Arroyo Grande power struggle leads to more dirty politics

July 5, 2018

Julie Tacker


Dirty politics has again raised its ugly head in Arroyo Grande. For years, those who aligned with former mayor Tony Ferrara and his unwavering support for John Wallace have repeatedly accused Mayor Jim Hill – the new guard – of wrongdoing.

For about five years, a group of Five Cities politicos including Caren Ray, Jim Guthrie, John Shoals, Kristen Barneich and others have voted to give projects to Wallace and his engineering firm. At the same time, they argued against having Wallace investigated for possible conflicts of interest.

Ferrara has fled town and Wallace plead no contest to two misdemeanor counts of conflicts of interest. Since then, Ray, Barneich, Shoals and their supporters have repeatedly assailed Hill during public meetings.

Now they are questioning Hill’s past votes on temporary measures and studies that looked at the Brisco Road and Grand Avenue intersections with Highway 101.

Their latest tactic could be the most foolish of all. As it turns out, all five council persons in Arroyo Grande live between 1,800 to 4,000 feet from the boundary for the proposed Brisco Road interchange project.

As the Arroyo Grande City Council prepares to vote on three Brisco Road Interchange project options, Hill asked the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to decide if he has a conflict of interest. Because he lives about 2,600 feet from the project FPPC has determined Hill does have a conflict.

New conflict of interest’s laws abolished the old 500-foot rule in favor of a new rule. Currently, officials are barred from voting on projects that could financially impact that official.

Over many years, the Brisco Road project boundary is from the Oak Park Blvd. on and off ramps to the north all along the frontage road, West Branch, to East Grand Avenue on and off ramps, where the Shell gas station is, to the south.  In fact, one option includes reconfiguring the gas station to accommodate a widened onramp to U. S. 101.

Arroyo Grande Councilwoman Caren Ray is running against Mayor Jim Hill for the mayor’s seat.

It is reasonable to believe that because of the size and scale of the project, the project impacts all the community and most will enjoy benefits related to less traffic and detriments leading to possible longer travel distances – including council members whose property values may also be affected.

If the FPPC did the same analysis it did on the mayor’s home for the other AG City Council members’ homes, it is likely they too would also be conflicted out. But how could they use that politically?

So instead, it appears a council member released the FPPC opinion letter to the media in an attempt to disparage Hill. Former councilman Guthrie was quoted saying he had told Hill to get the FPPC ruling. A claim Hill denies.

Hill ran on a platform of accountability and cleaning up the conflicts of interest with Wallace. While the old guard – including Halcyon resident Shirley Gibson, still defends Wallace.

Shirley Gibson, a Barneich appointee to the Arroyo Grande Historical Committee who openly supported Ferrara, has filed a non-sworn complaint with the FPPC against Hill for his participation in the early Brisco decisions.

Gibson spoke at several recent Sanitation District board meetings asking the board not to pursue civil legal action against Wallace.  Now she is questioning Hill’s past votes on temporary measures and studies that looked at the Brisco Road and Grand Avenue intersections with Highway 101.

The release of the FPPC letter to the press and the subsequent filing of a complaint against mayor Hill are merely political moves in an attempt to tarnish Hill’s reputation.

George Bailey

Dump Caren Ray, she is corrupt.


Who wants to go streaking through the quad! Caren Ray will lead the way, don’t forget the beer!


Stormy is that You??


Jim Hill is more than Mayor. He is a crime fighter that deters the Sanatation District and Ray, Barneich and Harmon from draining the City coffers for their benefit. Ray and company all live in the “Village” and couldn’t care less about the rest of the City.

A vote for Ray is a vote for Ferrara and corruption.

Jorge Estrada

I don’t much about Jim Hill but he has changed the meaning of the buzz “F” Word to mean facts. It’s refreshing to have a political leader that uses math to get the right answer and not the old back room buzz to pacify.


Today’s oxymoron: clean politics.


I thought we were getting rid of the old, corrupt people and getting new, honest people. Why are they still around?


Many of them were entrenched at city hall and other city departments, as well as is neighboring city departments for years, Mayor Shoals for one, and as we all know having one of those jobs is for life. You can steal, cheat, have DUI’s and never suffer any consequences in those job. The Ferrara loyalists in the city have been working ever since Tony lost to make things as difficult as possible for Mayor Hill. The ridiculous roundabout option for Brisco is one, the money pit bridge project downtown is another, for these and many other projects these Ferrara loyalist will not consider wise financial avenues and instead want to waste as much taxpayer money as possible. Caren Ray, Barbara Harmon and Karen Barneich will stop at nothing to spend as much as possible on any project, this along with not addressing the salary, benefit and pension disaster allows them to blame everything on Mayor Hill as Arroyo Grande falls deeper in financial trouble. This will be one of Caren Ray’s main points in her upcoming race for mayor. First cut everything by at least 25%, staff, salaries, benefits, pensions and then we can talk about raising fees and taxes.

George Bailey


I agree with Ms. Julie Tacker!

After seeing the corruption of the failed Tony Ferrara, voters did a 180 and elected Mayor Jim Hill to drain the swamp that had become Arroyo Grande politics, and Mayor Hill has delivered on his promise to institute open and ethical local government.

Guess what? The same corrupt supporters of Ferrara are now working together to turn back the clock and reinstitute a corrupt agenda that taxpayers are forced to pay for, but I believe we have turned the corner on these ultra-liberal politicians.

Taxpayers should know that Caren Ray, Jim Guthrie, John Shoals, Kristen Barneich, and Shirley Gibson want to return Arroyo Grande to the days of secret contracts to their friends, corrupt deals and insider favoritism, and I urge everyone to confront these failed leaders if you see them in public. Let them know you are sick-and-tired of their cheap antics, and you will work to see them removed from office.

Perhaps most shameful, Caren Ray is running against Mayor Hill, and most voters now know that she admitted to literally running around our town naked and with alcohol in her system. She is a public school teacher, and wouldn’t even acknowledge that running naked set’s a bad example for our children!

Can we afford leaders with the ethical lapses of Caren Ray?

Think about it,



Now George how can you say that they scrubbed all that stuff off the net , .. yes some of us saw it , fat lot that did .. just saying .. might be a good idea to remind it ? hmmm but of course you know thats just leaders acting “Normal”

Drinking , running , nude , having a good time right.. buying high school kids beer .. normal stuff..Right!


Mayor Hill – – – Please continue to drain the swamp. Only a few more to go! These claims are absolutely ridiculous and a waste of everyone’s time.