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Arroyo Grande City Manager Dianne Thompson placed on paid leave

Arroyo Grande City Manger Dianne Thompson has been placed on paid administrative leave following a unanimous vote by the Arroyo Grande City Council.
Arroyo Grande City Manger Dianne Thompson has been placed on paid administrative leave following a unanimous vote by the Arroyo Grande City Council. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Less than a year after replacing her controversial predecessor, Arroyo Grande City Manager Dianne Thompson has been placed on paid administrative leave for undisclosed reasons.

Thompson began her duties as city manager in August 2015 when she replaced Steve Adams, who left the city in 2014 amid controversy over an incident in which he was found alone at night in City Hall with a subordinate. An independent investigation concluded there was no misconduct, but public backlash prompted Adams to later announce his resignation.

Thompson was unanimously placed on administrative leave following a special City Council meeting Tuesday, according to a city of Arroyo Grande news release. No reason was given. Public Works Director Geoff English will serve as acting city manager in her stead.

In the news release, Mayor Jim Hill said “the entire City Council and city staff remains dedicated and committed to conducting the business of the city and providing an excellent level of service to Arroyo Grande residents, business owners and visitors.”

Hill told The Tribune on Wednesday that the council felt there “was an issue” with Thompson, though he declined to elaborate.

When reached by email Thursday morning, Thompson declined to comment on the decision at this time.

Councilwoman Kristen Barneich and Councilman Tim Brown also declined to comment on the decision because it is a personnel issue. Requests for comment from other council members were not returned.

The council will discuss what it will do next at its meeting Tuesday night.

Thompson is paid $229,600 a year, including salary and benefits. Her base salary is $179,000.

If the council chooses to fire Thompson at its meeting, she could receive a severance package worth about $114,800, or six months of her annual compensation, per her employment agreement with the city.

According to her contract, Thompson would not be eligible for the severance package if the council found she had committed a “material breach of the terms of the (employment) agreement,” was convicted of a crime, had knowingly failed to “observe or perform any of her duties and obligations” for a period of 30 business days, repeatedly failed to carry out council directives, committed a grossly negligent action or inaction that impeded or disrupted city operations or public safety, or if the council found evidence of conduct unbecoming the position of city manager.

Thompson replaced interim City Manager Bob McFall in August 2015 and spoke at length with The Tribune about how she hoped to move beyond the controversy surrounding Adams’ departure.

“I think that what is important to the citizens is that their management is responsive to them, and that we are transparent in how we conduct business,” Thompson told The Tribune at that time. “Those are always aspects of city management that are important to me. From my observation of the staff, they provide excellent customer service. They are very professional — we have really good staff. And we have a really good council. They work well together. So I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Thompson worked as the interim city manager for the town of Ross in Marin County immediately before taking the Arroyo Grande job. Before that she worked as city manager for Cotati in Sonoma County and as an architect for the city of Santa Rosa.

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