San Luis Obispo city councilmembers chose to criticize, disapprove, and condemn the behavior of Councilman John Ashbaugh, but not take further punitive action.
Ashbaugh was the focus of the final item at the City Council’s Nov. 10 meeting after an argument on Oct. 21 that resulted in his revealing closed session proceedings. He was recused from the Nov. 10 meeting at the advice of City Attorney Christine Dietrick.
Ashbaugh became the object of public ire after a heated debate with Councilman Dan Carpenter over the city’s ongoing project to rezone and redevelop an unincorporated area south of the city’s limits near the SLO County Airport. During that meeting, Ashbaugh said Carpenter didn’t ask questions during a closed session discussion, a move that drew criticism for violating public trust and allegedly violating the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Dietrick outlined three possible courses of action for the city: refer the matter to the grand jury; issue a formal censure and determination of misconduct based on findings of serious policy violations and violations of law; or issue a public criticism, disapproval, and condemnation.
Though a majority of the City Council would only go so far as to condemn Ashbaugh’s behavior, Carpenter asked for his resignation, saying “to me, it’s quite obvious he has outlived his ability to control himself on this dais.”
“I think most of you would agree, is that there’s something more serious going on with him,” Carpenter said, adding that he believed Ashbaugh would again disclose information about private meetings. “What John did is he was a bully, and a bully should never be rewarded.”
However, other councilmembers and a slight majority of public speakers characterized the incident as an unintentional lapse for which Ashbaugh apologized, rather than a willful attempt to violate the law.
“I heartily condemn and criticize … and disapprove of Mr. Ashbaugh’s action,” Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson said. “I think that the city as a whole wishes us to continue and move on.”
Ashbaugh told New Times he hadn’t watched video of the proceeding, but thanked those who spoke in his favor.
“I thank them, and apart from that I just want to put this whole thing behind me as fast possible,” Ashbaugh said. “I think anybody would have a very hard time watching a parade of people talking about one’s character, whether it’s to praise or to criticize, and I know I got little bit of both.”