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County supervisor apologizes for email criticizing businessman

Adam Hill
Adam Hill

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill issued an apology Friday for attacking local businessman Bill Thoma, which intensified an ongoing feud over the planned Homeless Services Center.

Hill sent an email Wednesday to more than two dozen people, including city leaders, politicians and others tied to the project, criticizing Thoma’s recent efforts to rally business owners against the center’s planned location on South Higuera Street.

In that email, Hill accused Thoma of fear-mongering, selfishness and dishonesty.

A barrage of emails from Thoma’s friends and colleagues followed, criticizing Hill for his personal attack.

“I have too often, and to too many, expressed myself in a manner too offensive,” Hill wrote in the apology. “There are no excuses I will hide behind, and my critics and adversaries also deserve my apology and my pledge to adopt a more civil and decent attitude when communicating on any issue.”

Thoma could not be reached for comment Friday.

Hill said the decision to apologize came from a desire not to conflate an individual dispute with the controversial Homeless Services Center.

“The issue of the homeless center is far more important than me,” Hill said Friday. “The problem is too serious for me to behave in a way that turns the story into a feud about me and Bill Thoma or anyone else. I felt bad about putting a lot of people who are in the trenches every day trying to help in that light. It was wrong for me to do that.”

Thoma began circulating a flier this week expressing concerns about the impacts the homeless services center planned for the vacant lot next to the Department of Social Services on South Higuera Street might have on the nearby business park in which his business, Thoma Electric, is located.

He is advocating for a different location — a nine-acre site at 40 Prado Road behind the U-Haul building near Elks Lane.

Over the past two months, the steering committee charged with moving the Homeless Services Center forward re-evaluated the Prado Road site suggested by Thoma after his prompting.

Ultimately, that committee decided that it would pursue building at the already approved South Higuera Street location, saying the Prado Road site would be too costly to buy and prepare.

Hill acknowledged in his apology that as an elected official it was expected that he express his opinions with more humility.

“I have been in a lot of ways too combative,” Hill said Friday. “It’s just not helpful. I always tried to preach for my students to have an open mind, be willing to be persuaded by people and to grow in your own thinking. I don’t think I have done that in my own life.”

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