Arroyo Grande City Council to discuss letter to Ed Arnold

Criminal allegations facing Arroyo Grande Councilman Ed Arnold and the time he’ll likely spend on his defense will hurt his ability to effectively serve the city, according to a letter the City Council will Tuesday consider sending to Arnold asking for his resignation.

The proposed letter, based on comments made by Mayor Tony Ferrara at the April 13 meeting, states: “Your current situation has a clear detrimental effect on the reputation and credibility of the city, diverts scarce personnel resources from urgent responsibilities, and is a distraction from our critically important efforts which are focused on addressing community needs and issues.”

It asks Arnold to “resign immediately so the city can avoid these problems and focus its full attention on meeting the needs of its citizens.”

The council at its last meeting unanimously requested the proposed letter be placed on its agenda for consideration.

The council doesn’t have the authority to remove Arnold unless he is recalled, misses all regular meetings within a 60-day period or resigns, according to city officials.

In January, Arnold pleaded not guilty to five felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence, for his alleged role in the Dec. 15 attack on a woman who had been living with him and his wife at their Arroyo Grande home.

Earlier this month, Arnold pleaded not guilty to two additional felony charges of possessing child pornography and using a minor for pornographic images.

At the time, Arnold’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said his client “has done nothing wrong” and vowed that Arnold would remain on the council.

Funke-Bilu could not be reached for comment for this story.

However, after Arnold’s April 14 court hearing, Funke-Bilu called the council’s decision to consider sending Arnold a letter urging him to resign a “political lynching of the worst kind.”

The council on Tuesday will also review the process for filling a council seat, should Arnold resign or be recalled.

If he resigns, the council could appoint someone to serve the remainder of his term — which ends in 2012 — or could call a special election. A stand-alone election could cost the city $50,000, City Clerk Kelly Wetmore said.

If the city combined its election with the November general election, the cost would likely be less than $2,000.

Arnold has served on the council since 2004. He was re-elected in 2008 to serve a four-year term.

A recall, if initiated by a petition of registered voters from Arroyo Grande, could stretch over several months. The first step requires organizers of a recall to submit signatures from 20 voters registered in Arroyo Grande to start a full recall petition.

Then, after a series of steps including serving the official a notice of intent, publishing a public notice and getting the petition’s wording and format approved by the city clerk, recall organizers would have 120 days to circulate petitions and get signatures from 20 percent — or 2,187 — of Arroyo Grande’s registered voters.

The city clerk then has 30 days to verify the signatures, after which the council would call a special election. At that election, voters would be asked whether to remove Arnold from office, and if so, vote for a replacement.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

Meeting Tuesday

The Arroyo Grande City Council meeting will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 215 E. Branch St. To view the agenda, go to www.arroyogrande.org.