Sanitation district joins Arroyo Grande in misconduct investigation
March 2, 2017
By KAREN VELIE
The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District voted 2-0 on Wednesday to pay half the cost for an investigation into allegations of misconduct raised by a resident of Arroyo Grande against Mayor Jim Hill.
Earlier this year, Patty Welsh accused Hill of violating the Ralph M. Brown Act. During an Arroyo Grande City Council meeting, Welsh said Hill shared his email password with his wife and distributed an employment contract that had yet to be approved by the sanitation district board.
Hill has publicly refuted the allegations and characterized them as a political attack.
Shortly after the district attorney’s office lodged conflict of interest charges against former sanitation district administrator John Wallace, two former supporters of Wallace asked the Arroyo Grande City Council to investigate Walsh’s allegations. Hill had strongly advocated for an investigation into Wallace.
The Arroyo Grande City Council then voted 4-0 in February to allocate $15,000 for an investigation into Hill’s purported Brown Act violations and to ask the sanitation district to pick up 50 percent of the cost, $7,500.
On Wednesday, Hill recused himself from the sanitation district meeting while the two remaining members discussed the Arroyo Grande Council’s request.
During the sanitation district meeting, several public speakers voiced concerns over the firm that recommended the investigation because it is also slated to conduct the investigation. The firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore is in expected to perform the investigation.
Former sanitation district board member Mary Lucey said she supported an investigation into Hill. Lucy then questioned the cost of the Wallace investigation and the findings of criminal wrongdoing against Wallace.
While most public speakers supported Hill, several requested the sanitation district agree to help fund the investigations in order to clear Hill’s name.
John Shoals, the sanitation district board chair, said the board needs to protect and support whistleblowers and that Hill deserved to have his name cleared.
“If we have to go through this to clear his name, we have to get to the bottom of this,” Shoals said.
Karen White, the Oceano Community Services District representative to the sanitation district, said that she was dismayed over the amount of discord surrounding the district.
“I support an investigation,” White said. “And maybe, just maybe, this will be the last time it is needed.”