Capitol Alert

League of California Cities president may lose post

Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara
Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara League of California Cities

Tony Ferrara, the recently installed president of the League of California Cities, probably will lose that position in two weeks due to being ousted as mayor of Arroyo Grande, a small San Luis Obispo County city.

The Sacramento-based organization acts as the political arm for about 400 California cities, dealing with Capitol politicians on budget, land use and other issues, such as redevelopment.

Although final certification of the votes is pending, write-in candidate Jim Hill appears to have defeated Ferrara’s bid for a seventh two-year term as mayor by about 100 votes in fallout from an intense local controversy over a July incident involving two city officials.

Ferrara was not the only casualty of the Nov. 4 election. Arroyo Grande’s voters also rejected a ballot measure that would have converted it to a charter city and an incumbent city councilman was defeated.

The July 3 incident involved City Manager Steve Adams and Teresa McClish, the city’s community development director. McClish’s husband contacted local police when she did not return home from a social event and officers found the two officials alone in a darkened city hall, according to published accounts.

After much debate, the city council authorized an independent investigation which concluded, “Adams, in his position as city manager, should have been aware of this perception (of a romantic relationship) and should not have perpetuated it on July 3.”

The local controversy raged for months, with Ferrara’s critics accusing him of protecting Adams, manifesting itself in Hill’s late-blooming write-in challenge. This week, the city council is scheduled to discuss whether to discipline or dismiss Adams.

Ferrara claimed that the incident was blown out of proportion by his political enemies, including the city police union.

“They (the union) had an issue with Steve Adams, I think, historically because of labor negotiations with him,” Ferrara told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “They did not like him, and this was an opportunity for them to get back.”

If Hill’s apparent victory is confirmed by election officials, he will take office on Dec. 1 and Ferrara will have to step down as League of California Cities president after just three months in office. He, however, would not be the first league president to suffer that fate. Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo took that position in 2008, only to step down a few months later after being defeated by the current mayor, Kevin Johnson.

Call The Bee’s Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, Follow him on Twitter