Saturday, February 4, 2017
[San Luis Obispo County] Mayor Jim Hill responds to allegations
Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
At Tuesday’s Arroyo Grande City Council meeting, Oceano residents and former South County Sanitation District directors Mary Lucey and Matt Guerrero alleged I acted inappropriately on the San District Board. By no coincidence, earlier that day SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow brought criminal conflict of interest charges against former sanitation district administrator and engineer John Wallace.
During prior service, I attempted to bifurcate Wallace’s contract to end his domination and engage other engineers. Former Mayor Tony Ferrara and Grover Councilman Bill Nicolls blocked that, endorsing Wallace.
Later, attorney Guerrero joined the board supporting drawn out litigation orchestrated by Wallace against the Water Board regarding the 2010 sewage spill fine. Fearing intent to evade limitation statutes, former Grover Mayor Debbie Peterson opposed Ferrara and Guerrero but was outvoted.
Even after a SLO County Grand Jury report highlighted Wallace’s conflicts, Lucey and Guerrero sought to impede the district’s investigation by Carl Knudsen which prompted the criminal charges. Lucey often called the citizens’ group recommending Knudsen “haters.” Guerrero filed intimidating records requests on group members.
With overwhelming support, I prevailed with efforts to engage Knudsen.
Council member Caren Ray, who at the time was quick to denigrate the Grand Jury report and defend Wallace, immediately asked for investigation into Tuesday’s allegations:
· Distributing unapproved employee contracts from closed session: The attorneys retain documents discussed in closed session. I’ve never had copies to distribute. Finalized unapproved contracts are included in public board agenda packets.
· Talking about closed session items: I may have spoken generally about a subject but not specifically confidential or attributable information. I am informed that a resident gadfly has listened at the door and reported discussion during several closed sessions.
· Acting unilaterally: Intending to prevent wasting district resources, I’ve insisted that a costly investigation demanded by Mary Lucey’s partner not be authorized by Board Chairman John Shoals alone.
The sheriff’s office determined there was nothing substantive there. Related, Lucey’s continuous verbal sniping at sanitation district Superintendent John Clemons appears an attempt to belittle Clemons’ excellent record in comparison to Wallace’s.
· Giving statements about an investigation in progress. This refers to the “he said she said” claim by Mary Lucey’s partner which the sherriff’s office deemed without merit. No investigation was in progress. I reiterate my intent not to engage in costly investigations to no purpose. Perhaps Lucey wants to waste district funds to make the draw down under Wallace seem more normal comparatively.
· Giving my wife my email password: I haven’t given anyone my password. I will continue routinely to converse with my wife about issues.
· Attempting to remove Administrator Gerhardt Hubner: On the contrary, although Mr. Hubner ‘s ties to John Wallace go back to the Avila Beach oil remediation and he has no prior wastewater treatment experience, he did assist positively in settling the Water Board litigation.
I have so far attempted to facilitate better relationships between Mr. Hubner and the staff of licensed operators who have done an excellent job running the plant and building a financial reserve since Wallace left. However I have serious concerns about Mr. Hubner’s management style and effectiveness leading the district. We’ve had personnel grievances, investigations, and contracting out work previously done by staff.
· Commenting about ongoing litigation: Despite Guerrero and Lucey’s apparent past efforts to unnecessarily prolong Wallace’s Water Board lawsuit, there is no ongoing litigation to comment on.
Lucey and Guerrero know I oppose their campaign against Superintendent Clemons. As mayor, the Health and Safety Code provides that I be the Sanitation District Board member. I take that responsibility very seriously. I will continue there to act in the best interests of ratepayers, employees and regional cooperation.
January 31, 2017
Opinion by Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill