OPINION by JULIE TACKER
Something’s been bothering me about the investigation into Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill. The Mayor, and his attorney, Stew Jenkins, vehemently deny Hill ever released confidential documents. They point to the exhibits in the now $50,000 report and argue they are not confidential; they aren’t and never were.
The investigating law firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore suggests that because some emails were sent to (not from) the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District legal counsel, that made them confidential without considering the context.
The law firm’s conclusions are based on fiction, not the actual content of the documents.
As a result of the law firms opinions the sanitation district board directed staff to cease sending confidential emails to Hill. So what, they never have, this does not preclude the mayor from receiving confidential information.
Hill is an elected official and an equal member on both the city council and the sanitation district board. He is required by law to have access to the same information as his colleagues.
When I was an elected official (Los Osos Community Services District 2004-2008), any time there was confidential information distributed to the board it was in closed session. Each board member was handed a copy of the document by legal counsel, we read it and we were required to return it. No board member was allowed to keep a copy. I have queried current elected officials from three different agencies and that is still the practice today.
Over the years, I have seen many documents from various legal counselors for cities and districts; they all have that boiler plate disclaimer on them as part of their automated signature. This disclaimer does not necessarily mean the content is confidential, in fact, if it were I likely would never have been allowed a copy of any public document.
The law firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore specializes in employee law, elected officials are not employees. The law firm’s expertise has been misapplied to investigating a mayor and his obligation to his constituents.