Ray brings boyfriend into political fray

May 1, 2014

ethicsBy JOSH FRIEDMAN and KAREN VELIE

A San Luis Obispo County supervisor currently running for election has used her political position to further the career of her boyfriend, in violation of an ethic’s policy.

Last October, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Caren Ray to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to fill a seat vacated by the death of Supervisor Paul Teixeira. Ray is currently running for election to keep her seat on the board.

Prior to joining the board of supervisors, Ray served on the Arroyo Grande City Council. As a member of the council in Jan. 2013, Ray skirted the city’s ethics policy and appointed her boyfriend, Arroyo Grande architect Randy Russom, to the city architectural review committee (ARC).

An Arroyo Grande ethics policy prohibits any decision making by government officials that even appears to create a conflict of interest. The policy strictly forbids making decisions that relate to financial interests or personal relationships.

“Officials and employees shall not use their official positions to influence government decisions in which they have a material financial interest or where they have an organizational responsibility or personal relationship that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the policy states.

Still, Ray said she did nothing wrong by appointing her boyfriend to the ARC.

“There is no conflict, there was no gain for me,” Ray said.

Caren Ray

Caren Ray

Just a few months after Ray appointed her boyfriend to the ARC, San Luis Obispo architectural firm RRM Design hired Russom, according to a post on his Facebook page. In addition to doing architectural work, RRM provides land use consulting services and often brings projects before the board of supervisors and city councils in the area.

In October, Arroyo Grande Councilman Joe Costello appointed Russom to the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission.

Ray said that on her second day with the board of supervisors, she spoke with County Counsel Rita Neal about her relationship with Russom. Neal informed her that she could vote on matters pertaining to RRM, so long as Russom is not working on the project, Ray said.

Neal did not respond when asked for confirmation. Neal’s county email said she is currently out of the office.

Ray and Russom have been dating for at least a few years and are now living together, according to multiple sources. On March 18, Ray purchased an Arroyo Grande home where the couple now resides.

On March 4, 14 days before the closing of Ray’s home, the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission meeting minutes note an administrative decision to designate her recently purchased home as historical. Because of the Mill’s Act, this decision is slated to significantly lower Ray’s property taxes.

State law prohibits officials from making any governmental decisions on issues in which a party involved has a shared investment or interest in real property. Government Code Section 18730 bars office holders from deciding on any issue when a conflict of interest of such has surfaced within 12 months of the hearing.

Multiple requests for a copy of the San Luis Obispo County’s ethic’s policy to the board of supervisors, county council, and the county clerk recorder’s office over several days were unsuccessful. However, several employees responded noting that they were attempting to find the document.

During the past few years, questions about officials violating conflicts of interest codes have arisen because of the romantic relationships of two other county supervisors.

Board chairman Bruce Gibson has dated his legislative aide Cherie McKee for several years, and Supervisor Adam Hill is engaged to Dee Torres, the homeless services manager for the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, for which the supervisors approve millions of dollars of funding.

Gibson hired and rehired McKee as his aide, a position that pays a base salary of $70,000 a year. Hill has advocated that the board increase the homeless services funding to CAPSLO while decreasing the amount of support given to competing organizations.

But, Neal has exonerated both supervisors of any wrongdoing and of failing to recuse themselves when they had conflicts of interest.

In addition to creating a looming conflict of interest, Ray has left Arroyo Grande with an advisory body member who has admitted to financial misconduct.

Shortly before meeting Ray, Russom went through a divorce. During the end of the marriage, Russom took loans and credit cards out in his then wife’s name swindling her out of almost $100,000 she inherited following the death of her father, according to notarized statements signed by Russom.

“I have forged her name to use her checks and signed for credit cards she knew nothing about,” Russom says in a notarized security document he signed at the time claiming he planned to pay his wife back. “I, Randy Russom, have stolen, cheated and lied to my wife.”

Russom did not respond to a request for comment.


88 Comments

  1. Opinionated says:

    Integrity is the hallmark of a person who demonstrates sound moral and ethical principles in
    their public AND private lives. Acting with honor and truthfulness are also basic tenets in a
    person with integrity. I’m not seeing that in Caren Ray. Truthfully, anyone who has spent any amount of time around either Monique or Randy Russom know they are not trustworthy and unfortunately are nothing but trouble. I’m sorry, but anyone who would dip their toes in that water is someone to be questioned. How can anyone possibly think a person’s bad personal choices don’t affect their public position? I am embarrassed and disgusted to have a person like this representing us in any manner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 4

  2. fishing village says:

    This is way too awful, if true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  3. rockhound1965 says:

    I knew Randy Russom in junior college in Bakersfield, where he met his wife Monique. I was not great friends with her, but I was in Architecture classes with Randy & thought we all knew him. I actually met him in summer school at BHS years earlier, but got to know him at Jr.College. I know how hard they worked to get Randy through CalPoly. I know what kind a crap jobs Monique worked as part of that marriage & partnership. To read that Randy lied, cheated, and swindled her inheritance left by her father after all those years…..a very bitter taste filled my mouth. Why is it men of low ethical standards and zero morals become “beacons of the community”? That is certainly the code in Bakersfield. Lie, cheat, and steal….and next year, you can run for mayor. Seriously. And maybe that is where Randy learned this kind of behavior. Too bad that is passes for a daily routine in most towns & cities these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 10

    • 1inthemiddle says:

      If you actually knew this person then I’m sure you realize you can reach him. Why not contact him yourself instead of arriving at a conclusion from an article. That seems rather suspect.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 12

    • givemeabreak says:

      I read Bakersfield….enough said. Oh PUKE

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • rockhound1965 says:

        Suspect…..oh…..as in “angry ex-girlfriend” or worse? No….some people mean what they sat, and I am pretty sure I said “friend”. And a friend I once respected, but now realize is seriously flawed in many ways. That said; Randy is easy to contact. He is pretty much a public figure & his business is listed. And you can easily run into him at these planning meetings. But why?
        And if you (or Randy) this my comment was out-of-line, then for heaven’s sake, don’t read anymore threads. Ever.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Pelican1 says:

    She’s a very kinky girl
    The kind you don’t take home to mother
    She will never let the voters down
    While she parties in the the street, ow girl

    She likes the boys on the board
    She says that Adam’s her all-time favorite
    She loves his gold medallions
    She’s never hard to please

    Oh, no
    That girl is pretty wild now
    (The girl’s a super freak)
    The kind of girl you read about
    (In Harrier magazine)
    That girl is pretty kinky
    (The girl’s a super freak)
    She really loves to Party
    Even in the street
    She’s a super freak, super freak…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 34 Thumb down 13

  5. choprzrul says:

    From SLO County’s Grand Jury website:

    The primary function of the grand jury is to examine all aspects of local government, ensuring that the county is being governed honestly and efficiently and that county monies are being handled judiciously.

    A grand jury is a body of the required number of persons (19 in San Luis Obispo County) returned from the citizens of the county before a court of competent jurisdiction and sworn to inquire of public offenses committed or triable within the county.

    Each grand jury is charged and sworn to investigate or inquire into county matters of civil concern. [Penal Code Section (PC) § 888]

    Where is the disconnect?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  6. r0y says:

    This is why I don’t vote for these Tea Bagging, Republican, conservative hypocrites! Does their hypocrisy know no end? Have they absolutely NO morals or self-control? All of these SLO city/county/area TEA BAG TERRORISTS need to not get elected!!!1!!!eleventy!!

    Yeah. Thought so.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 33

    • Black_Copter_Pilot says:

      This “Tea Bagging” term you choose to use. What exactly does it mean and how does it apply here?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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