Former Paso Robles mayoral candidate claims city manager injured him during meeting

A former Paso Robles mayoral candidate has accused the city’s top administrator of injuring him during a meeting earlier this month.

Michael Rivera, who ran for mayor in 2022, said City Manager Ty Lewis slapped him “aggressively on the shoulder” and made intimidating comments during a Homelessness Strategic Plan working group meeting Nov. 6.

Rivera read a statement during the public comment period of the Nov. 7 Paso Robles City Council meeting, recounting the alleged altercation.

“I am a 70-year-old man and don’t tolerate being abused by a much younger person like Mr. Lewis, or anyone for that matter,” Rivera said during the City Council meeting. “My shoulder still hurts, but my psychological condition after this is worse. It is outrageous that the city manager of our city, who is the former police chief, would lay hands on a citizen.”

When reached for comment, Paso Robles Assistant City Attorney Isaac Rosen said the incident “is currently being investigated by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Department and the city is cooperating fully with that investigation.”

“Because the investigation is ongoing, we cannot discuss this matter until the investigation is concluded,” he wrote.

Lewis did not respond to a request for comment from The Tribune.

Michael Rivera ran for Mayor of Paso Robles in 2022.
Michael Rivera ran for Mayor of Paso Robles in 2022.

Former mayoral candidate claims he was injured during homelessness meeting

Rivera said he was invited to attend the working group meeting Nov. 6 by committee member Ron Cuff, who was unable to attend in-person.

Before the meeting, Paso Robles Community Services Director Angelica Fortin and Lewis indicated in a series of emails that Rivera was not welcome to attend the meeting, he said, though Rivera asserted he believed it was open to the public and in a public space.

In his statement to The Tribune, Rosen said the Homeless Strategic Plan Working Group consists of 35 stakeholders, “including representatives from nonprofit organizations, other government entities, residents and members of the education and business community.”

“These stakeholders were specifically invited to participate in the development of the strategic plan based on their background and connection to the topic of homelessness,” he wrote. “The Working Group has held a series of working meetings and a series of public meetings where the general public was specifically invited to provide input. The meeting on Nov. 6 was a working meeting of the Working Group to review the final draft of the plan.”

While at the meeting, Lewis allegedly “grabbed,” “squeezed” and “slapped” Rivera on the shoulder and made “intimidating” remarks about Rivera’s address being available online, Rivera said in his public comment the next day.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Rivera said he has been to two chiropractic appointments in the two weeks since the alleged incident between him and Lewis and is dealing with psychological damage from the interaction.

City manager Ty Lewis speaks at the deceased Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin’s memorial at the Downtown City Park on Sept. 27, 2023.
City manager Ty Lewis speaks at the deceased Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin’s memorial at the Downtown City Park on Sept. 27, 2023.

SLO County Sheriff’s Office investigating claims

Paso Robles Police Chief Damian Nord said an investigation into the incident was handed off to the Sheriff’s Office because Lewis is the former chief of police and current city manager.

On Tuesday, Rivera told The Tribune he has spoken with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office about the incident.

“I’m a firm believer there’s two sides to every story,” Rivera said. “The investigation has to play out. I want this to be a completely unbiased investigation.”

Meanwhile, Rivera said he felt the Paso Robles City Council has not taken his allegations against Lewis seriously, saying that Lewis is continuing to work in his capacity as city manager and was not placed on leave during the pending investigation.

“When he laid hands on me, that crosses a line,” Rivera said. “You can’t act like a thug.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Tony Cipolla at the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office at 805-781-4547.