Arroyo Grande City Council votes against November election

August 23, 2020

Mayor Caren Ray Russom

The Arroyo Grande City Council Grande voted 5-0 to cancel their local election at an Aug. 18 special meeting.

If elected officials run unopposed, the city does not generally hold an election. During the filing period that ended on Aug. 7, incumbents Councilwoman Lan George, Councilwoman Kristen Barniech and Mayor Caren Ray Russom were the only candidates who signed up to run for the Nov. 3 election.

However, after the public learned that resident Lea Rigo had planned to run for the mayor seat, but decided not to after Ray Russom sent a Facebook message that Rigo took as a threat, another resident wanted to run as a write in candidate.

Prior to the special meeting, dozens of residents wrote the council, the majority asking the council not to hold an election. Opponents noted the $28,000 cost at a time the city is in fiscal trouble as one of the reasons not to have an election.

Proponents of holding an election focused on allegations the mayor bullies those who oppose her. Michele Hamilton asked the council to hold an election and referenced a Facebook exchange she had with Mayor Ray Russom and her husband Randy Russom over the city’s mask wearing policy.

“I can not tell you how extremely frightened this makes me,” Hamilton wrote in her letter to the council. “The only reason I believe I could be on your radar, is because of a post I made last Monday. You and your husband argued with me in that post for over five days. Belittling me, harassing me, intimidating me — to the point I had to ask your husband to please stop tagging my name in the post — because I was now so fearful of him, I said I believed I was going to look into getting a restraining order.”

Over the last few months, former City Manager Jim Bergman, Rigo and Hamilton have all accused Ray of threatening behavior.

Even so, the council unanimously voted not to hold an election primarily because of the $28,000 cost.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I wonder if Mayor Russom will return the two campaign contributions she received from the IBEW and LIUNA – the only money she received – after she voted for the sole source contract for union labor on the County Wastewater Treatment Plant? She got $3,450 in return for her vote! You can see her 460

Write in candidates wouldn’t have as many signs for her friends to vandalize…come on, this is america. How dare you take away AG citizen’s right to vote for their elected officials. Even if you hafta write their name in on the ballot. Did u have any funds raised for this campaign by the way? Hopefully the citizens of Big Ditch can overrule the council’s decision and have an election this year. Or at least get to vote on whether or not they can vote

Well, Caren Ray Russom knows how dangerous it can be to run against a write in opponent in AG…

I understand the desire to save money, but cancelling elections is starting down the slippery slope to losing democratic elections. Sometimes you spend money to ensure the integrity of something. In this case it seems it would be wise to spend the $28K to hold the election and if no one runs against the council members they retain the legitimacy they need to make decisions for the city.

Hmm something smells fishy here …

Why would anyone want to run against these incumbents that are doing such a fine job.

After all the cities budget is upside down, they can’t seem to keep a city Manager, they voted down a sales tax increase because their finances are in great shape, the salaries and benefits for the council are lavish and fabulous, $18 shots of booze on the city’s dime for the deserved Mayor, voted themselves a raise but can’t afford a fair election and they can’t keep the city open on Friday.

What’s not to like?

I wish every city in the County would replace their current City Managers, with some one A LOT less expensive. All elected officials should be unpaid, if the budget is unbalanced. Let’s do an initiative to control these salaries and benefits!

Interesting that Mayor Russom is concerned about finances when it comes to her re-election but not when it involves a 97% raise for herself.

Arroyo Grande’s City Council members and mayor made $405 a month, so to $800 per month(?) about average in the County.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is a little funny it’s happening in that little hamlet but does speak to the characters.