Prior to the South San Luis Obispo Sanitation District Board voting on Oct. 4 to censure Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill, attorney Stew Jenkins sent a letter rebutting an investigator’s report supporting for censure. At the Board hearing, Jenkins presented another copy of the letter, and presented the following statement defending Mayor Jim Hill
STATEMENT by STEW JENKINS
I am obliged to provide you five points in opposition to the resolution for censure.
One: You have been left holding the bag to later take the blame for voting yes to censure Mayor Jim Hill on completely false charges manufactured by Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore. That Fresno law firm has collected $50,000 to fool you with a smoke and mirrors show.
Jim Hill is not hiding or playing the victim. He remains a happy warrior working to permanently end the culture of corruption that has afflicted the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District.
Two: Your staff and team of lawyers have declined to provide you with the 19 page response I prepared and presented on Sept. 8, 2017, that exposed event by event and email by email the fallacy in the phony “investigative” report prepared by that expensive Fresno law firm hired to go gunning for Mayor Hill.
That letter established that Mayor John Shoals had done far more to insert himself into personnel matters than Mayor Hill had done — a matter Mayor Shoals admitted at the last meeting of this board.
Three, attorney-client privilege: When an attorney asks to pass the salt, no privilege to keep that statement secret attaches. A review of the unredacted emails Mayor Hill sent reveals that the claim that Mayor Hill revealed privileged attorney-client emails is entirely false. An attorney putting him or herself at odds with a key employee with a “notice of investigation” has no attorney-client relationship with that person; and when the employee forwards it to others he or she puts it out to the public.
Four, legislative oversight role: The manufactured term, acting outside the legislative role exists nowhere in the law. The claim is made that Mayor Hill’s oversight has been outside of “the chain of command.”
This claim is primarily based on his emails asking that meeting agendas include expenditures not authorized by the board, investigations of employees not then authorized by the board, and employee complaints. Such was consistent with district Bylaws as they then existed, in provision 4.1. In fact, according to that bylaw, the Administrator was required to put the matters on the agenda. But demonstrating his resistance to the chain of command, he refused to do so.
Ask yourself about the chain of command that the public merits and expects. Voters are, and should be, at the top of the command structure for a public agency. The three representatives elected to supervise this sanitation district are charged with direct oversight, according to the statutes creating this district. An administrator and the attorneys for the district are, and should be, in a subordinate position; responsible to respond to the oversight of each representative with complete and accurate information.
It is clear from following the district’s history that the public service and oversight model created by the legislature and the voters of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano has been turned on its head by prior administrators and lawyers for the district who fooled board members into abdicating their legislative role to a point that run-away administrators and lawyers have dissipated $6 million in reserves intended for upgrades, and incurred over $2 million in fines and legal fees.
You can take the first step to roll back the loss of public control over the sanitation district. Your vote against censure will take that first step. It will secure your right to fulfill your legislative oversight role.
Five: Confidential personnel matters are only confidential for the benefit of employees, not for the benefit of an administrator mistreating those employees or attorneys collaborating with that administrator. Employees have a perfect right to turn to elected officials and the public by re-transmitting what they have been sent by agency attorneys who notify them that the agency is now investigating those employees.
Accusations against an employee are only confidential if they were made privately. Not if the complaint was made in public to individuals outside the agency. The MacNeil/Lucey complaint against the plant superintendent was publicly made, at the very least, to the sitting county supervisor and county sheriff.
Mayor Hill’s action has sought to save people in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Oceano millions of dollars. Kill the tapeworm of runaway administrators and runaway lawyers sucking the lifeblood out of the sanitation district, who target with publicly funded secret star-chamber investigations any board member with the courage to stand up against them.
Take back the public’s right to oversight. Vote no on censure.