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. Kevin 99 says:

    Do members of the Architectural Review Committee receive a salary? If no, then there is no conflict.

    Is Mr. Russom a spouse, dependent child or registered domestic partner? If not, then there is no conflict.

    Did Mr. Russom or Ms. Ray use their positions to influence the decision to declare the “Myrtle Street home” as historical? If not, then there is no conflict.

    Does Mr. Russom’s past marriage have any relevance to Ms. Ray’s performance or suitability for office? If not, then there is no freaking relevance, and this is just another case of throwing out a lot of murky dots and publishing a sensationalist story that “connects” them, which works fine for John Birch Society members and CCN sycophants, but can be a real problem in the real world in which the rest of us live.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 44

    • MaryMalone says:

      BS.

      A conflict of interest is clear in this case. Ray abused her political juice to benefit her lover. The benefit does not have to be reflected in a paycheck .

      No wonder Ray and Supervisor Adam HIll are so tight. They are both quite willing to who’re their positions as supervisor’s to benefit their lovers.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 41 Thumb down 14

      • Kevin 99 says:

        Show me the “benefit,” Mary. He got to serve on some committee for which he receives no recompense? Sounds sort of like a community service, to me. Volunteerism.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 32

    • LameCommenter says:

      99, I realize this stuff (nuances of conflict of interest law) is way over the head of a clueless inexperienced local such as yourself. Go sit through AB1234 government ethics trainings, as I have, and come back when you have a clue about the state of the law on conflicts of interest in California.

      Better still, sit through years of government meetings with a DECENT counsel repeatedly explaining and clarifying the state of ethics law in California. Specifically not Rita Neal, who never met a conflict she didn’t like (and ignore).

      Sheesh. Too much drivel around here to counter it all.

      Your county has multiple significant conflicts of interest and in-breeding of people with a financial interest. It’s painful to see the unawareness of posters here.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 11

      • kayaknut says:

        Of course Ms. Neal doesn’t see any problem, she is likely up for another raise and doesn’t want to upset the apple cart.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 5

      • 1inthemiddle says:

        Are you suggestions that the person with decades in the pesticide pushing business and personal ownership of a business that does the same might also have a conflict sitting on the board. Or did you mean someone who makes money personally off the sales of land (land use issues) and is supported almost exclusively by the real estate business, both locally and out of county might have a conflict with land issues.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 17

        • kettle says:

          Hey can you link me to the “decades in the pesticide pushing business” part?

          Not a snark, links are double plus good.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

          • 1inthemiddle says:

            Please view the early forum videos. I have posted links elsewhere. Compton proudly states she worked for the fortune 100 company, Monsanto selling to agriculture until she started her santa Barbara country farm supply business.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

        • Kevin Rice says:

          Pesticides are a highly valuable product found in nearly every home in America. CAPSLO couldn’t stay in business without pesticide for the bed bugs.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

          • 1inthemiddle says:

            So that is the justification for supporting someone who has made a career out of them and stands to gain financially if elected.
            I guess you will get what they paid for, unlimited winery water and chemicals for all.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  2. euroamerican says:

    Mr. Russom sounds like a REAL catch, hope his ex wife did get paid back.
    What does this say about Ms Ray when she associates herself with a man of this character.
    It really makes you think is this the right person to represent citizens of his county. Does she have the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. Looks like Ms. Ray may suffer from poor judgement.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 39 Thumb down 9

    • SLOBIRD says:

      She probably caught him on one of her Hash House Harriers Run (New Arroyo Grande councilwoman leads a harried secret life) drunk in the WalMart Parking Lot.

      What a wonderful evening it must be for the gathering of Bruce Gibson and partner Cherie Asipura McKee, Adam Hill and partner Dee Torres, and now Caren Ray and partner Randy Russom. County travel will be merry now! Talk about bedfellows, the word has a whole new meaning with this Board.

      Notice that none of these people have taken the respectful vows of marriage commitment because that would then require that Cherie quit, Adam would really have to recuse himself from all discussion, votes and decisions made by County government and boards regarding homeless issues. Hopefully will we not have the opportunity to know about Ray’s future choices as it has already impacted the South County. We do not need 3 harlots and/or hustlers serving on the BOS of supervisors. Corruption will be at an all time high with this group for sure.

      Vote for people of moral conviction, honesty and openness. Supervisors Paul Teixeira demonstrated a man of moral compass, openness and standards that citizens respected as well as Debbie Arnold and Frank Mecham, and while I don’t always agree with them I respect their honesty.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 34 Thumb down 8

      • hijinks says:

        Debbie the whine baroness who gives the grapers everything they want? You call that honesty? Geez. Get real.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 12

  3. Mr. Holly says:

    Peyton Place was a very popular show at one time. I think we may be getting close for enough material for someone to produce San Luis Obispo Place. Maybe Oprah and hew new TV network OWN might be interested on how the nicest place really functions? Or would it be dysfunctional?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 4

    • MaryMalone says:

      I don’t want my taxpayer dollars to go for script development, or for increasing supervisors’ marketability in attracting sexual partners.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 9

  4. pigsrule says:

    We already knew Ray was an inside crony and in this county, it’s all about who you know. Ray is just part of a giant cesspool of filthy politicians in SLO County. Nothing new here – move along.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 49 Thumb down 13

  5. 1inthemiddle says:

    WOW! Welcome to the bottom CCN
    Don’t really care much about collateral damage. Does this guy or his ex have kids. Talk about one sided ugliness.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 47

    • Scarlet says:

      Interesting that you are more concerned about information about theft and cronyism becoming public than the actual theft and cronyism.

      If she hadn’t acted unethically and he hadn’t stolen and cheated, we wouldn’t be discussing this now, would we.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 40 Thumb down 14

    • MaryMalone says:

      If you are worried about the impact of Ray’s sexual behavior on the spouse and children of her sexual partner, talk to Ray and Russom about it . It is their behavior which CCN is reporting.

      In other words, Ray and Russom are the message; CCN IS JUST THE MESSENGER.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 35 Thumb down 14

  6. kayaknut says:

    “It was just an clerical error”. Ms. Ray should have business cards printed with that statement and she could hand them out like candy, or maybe medallions.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 9

  7. Whyaduck says:

    Is absolutely everything Adam Hill touches crap??????

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 52 Thumb down 12

  8. slomike says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 52

    • TacomaRose says:

      You dont get it do you slomike?

      You obvioulsly come from the political party mindset of “well, she may be a crook, but she’s our crook.” That is why our country and county is so screwed up …. each side of the political spectrum is willing to give their candidate a free ride when it becomes obvious that they have some heavy duty baggage in the ethics compartment.

      From my perspective this seals the deal on Ray …. She is shady, shady, shady !!!!

      The south county deserves better than this type of SELF SERVING representative

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 45 Thumb down 13

    • MaryMalone says:

      No one has to go through Ray’s trash. She is quite openly trashy without anybody’s help.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 30 Thumb down 13

  9. dogeatdog says:

    Does not surprise me at all about Caren Ray, as I stated before she will fit in fine with Gibson and Hill and I don’t mean that in a good way.

    She is some piece of work

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 59 Thumb down 16

Leave a Comment