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Sanitation District board seeks removal of Arroyo Grande mayor

What council members had to say about the Arroyo Grande mayor investigation

The Arroyo Grande City Council discussed the investigation into Mayor Jim Hill for misconduct at its meeting Sept. 12, 2017. A divided City Council has requested that Hill voluntarily step down as South San Luis Obispo Sanitation District director
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The Arroyo Grande City Council discussed the investigation into Mayor Jim Hill for misconduct at its meeting Sept. 12, 2017. A divided City Council has requested that Hill voluntarily step down as South San Luis Obispo Sanitation District director

The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board of Directors could censure Arroyo Grande Mayor and board member Jim Hill, after an investigation indicated Hill may have shared confidential information and involved himself in district personnel matters.

In a heated meeting Sept. 20, the board voted 2-1, with Hill voting against the motion, to censure Hill and request that the Arroyo Grande City Council remove him from the sanitation board.

A censure is an expression of formal disapproval. A censure resolution will be brought back to the board at a later meeting for final approval.

The board also voted to exclude Hill from confidential attorney-client emails, and directed staff to not take any action from unilateral requests by board members in the future.

“It really isn’t a matter of if his concerns are genuine, and whether he was trying to get to a positive resolution. It’s a matter of roles and responsibilities,” Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals said at the meeting. “The issue of censure — I’m not crazy about this stuff, but our actions have to have consequences.”

I’m not crazy about this stuff, but our actions have to have consequences.

John Shoals, Grover Beach Mayor

The board’s decision came a week after the Arroyo Grande City Council voted to ask Hill to step down from the sanitation district board and let his alternate, Councilman Tim Brown, take his place.

At the time, legal counsel advised the city that it did not have the power to easily remove Hill from the district board, because the mayor is required to be the representative on the sanitation district board, unless he or she is unable or voluntarily refuses to.

In its decision, the Sanitation District Board asked district legal counsel to research ways that Hill could be removed from the board.

On Tuesday, Hill said he was not surprised by the board’s decision, and asserted that the claims against him were a political attack.

“I’m certainly not surprised at the sanitation district board decision to proceed with censure as it is clear the entire process of investigating me was a politically motivated attack, which originated from particular individuals associated with the sanitation district from the beginning,” Hill wrote in an email to The Tribune.

I have assured them that I will continue to serve the interests of the residents who pay for proper sanitation operations and deserve the highest quality service in return.

Jim Hill, Arroyo Grande Mayor

“Numbers of my constituents have contacted me to express support and urge me to stay on the Board. I have assured them that I will continue to serve the interests of the residents who pay for proper sanitation operations and deserve the highest quality service in return.”

The investigation by law firm Liebert, Cassidy Whitmore examined allegations against Hill related to his position with both the city of Arroyo Grande and sanitation district.

Four of the allegations relating to the sanitation district were sustained. These mostly involved claims that Hill shared confidential information with outside parties and overstepped his authority as a board director by involving himself in personnel affairs at the Oceano Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

Interim City Manager Bob McFall explains why the City Council considered paying up to $15,000 for an independent investigation into accusations Mayor Jim Hill violated the Brown Act.

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