Arroyo Grande City Council will hire firm to replace embattled city manager

Steve Adams
Steve Adams dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Nearly a month after Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams announced plans to resign, the City Council agreed Tuesday to spend $26,000 for a consultant to search for his replacement.

A new city manager could be appointed in March — about five months from now — and likely start work in April, administrative services Director Debbie Malicoat said.

"The timeline is extremely aggressive, but can be achieved,” she wrote in a report to the council.

Adams voluntarily resigned Oct. 2, about three months after five Arroyo Grande police officers found Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish alone late at night in City Hall.

Complaints by some residents over the council's handling of the July 3 incident has overshadowed any other business since the public learned of the matter in mid-August. The Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association later called for an independent investigation of the incident, which the council is now pursuing.

The union also filed a formal complaint over the city’s handling of the incident and announced unanimous votes of no confidence in Adams and Mayor Tony Ferrara. It also recently endorsed write-in mayoral candidate Jim Hill, who is challenging Ferrara in Tuesday’s election.

Some residents have accused the council of acting inappropriately, concealing evidence of possible wrongdoing, and stifling public participation in any review process.

During the past two council meetings, however, other residents have attended to show support for the council and city staff.

"The citizens of Arroyo Grande need to support our current council and staff to lead us into 2015 and beyond," resident Tom Talbert said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Added resident Bill McCann: "I have known every one of you, some as far long as 25 years, and you're doing a great job."

More than 70 people attended Tuesday's meeting, with about 16 comments relating to the July 3 incident fairly split in support of the city or against the council's handling of it.

"I'm here to understand why today, 10 weeks after citizens found out, the city manager and development director remain employed by the city after their pre-meditated, intoxicated use of City Hall on July 3," resident Rich Hagler said, "The private sector doesn't permit this conduct so why do you?"

A few called for Adams to be placed on administrative leave or be fired and replaced with an interim manager while the search proceeds.

"Allow Mr. Adams to leave and then hire an interim who can focus in on some of the healing," resident Colleen Martin said. "If you calm the waters you're going to be able to attract better applicants."

The council voted 4-0, with Councilman Tim Brown absent, to put out a request for proposals for consulting firms, and for Ferrara and Councilman Jim Guthrie to interview applicants before making a recommendation to the entire council.

Adams will not be involved in the process.

"The consultant would assist in narrowing down the pool and the council would interview those candidates," Malicoat said.

She said the $26,000 cost estimate was based on the actual cost of two recent city manager recruitments performed by consultants in San Luis Obispo County.