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Ashbaugh condemned, but not censured

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San Luis Obispo city councilmembers chose to criticize, disapprove, and condemn the behavior of Councilman John Ashbaugh, but not take further punitive action.

Ashbaugh, who could have faced formal censure from his four colleagues after an outburst on Oct. 21 that resulted in him revealing closed session proceedings, was recused from the City Council’s Nov. 10 meeting at the advice of City Attorney Christine Dietrick, she said.

He 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 that Carpenter did not ask questions during a closed session discussion, a move that drew criticism for violating public trust and allegedly violating the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Though a majority of the City Council condemned Ashbaugh’s behavior, only Carpenter went as far as asking for Ashbaugh to resign.

“I think most of you would agree is that there’s something more serious going on with him,” Carpenter said of Ashbaugh, 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 majority of public speakers, characterized the incident as an unintentional lapse, rather than a conscious effort to violate the Brown Act.

“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.”

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