Investigation of Mayor Jim Hill finds no Brown Act violation

Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill


An investigation into accusations that Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill shared closed session information in violation of the Brown Act determined the accusation was unfounded. However, the report did find that Hill was involved in personnel matters and shared an email from the district’s legal counsel about the personnel issue.

For the past few years, officials with the city of Arroyo Grande and the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District have been bitterly divided by those who support former sanitation district administrator John Wallace and those who wanted Wallace investigated for conflicts of interest. An investigation into the allegations of conflict of interest resulted in the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney filing three felony and two misdemeanor counts against Wallace.

The controversy surrounding Hill began on Jan. 24, when Arroyo Grande resident Patty Welsh spoke at a city council meeting. Welsh claimed that Hill shared his email password with his wife and distributed an employment contract that had yet to be approved by the sanitation district board.

However, the contract was posted on the sanitation district website before Hill emailed it to Welsh. As for the allegation of sharing his password with his wife, the investigator with the legal firm of Liebert, Cassidy & Whitmore speculated that Hill “likely” shared computer access with his wife.

Welsh also accused Hill of revealing information discussed during a closed session hearing. That allegation was determined unfounded.

Following Welsh’s allegations, the sanitation district and the Arroyo Grande City Council agreed to split the cost of the $15,000 investigation.

In addition to looking into allegations of the alleged Brown Act violation, the investigators researched allegations that Hill disclosed attorney client privileged information and was involved in personnel matters.

According to the investigation report, Hill emailed district legal counsel asking that they stop the witch hunt into allegations made against sanitation district superintendent John Clemons and then blind copied a witness to the altercation in the email. In doing so, Hill disclosed confidential attorney client information and interfered in personnel issues.

Allegations that Hill’s attorney Stew Jenkins found not worthy of an investigation.

“The law does not concern itself with trifles,” Jenkins said noting the Latin saying De minimis non curat lex which means the law does not care for, or take notice of, very small or trifling matters,”

Though the investigators interviewed 20 people, they did not interview Hill even though they had the opportunity, Jenkins added.

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3 Comments about “Investigation of Mayor Jim Hill finds no Brown Act violation”

  1. SLOBodan says:

    This appeared to be a huge waste of money from two agencies who don’t have much to spare. I guess they will just hit up the ratepayers for more fees!

    Arroyo Grande City Council needs to put their big girl panties on and quit this Junior High Social Club behavior! Move on to bigger, more important business!

  2. analyticone says:

    Best example of a Kangaroo Court that I’ve seen. Kangaroo origin may be the act of jumping over justice or having someone in your pocket. If there is shame to be allocated, it belongs fair and square with the Arroyo Grande City Council. The reason the “verdict” took so long is that there was nothing on the Mayor, and the Council, humiliated by the finding hoped to buy time so the public would forget. See below for online definitions of “Kangaroo Court”.

    “…judicial tribunal or assembly that ignores recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides.”

    “A bogus court. …sham legal proceedings which are a set-up in order to give the impression of a fair legal process. In fact, they offer no impartial justice as the verdict, invariably to the detriment of the accused, is decided in advance. Such courts are outside the bounds of formal judicial processes…”

    “…sham legal proceeding or trial, one that denies due process and fairness…”

    “…self-appointed or mob-operated tribunal that disregards or parodies existing principles of law or human rights…especially one amongst criminals…”

    “…crudely or irregularly operated court, especially one so controlled as to render a fair trial impossible.”

  3. Julie says:

    Sure wish that investigator had spoken to the Mayor. A lot of this would have been in context and all sorted out.

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