San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx issued a statement Friday combating an allegation made by the police and fire union leaders that the consultant hired by the city to oversee the Financial Sustainability Task Force had a conflict of interest.
Matt Blackstone, president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers’ Association, asked the City Council on Jan. 18 to launch an independent investigation into consultant Michael Gunther, hired by City Manager Katie Lichtig at a cost of $10,000 to moderate the task force’s 13 meetings spanning six months.
Blackstone alleged that Gunther’s connection to the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce — as the president of the board of directors and vice chair of its legislative committee — was a conflict of interest. The union has argued that the chamber has had a longstanding conflict with unions.
Marx said in a news release that a “confidential investigation” was done by the City Attorney’s Office, concluding that there was no conflict of interest and “no wrongdoing on the part of city personnel, or on the part of Mr. Gunther.”
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The statement also said that while Gunther has volunteered for years with the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, he does not receive payment for his activities.
Both Blackstone and Erik Baskin, president of the San Luis Obispo City Firefighters Association, say there is a longstanding, strong divide between the chamber’s economic interests in the city and the unions’ wishes.
Baskin has said that the attempt to show a conflict of interest was a further effort by the unions to discredit the task force’s 14-page report issued in December.