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More letters fly between Arroyo Grande officials and insurance carrier

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Letters and emails continue back and forth after the city of Arroyo Grande’s liability insurance carrier raised concerns that comments made by unnamed elected officials about city staff could lead to possible legal action.

The original letter, sent to the city from the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (CJPIA) on Dec. 16, stated that the organization became aware of derogatory comments made by Arroyo Grande council members against the city manager and staff that might lead to allegations of harassment and a hostile workplace. The letter followed instances of Mayor Jim Hill expressing frustration with city staff and procedure at a public meeting, as well as a Councilmember Tim Brown criticizing City Manger Dianne Thompson on a local radio talk show.

The letter was briefly discussed at the AG City Council’s Jan. 12 meeting, where Thompson noted that the CJPIA was willing to hold workshops on healthy communication and team building, but the council took no action on the subject.

Shortly after the meeting, on Jan. 14, the city received a second letter from the CJPIA, again addressed to Hill. That letter noted that the original letter had become “an issue of debate” in the community, and sought to clarify the organization’s stance.

“Our letter was sent to you to offer our assistance, as we have done many times in the past with other [members],” CJPIA CEO Jonathan Shull wrote. “I am sorry that this may have been misconstrued, and I am in the hopes that this will further serve to clarify the intent of the letter.”

Both Hill and Brown stood by their comments. In a Jan. 15 email to Shull, Brown noted that the CJPIA had not made public the specific comments, which elected official made them, nor who reported the comments. Brown said the actions taken by the CJPIA were harmful to the city and its residents, and indicated that the origin of the complaint might be political.

“You’ve allowed someone to make you a part of local politics and the upcoming election cycle,” Brown wrote. “Your rush to judgment has in fact caused you to overstep your bounds.”

Hill was elected as mayor in 2014 to a two-year term.

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