Despite some early-morning anger and fireworks that caused an emergency recess, the Arroyo Grande City Council unanimously voted on Oct. 8 to move forward with an independent investigation of a controversial incident.
Chuck Hookstra, a Ventura-based private investigator and former Oxnard police officer, will commence the investigation first thing in the morning on Oct. 9.
According to Hookstra’s contract, the scope of his investigation will be to “reinvestigate the July 3, 2014, incident, review the internal investigation by [Deputy City Attorney Michael] McMahon, review the information the council used to make the initial decision on July 8, 2014, and the procedures and policies used to make the decision.”
Hookstra will also “review the information the council used for the decision not to do an additional investigation, investigate the concerns identified by the POA in their letter of Sept. 17, 2014, and the information relied upon to reopen the investigation.” His end product will be a public report on the investigatory effort.
“This city needs to heal, we have become divided,” said Councilman Tim Brown. “We have given the investigator the full scope to do whatever he wants to do.”
All of this consternation centers on a July 3 incident in which City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish were found late at night at City Hall by five Arroyo Grande police officers. Many residents say the council’s disciplinary and investigatory efforts pertaining to the incident thus far have been lackluster.
At the hour-long special meeting on the morning of Oct. 8, 12 speakers came to the podium during public comment, eight of whom were critical of the City Council’s handling of the July 3 incident and subsequent fallout.
Particularly vituperative was Arroyo Grande resident Otis Page, who threatened a recall of the council, deemed the new investigation “absurd,” and instigated two separate shouting matches with Mayor Tony Ferrara.
During the second eruption—after the public comment period had ended—Page came to the podium while Brown was speaking, started yelling, and dared someone to arrest him.
Ferrara called a five-minute emergency recess to calm down the situation, and Page was escorted out of the council chambers.
“I apologize for those of you who had to witness our adjournment a moment ago,” Ferrara said. “I’ve been doing this for quite a while, and that’s the first time I’ve had to recess a meeting like that.”
After a few more minutes of council discussion, Hookstra’s contract passed on a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Joe Costello absent.
Hookstra’s contract specifies a rate of $120 per hour for “investigative services” as well as charges for travel expenses, computer-assisted investigative research costs, court document searches, per diem costs for meals of $100 per day, and other miscellaneous out-of-pocket expenses.
The council declined to cap the potential cost of the investigation, but Councilman Jim Guthrie said he was confident it would be “relatively inexpensive.”