Sanitation district joins Arroyo Grande in misconduct investigation

March 2, 2017

AG Mayor Jim Hill

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.

Mary Lucey

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.”







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23 Comments

  1. LeAnn says:

    Isn’t it interesting that Mary Lucey wants an investigation into Hill, but at the same time questions the investigation and current charges against Wallace? How lopsided and unbalanced is that? Mary Lucey does not, and has not appreciated the role of Mayor Hill since his first election and his efforts to make changes and get to the bottom of bad practices—he, along with other steadfast citizens pressed the issues facing the San District, issues, which Mary Lucey in her tenure on the board, actively ignored and openly chastized the people working for change. I think we all need to recognize why Mary Lucey is involved in this—clearly she has something to lose with the outcome of the Wallace investigation and feels she has something to gain by going after Mayor Hill.

    In general, people who tell the truth, or seek the truth are not popular—Mayor Hill, along with other residents of AG and Grover Beach, and Oceano lost popularity because of their role in seeking and speaking it—

    It is time for people to ignore Ms. Lucey and refuse to tolerate her behavior. I find it disheartening that current members of AG City’s Council are listening to her. Let’s not forget, Caren Ray and her open refusal regarding facts found by the Grand Jury regarding the San District, a staunch supporter of Ferrara, and seeming supporter of Wallace given her prior statements as a council member.

    This is just more of the same political ranglings of past administrations—people more concerned with making a name for themselves than serving in the public’s interest. More political positioning to build a power base, to inflict their will on the public. The public servants continue to be short-sighted and only concerned with their position as opposed to focusing on the actual business of the people.

    It is unfortunate to know that sometimes we get the government we deserve—

    (38) 60 Total Votes - 49 up - 11 down
    • kayaknut says:

      It may not be that Mary Lucey necessarily has something to lose or gain but that she is being used by certain political people, some currently on area councils and boards and some away such as living in Palm Springs area and King City, to keep the attention away from them. She may have been told to “be herself” which everyone knows to be a little(or lot) off center and do everything she can to keep the light off past crimes.

      (12) 26 Total Votes - 19 up - 7 down
    • LeAnn says:

      The last comment I would make on this situation and the status of the Arroyo Grande City Council is this…while a recall of certain councilmembers might be a large undertaking—I think that our community really has to think about the direction we are headed and if we can truly trust the current council to to make the best decisions for the community.

      Knowing that three council members actively worked against Mayor Hill’s re-election should give us all pause about the ability of those council members to be transparent, unbiased, and noble in their actions on behalf of the citizens who they represent (whether we voted for them or not). Just because I did not vote for Harmon, Ray, or Barneich, does not mean they do not represent me—they do, I just disagree with how they are representing me.

      The question is this: Are we going to allow ourselves to become (or remain) hostages to unethical and politically motivated actions from our councilmembers? Or are we going to wake up and begin to see that alternatives to the old guard exist? We just have to be brave enough to act and elect them to the leadership positions.

      (28) 48 Total Votes - 38 up - 10 down
  2. Otis says:

    Grover Beach Mayor and Sanitation Board Chairman John Shoals expressed the real issue on this matter: the disparagement of Jim Hill:

    “’If we have to go through this to clear his name, we have to get to the bottom of this,’ Shoals said.”

    Hill has been disparaged – without the opportunity to clear his name until the investigation is complete.

    This is absolutely unfair! The City Council of AG and the Board of the Sanitation District are facilitators to the unfairness of the investigation. There were and are better ways to handle this. Why?

    Hill as of this writing has never seen an exact specification of the allegations against him. He is now guilty until he can establish his innocence.

    What is really behind this?

    That disparagement, as Lucey affirmed in her statement in the meeting, deals with Jim Hill’s role that has led to the indictment of Wallace.

    Hill joined present Grover Beach Council member, Debbie Peterson as “whistleblowers” (as Shoal’s proclaims) on Wallace’s alleged operational indiscretions. That takes courage and character. The complaint issued by contrarian Patty Welch, joined by Lucey and Guerrero, may be a tactic to disparage and intimidate with an objective of undermining Hill’s testimony in the Wallace action now being contested in court.

    The District Attorney should be involved in this investigation considering the possibility of intimidation and the possible undermining the character of the witness– a typical legal tactic that Guerroro certainly understands being a defense attorney, a tactic now prevalent in politics to destroy the messenger with the objective to undermine the message,

    Yes, something stinks here – and it is not the effervescing emanations from the now competently run Sanitation facility.

    (16) 22 Total Votes - 19 up - 3 down
    • discloser says:

      Shoals is trying to come out smelling good, but in fact, he has disparaged, thwarted, and undermined Hill for the last 3 years, voting with Lucey and Guerrero at every turn. He obstructed the Knudson report for over a year, and to this day continues to support Wallace. He covered for Wallace for over a decade and the FPPC investigation into Shoals’ failure to disclose ghost LLCs and holdings is still ongoing.

      (18) 20 Total Votes - 19 up - 1 down
  3. Julie says:

    Funny thing; Mary Lucey claimed at the SSLOCSD meeting that the AG City Manager is asking for the investigation, not she and Guerrero.
    She’s so cloudy she can’t even keep her lies straight.

    (30) 46 Total Votes - 38 up - 8 down
    • Julie says:

      Here’s what Lucey said 3/1/17 …“A city manager asked for an investigation. It wasn’t somebody from, you know, outside in the neighborhood, a disgruntled, you know, loud mouth woman from Arroyo Grande. It was the city manager of Arroyo Grande. It wasn’t somebody from Oceano, you know, we said support the request, that’s what we said.”…

      Now go read the staff report…Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, LLC, recommended the investigation, and they are the ones getting the job.

      (13) 25 Total Votes - 19 up - 6 down
      • LeAnn says:

        So much for an independent investigation….and if Snoid is correct in saying that Wallace is partially responsible for funding the investigation on Hill—that lends even less credence to an independent investigation…If Wallace is funding part of the investigation, where is his money? Was it given to the San District or was it given to the AG City Council? Maybe the DA does need to be brought into this—

        I am tired of the bad behavior and decision-making skills of our city leaders—I still claim a recall is necessary to set the path of our city straight—and it doesn’t really matter who is recalled first, Harmon, Barneich, and Ray are all equally damaging to our city.

        (14) 22 Total Votes - 18 up - 4 down
  4. RonHolt says:

    The huge financial hit that the SSLOCSD took during the last half of “the Wallace years” got its start with cronyism. There is way too little critical thinking by many administrators and politicians when it comes to dealing with each other and those who routinely come in contact with them (i.e. developers, lawyers, engineers).

    First comes casual friendships which morph into closer friendships as encounters become more frequent. Then the “we’re the ones who know and we can just ignore the stupid citizens” attitudes develop. This evolves into contempt for those “on the outside” and cronyism and corruption gradually become acceptable. Done well, this can go on for over a decade (as in the Wallace case) before a few determined, honest and intelligent citizens start to realize that they can’t just rely on “experts” to do the right thing.

    Stopping cronyism before it starts can keep this from happening. That is why the choice of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore is bad policy and should be retracted. The AG City Council and the SSLOCSD should not be tolerating this apparent conflict of interest. In doing so, they make any negative outcome suspect which will only prolong the rancor between supporters of Jim Hill and his political opponents.

    (34) 42 Total Votes - 38 up - 4 down
    • discloser says:

      Wise words, Ron, and true. Would that more of the citizens of Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Oceano would pay attention. They would be very upset to see the lack of respect for citizens shown by their elected “representatives” and the amount paid for one of the best examples of the worst possible management around, and the money wasted because of the ineptitude of the board and administrator.

      (23) 37 Total Votes - 30 up - 7 down
  5. Pelican1 says:

    The sanitation district joined the fray because they are full of $hit!

    (25) 35 Total Votes - 30 up - 5 down
  6. copperhead says:

    Looks like Mary Lucey has gone off the reservation again!!

    (42) 52 Total Votes - 47 up - 5 down
    • RonHolt says:

      Damn it! I hate being put in a position where I have to defend Mary Lucey. The “going off the reservation” comment is, if not directly racist, at least very crude and ignorant. Exhibit some class and stop using it — even if it is to provoke someone whose lack of integrity shows every time she speaks at an SSLOCSD meeting.

      (-27) 47 Total Votes - 10 up - 37 down
      • horse_soldier says:

        Then don’t Ron. Make your comments about the original comment.
        Lucey is indefensible.

        (20) 26 Total Votes - 23 up - 3 down
        • copperhead says:

          Ron

          You fall into the trap created by the Mary Luceys of the world. In 2015 a citizen made a comment about the general manager of the OCSD going off the reservation. Ms lucey treated it as if it were a hate crime.

          How dare anyone say something that could possibly offend someone else? Btw it’s perfectly ok for her to smear the reputation of an honorable man while hiding behind a shield of anything said against me will be construed as racist or sexist.

          The lack of integrity and lack of professionalism, character and ability to do her job are beyond reproach as an aggrieved minority. This is the nonsense you support.

          (11) 15 Total Votes - 13 up - 2 down
  7. Otis says:

    A quote from one who knows: “This is a clear cut case of “Kill the Messenger” and a direct attack on a whistle-blower by the guilty parties who stood by for over a decade and ignored the public, actively obstructing those who spoke out, silencing them with threats, systemic word of mouth derogatory rumors, and smeared the names of their own committee appointees by calling them racists. These are the people going after Jim Hill.”

    (29) 39 Total Votes - 34 up - 5 down
  8. circlingthedrain says:

    Now would be the perfect time to nominate Hill for Citizen of the Year.

    (30) 40 Total Votes - 35 up - 5 down
    • Snoid says:

      Never happen, Hill is a honorable, community interested individual. Not a murdered or pedophile of thief. Brown act violation, seriously? From personal experiences I cant count how many times Seitz, Wallace, Ferrara, Nichols of any of the others mouthed off, lied, violated the Brown and Freedom of information act bla,bla. It was so pitifully bad and obvious yet nobody gave a damn and did anything. Now the obvious problem is crying foul? A Witch hunt and waste of tax dollars.

      (31) 41 Total Votes - 36 up - 5 down
  9. fhill123 says:

    Sounds like a variation of Tempest in a Teapot!! Will Liebert et al pay themselves a finder’s fee as they recommended the investigation which they then performed?

    (35) 41 Total Votes - 38 up - 3 down

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