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Commenters rip Adam Hill before SLO County board again skips him as chairman

Following an hourlong tirade Tuesday morning by members of the public who said they’re fed up with Adam Hill’s bullying, the District 3 supervisor was once again passed over for a turn as chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

After the public tongue-lashing, the conservative board majority elected Supervisor John Peschong of District 1 as chairman for the second consecutive year and Supervisor Debbie Arnold of District 5 as vice chairperson. The vote reflected the same 3-2 split as most votes by the Board of Supervisors in 2017, with liberal supervisors Bruce Gibson of District 2 and Hill in the minority.

It was an unusual display of anger directed at a sitting member of the Board of Supervisors; speakers from every district in San Luis Obispo County said Hill was “emotionally unsuitable to lead,” that he “harasses local citizens,” and that he is “an embarrassment.” Some of them called for the board to censure him. One man pointed to Hill’s recent opinion in The Tribune as an example of how Hill feels about the county.

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Supervisor Adam Hill, here at a March 2017 meeting, was passed over as board chairman on Tuesday. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

All of the 30 or so speakers said someone else should lead the Board of Supervisors as chair, despite a rotational schedule that if followed would elevate Hill from vice chair to chair. Hill was also passed up for the chairmanship last year. Many of the commenters praised Peschong for being measured, respectful and wise, while they blasted Hill with critiques of his character.

“Let’s face it: Adam Hill is a bully. He’s childish. He offers to sell his vote for election contributions,” Bill Palfrey said. “I remember when Adam grew his beard after an apology and he said, ‘this will remind me to be better to people.’ Adam, it didn’t work.”

Former Congresswoman Andrea Seastrand said she opposed Hill’s appointment as chair “due to his shameful, reprehensible behavior” and opposed Gibson “because he is an enabler.”

“Not only does Mr. Hill bully the general public that come to these meetings, he bullies the media and not just conservative media, he’s even bullied The New Times,” said Terri Stricklin of Nipomo. “Anyone who disagrees with him is disrespected and called names. There are consequences for someone who displays bad behavior, and this is one of them.”

Hill did not respond directly to the criticism, but released a statement later in the day that said the tension on the board is hurting the organization and the staff and that he won’t fight for “petty stuff like chair rotation” because it’s not worth it.

“There is so much bad blood — too much. Too much mistrust, and quite frankly, even raw hatred on this board,” Hill said. “I’m going to keep fighting for what has always mattered: fighting for the poor, for the sick and vulnerable, for those who struggle to make it here, fighting for jobs, fighting for issues and causes that are dignified by the very fact that they help others who need help. So I’m not fighting you anymore for myself. I am not my own cause.”

In comments before the vote, supervisors Arnold and Compton repeated some of the crowd’s sentiment when explaining why they would select Peschong.

Arnold nominated the North County conservative and political consultant for the position, saying, “It’s my belief that the entire county is best served by a board chair that’s respectful of citizens and their fellow supervisors.”

Supervisor Lynn Compton of District 4 said she doesn’t think anybody would disagree “that there’s a lack of civility both in national politics and in local politics today and that there is plenty of room for improvement today from everybody.”

She said she wants a chairman who “fosters collaboration ... someone who encourages engagement that neither diminishes others’ moral worth and doesn’t question their judgment behind a decision that they made.”

Gibson, who was also targeted in the public comments, said he had hoped, in vain, that the board “could avoid the petty, political melodrama.”

“Quite clearly COLAB (Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business) has mobilized the chorus and we know where three votes on this board are going to fall and I find that disappointing. Either we have a rotational model or we don’t,” Gibson said.

Peschong said he learned during his 2016 campaign to become a supervisor that the board was polarized and that in the last year, he’s attempted to bring people together on the issues.

“I ran against the mayor of Paso Robles Steve Martin, and he had a statement that I think is exactly right: ‘You can disagree without being disagreeable in the political realm.’ I will continue to do that. I will continue to lead and not be disagreeable,” Peschong said.

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