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Arroyo Grande council faces critics, boosters in ongoing flap

About 35 protesters stood in front of Arroyo Grande City Hall on East Branch Street before a City Council meeting. The signs supported write-in mayoral candidate Jim Hill and voiced concern from the Arroyo Grande Police Officers' Association. The men in orange are from the carpenters' union. The "Free Otis" sign refers to a resident who got into a shouting match with the mayor and was escorted out of the last meeting. The Sheriff's Office was asked to provide mutual aid to avoid the appearance of bias.

Tribune photo by David Middlecamp
About 35 protesters stood in front of Arroyo Grande City Hall on East Branch Street before a City Council meeting. The signs supported write-in mayoral candidate Jim Hill and voiced concern from the Arroyo Grande Police Officers' Association. The men in orange are from the carpenters' union. The "Free Otis" sign refers to a resident who got into a shouting match with the mayor and was escorted out of the last meeting. The Sheriff's Office was asked to provide mutual aid to avoid the appearance of bias. Tribune photo by David Middlecamp

As the Arroyo Grande City Council struggles to move on from a July 3 incident involving its city manager and a subordinate, some residents say they remain dissatisfied with the city’s handling of the situation.

That was evident Tuesday evening, when about 35 people gathered on East Branch Street before the City Council meeting, holding brightly colored signs exhorting various messages: support for Arroyo Grande police and mayoral write-in candidate Jim Hill; opposition to a charter measure on the Nov. 4 ballot; and general dissatisfaction with City Hall.

Lifelong Arroyo Grande resident Cynthia Alarcio, who held a sign reading, “Time for Change,” said she was there to let Arroyo Grande City Council members know that “more people than they may think are ready for a change” on the council.

“We’re way past the incident that happened on July 3,” she said. “This is (about) the City Council taking responsibility for what their employees are doing and what they (council members) are doing.”

On July 3, five police officers found City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish alone at night in City Hall.

Some residents have accused the council of mishandling the incident and not thoroughly investigating whether any city policies were violated.

The Arroyo Grande Police Officers’ Association filed a formal complaint over the city’s handling of the incident and took votes of no confidence in Adams and Mayor Tony Ferrara.

On Tuesday, about eight people criticized the council at the meeting, and a few called for Adams to resign immediately or be placed on administrative leave. Adams announced Oct. 2 that he would resign as soon as a successor can be named.

“Where is the transparency? Where is the trust?” resident Colleen Martin asked the council. “Where is the working together to solve a problem? Well, we don’t collaborate anymore. We have lost faith that the process can be authentic.”

But the City Council also heard comments from about 15 residents who said they supported the council and city staff, with a few of them urging Adams to stay or for the council to not accept his resignation.

“Many of us would have been out of our seats earlier, but we didn’t realize … it would turn into this nightmare,” resident Jan Scott said. “Now it’s time for this majority to be heard. This council and administration have been among the finest to govern.”

Resident and business owner Camay Arad said she came to the meeting to show confidence and admiration for the council and staff.

“I think it’s reprehensible that a handful of malcontents, though probably initially well intentioned, have parlayed the incident of July 3 into a series of accusations,” she said.

The rally was held less than a week after the City Council approved a contract with Ventura-based Sintra Group to reinvestigate and prepare a public report on the incident.

Numerous bright-yellow “Jim Hill for Mayor” signs dotted East Branch Street during Tuesday’s rally. Ferrara, the incumbent, had been unopposed in his bid for another two-year term. Ferrara has served on the council since 1998.

Hill decided to run after he was approached by some residents upset over the city’s handling of the July incident. The Arroyo Grande Police Officers’ Association endorsed him this week.

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