescent emanations of District facility. The stench is political and appears deep and compelling”.

Time to include Tony Ferrara and bill Nichols and their LLCs in this investigation.

And to Welsh. She could have conveyed her points in a much more professional manner not in a public arena. She looked small.

I’m still peeved that Wallace charged the district ($20K) to return their own files (55 file boxes) after he purged and digitized them. That’s extortion.

Then the Knutson Report says the files are a mess. In August Hubner leased a temporary office trailer for $500 a month (plus furnishings, cable, electricity and running IT through/to it — cha-ching) to make it easy to organize those files, but according to the Hubner report on this weeks agenda, some of those records are now housed at the DA’s office. The trailer’s permit runs out at the end of August. What then? Extend the permit? Prolong the expenses? It’s cost nearly $20,000 so far and only moved into in December.

Jim Hill is the adult in the room. He obviously takes his job seriously and acts in the interest of our rate payers.

On the other hand we have Mary Lucey and her dingbat wife who are about as obnoxious as they get. Their behavior is best described as moronic.

Caren Ray and Guerrero are dishonest politicians. Their hands are likely as dirty as Lucey.

Wake Up People Caren Ray is a idiot , among other things .. You put her butt back in the seat , She is a Nut from the word go “The Running Hairs” … Ask Chuck Fellows about that of we just run naked once in a while , Show a little Butt… So is Just Like Anderson, remember him..

How can the city of AG elect these guys .. Stupid is what stupid does Forest !

I feel the main reason Caren Ray got elected was a lack of union from the other side, there were three candidates running and had they gotten together and selected just one they stood a good chance of defeating Ray and Barneich. Think of it this way, had two or three people run against Ferrara for mayor likely Wallace’s theft of rate payer’s money would still be going on and Ferrara would not of had to sell his house quickly and run off to Palm Springs. What we can hope is in two years a little unity happens and Harmon is voted out, until then we have to hope Ray, Barneich and Harmon don’t do too much damage.

Harmon will be running for mayor!

Ray ignored the Grand Jury report on the San District.

There is so much we do not know about Tony ( Pam Springs) Ferrara.

I am not a fan of Caren Ray and hope that she is not re-elected next time around. However, your reason for criticizing her is irrelevant to her political position. Being a bit foolish and crazy recreationally is not a basis for political criticism. Her apparent loyalty to the county Democrat machine and its developer patrons are much more important in judging her suitability for office.

Taken in context, when that sexually explicit behavior is on facebook and extends to her interactions with students she coaches, and mentions them in facebook posts, while she has two young children, it indicates at best, a lack of judgment and absence of the kind of conscientiousness we would hope for in the people we elect to represent us. I would prefer to elect folks who I would trust with my children and my grandchildren. And that’s putting it nicely.

How about her ability to ignore the Grand Jury?

Let Caren Ray be famous for her complete ignorance about the theft going on by Wallace, Ferrara and Nichols at the San District!

She approved it.

Maybe she was ignorant, maybe not. Either way, she aided and abetted a crime against the people she swore to serve and continues to work alongside Wallace’s cronies to discredit any who have stood up to him and his ilk.

Once again, Mayor Hill takes the high road. Transparency, facts, working for the people. The others mentioned, not so much. Whining, tantrums, obstruction. I’d expect to see them at the next protest gathering in dark hoodies swinging sticks at newstands and store-front windows.