Arroyo Grande council votes for investigation into mayor

February 15, 2017

Mayor Jim Hill

The Arroyo Grande City Council voted Tuesday to launch an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct raised by members of the public against Mayor Jim Hill. Political opponents of Hill have pushed hard in recent weeks for an investigation.

Certain public speakers, including two of Hill’s former colleagues on the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District board, have accused the Arroyo Grande mayor of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act.

The allegations pertain primarily to Hill’s service on the sanitation district board. Hill has denied the allegations, publicly refuted them and characterized them as a political attack.

On Tuesday, Hill recused himself from a council hearing on the issue. The council then voted 4-0 to allocate $15,000 for an investigation into Hill’s purported Brown Act violations. Arroyo Grande is going to try to share the cost of the investigation with the sanitation district.

Council members defended their decision to pay for an independent investigation by saying the city would be at risk of a lawsuit if it did not investigate the allegations.

The controversy surrounding Hill began on Jan. 24, when Arroyo Grande resident Patty Welsh spoke at a city council meeting. Welsh claimed that Hill shared his email password with his wife and distributed an employment contract that had yet to be approved by the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board.

Welsh also accused Hill of revealing information discussed during a closed session hearing. She then accused Hill of serving as puppet for other interests at the sanitation district.

“The biggest problem I have is I no longer feel that this council member is looking out for what is in the best interest of the city of Arroyo Grande or the ratepayers of the sanitation district,” Welsh said at the Jan. 24 meeting. “I am no longer sure if it is our council member setting policy on the sanitation district or someone very close to him.”

Welsh is a controversial figure who has disrupted city meetings in the past.

Welsh’s evidence that Hill shared confidential records is an email Hill sent her on April 6, 2016 with an unsigned contract for sanitation district Administrator Gerhardt Hubner. Welsh claims the contract was confidential at the time Hill sent it to her, and that his sharing of the contract is a violation of the Brown Act.

The Brown Act exempts agencies from discussing several issues in open session, such as litigation, employee reviews and real estate and labor negotiations. However, proposed management contracts and other agency business are not exempted.

On Feb. 1, Welsh repeated her allegations at a sanitation district board meeting where she handed in a copy of the April 2016 email string showing Hill shared the contract with her on April 6.

And while Welsh claims the email string is proof of wrongdoing, the unsigned contract was available to the public on April 3, when it was published in an agenda packet.

Former Oceano CSD directors and sanitation board members, Mary Lucey and Matt Guerrero, followed Welsh during public comment last month and, too, attacked Hill. Lucey called for the city council to intervene to prevent Hill from abusing his position as a sanitation district board member. Guerrero called for an investigation into Welsh’s allegations against Hill and for the mayor to possibly resign from the sanitation board.

Welsh, Lucey and Guerrero raised the allegations on the same day SLO County District Attorney Dan Down indicted former sanitation district administrator John Wallace on conflict of interest charges. For years, Lucey and Guerrero defended Wallace, while Hill fought to let the conflict of interest case against Wallace unfold.

Hill wrote in a CalCaostNews opinion piece that it was no coincidence Lucey and Guerrero raised the allegations after, earlier that day, Dow brought criminal conflict of interest charges against Wallace. Hill went on to refute Welsh’s accusations.

The Arroyo Grande mayor said he has not given anyone his password, but he routinely converses with his wife about issues. Hill also said he has spoken generally but not specifically about confidential information raised during closed session. Likewise, Hill said he has never distributed closed session documents.

The firm that may received a $15,000 contract to investigate Hill’s actions is Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore reviewed the tape of the Jan. 24 meeting and said the allegations against Hill “warrant an independent investigation.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, six members of the public addressed the council about the issue. One of the public commenters spoke in favor of an independent investigation, while the other five speakers opposed the idea. Opponents said the push to investigate Hill’s actions is a waste of money.







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20 Comments

  1. GETACLUE1 says:

    Have you met Patty? She has the brains of a piss ant. Asking how stupid could you be must be rhetorical. The other two, well even put together they do not make one brain. It’s quite comical to watch and hear them during council meetings. I feel bad for Jim. These two will undermine him no matter what because “”Their Boy” Waller lost by a land slide.

    (7) 9 Total Votes - 8 up - 1 down
  2. GETACLUE1 says:

    Isn’t if funny that the accuser Patty “pothead” Welch is the one making these claims. Let it be known that Patty was once Friends with the Mayor, served on his first election committee and visited many times at his home. Patty is throwing a tantrum because she has hurt feelings and a personal axe to grind. One who takes down Mayor Hill’s signs during the election months, and harasses business who support Jim is not a person worth wasting time on. Anyone who knows or even Speaks to Jim Hill would know he is a man of character, and honor. Jim is an upstanding Mayor who has been transparent it all doings Sanitation District and acting as Arroyo Grande Mayor. What a waste of tax payer money. Patty Welch is a disgrace to the community.

    (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
  3. kayaknut says:

    So funny that Caren Ray is demanding an investigation now and just a short time after the action that Mayor Hill did that she claims is the issue. Wasn’t she on the council before while John Wallace stole ratepayer’s money and that had been going on for years and there had been issues with city manager Steve Adams repeatedly and all that time Caren Ray was quite as a mouse. Can you say hypocrite.

    (18) 26 Total Votes - 22 up - 4 down
    • AGDUDE says:

      Are You Shocked, Remember The Wild Hair …Group Runners she belonged to ? they had a video of her standing there.. As guy pulls his pants down , and there was drinking involved Caren Ray , is whats wrong with this country..

      No Concept of right & wrong, what about the Historic house she bought, and her raising hell with everyone that lived around her… New Flash This Woman is a NUT.. Did you read the email she wrote to folks? ..

      I wish those would come up again.. very rude person.. Ground NOT I say!

      (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  4. Pelican1 says:

    Welch, Lucey, and Guerrero are the second coming of the Three Stooges.
    Can you guess who’s who?

    (21) 31 Total Votes - 26 up - 5 down
  5. AGDUDE says:

    In the words of the Joker “This Town needs a Enema” .. A NEW Brooms sweeps Clean!

    (21) 31 Total Votes - 26 up - 5 down
  6. abigchocoholic says:

    What a cast of clowns.

    What’s the harm to the community that Hill is alleged to have done?

    As soon as people get into politics, some switch goes off and the turn into petty, vindictive fools.

    Sad.

    (30) 48 Total Votes - 39 up - 9 down

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