COMMENTARY: Gearhart’s museum offer mystifying

April 23, 2008


Generosity occurs for very few reasons.

Kelly Gearhart, a North County property developer known for his altruism, has donated space to the Atascadero Historical Society for its museum. Gearhart wants to let the society house its treasured collection of community memorabilia in The Printery.

Eventually. Maybe.

If, that is, the building ever gets back in the game, structurally damaged as it was in the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake. If plans for reconstruction are ever submitted. And if those plans are historically compliant. In other words, fat chance.

To put it mildly, there’s something quite odd about this particular gesture of supposed generosity and the attention it received from a local daily paper.

The Printery is the very same building that has been at the heart of ongoing scrutiny regarding error-laden city applications for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) documents which contain a litany of false assertions and incorrect information. So FEMA doled out $4 million to construct a replacement youth center for a building that wasn’t the city’s youth center at the time of the quake.

The deed restrictions implemented by FEMA specify that The Printery has to be preserved for a minimum of twenty years, and that it be maintained in good condition and in compliance with code. Those restrictions are not being followed… further risking the city’s ability to hang on to federal funds.

To date, no plans have been submitted to the city to retrofit or renovate The Printery. Vandals have periodically inflicted damage; windows have been left broken for months on end, promoting further deterioration of the currently uninhabitable historic structure.

So what was it Gearhart really “donated” that warranted its “reporting” in a syrupy column by Lon Allan in a local daily newspaper? Allan (past president of the historical museum’s board and now a member; a city spokesman regarding FEMA applications after the quake; and unabashed cheerleader for city management) may have forgotten all this unpleasantness, because it got no mention in his writings.

Nor did Allan note the fact that Gearhart’s last such donation – space for the Atascadero Main Street Committee – turned out to be, well, not really a donation, after all. Gearhart presented the committee’s board last week with a little surprise, a totally unexpected invoice for 10 month’s rent at $4,000, which the committee approved for payment.

Allan’s prose repeated the mantra of City Manager Wade McKinney in trying to trace The Printery’s twisted history and justify the city’s attempt to use it for FEMA prospecting:

“The (Masonic Temple) Association gave the building to the city but retained a small percentage of ownership and a stipulation that if the building was no longer used for youth activities, they’d take it back,” wrote Allan. “The city did utilize the building for youth and adult community activities, such as Friday Night Live and other youth services, and banquets. The Historical Society itself held one of its annual dinners in The Printery.”

City hall records suggest otherwise:

In a February 24, 2000 letter, the Atascadero Masonic Temple Association requested a decision from the City of Atascadero regarding its intentions for future use of the Atascadero Masonic Temple/Printery Building: “The Masonic Temple Association has since requested the return of the building in accordance with the original intent and spirit of a joint occupancy agreement, as the city does not plan to use the building for a youth center.”

Allan probably has a good reason for not mentioning any of this, but we haven’t been enlightened.

Of course, we tried repeatedly, by telephone and by e-mail, to reach Gearhart about his seemingly phantom contribution. We wanted to ask about The Printery’s future, and whether he planned to eventually slip an invoice into the hands of the Historical Society board folks, and if he was having money problems.

Gearhart, however, has uncharitably declined to respond.

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Member Opinions:

By: Anonymous on 4/30/08

Well Ron. Quite the spankings!

What say you?

By: Anonymous on 4/29/08

Well I don't think the printery is going anywhere soon. And by the way Why are these idiots that want to talk national politics using these specific topics of local interest to rattle thier gibberish for anyway.

By: Anonymous on 4/29/08

Ron, I clicked into your blog. What a one-note-pony, piece of brown trout, bloated ego echo chamber it is.

I can certainly understand why you would come here where your posts will actually be read by someone other than you and your 2 zombie kool aid drinking family members.

Or perhaps even your own family doesn't read your blog.

By: Anonymous on 4/27/08

Because you are scared…as are the Kongalton-Kooks!

By: Anonymous on 4/27/08

See what I mean, Dan and Karen?

Allowing readers, like, oh, I don't know, let me see if I can find an example, uh… here's one PREDICTABLE!, to write front page blog entries is not such a good idea.

You guys are the professionals. Romey is 100-percent right. More of you guys and less of them is a GOOD thing.

PREDICTABLE!, I have another question for you: If is my "competition," then why do I have them linked up on my blog with the tag, "Quality, local investigative journalism"?

By: Anonymous on 4/26/08

Very predictable! A failing blogger supporting another failing blogger in the face of a truly great, new and cutting edge site starting a blog.

Tell me Ron…when exactly will you be walking into the tar pits with Dave?

Don't let these wannabes discourage you from starting a blog. We all know you will succeed and the traffic will skyrocket, as will the advertisers that want support your endeavor!

The two aforementioned dinosaurs are agenda driven and that always fails. Your fresh clean commitment to truth and uncovering things we would never otherwise know will bring truth seekers in droves.

Trust the public on this one. Not the competition!

Almost all the traditional news sources have blogs because it's a perfect fit.

That is what "they" are afraid of.

Blog it and we will come!

ps: To answer your question about hurting an anonymous blogger’s feelings…No you cant! But what it does when you administrators disrespect any blogger it keeps many many more from posting. You & Dave have a big lesson to learn there.

That is why Dan & Karen will succeed! And you HATE that!

By: Anonymous on 4/26/08

Here's the real tragedy – after all the nonsense surrounding the Printery, there's very little chance FEMA will give Atascadero money to rebuild the Admin. Building.

It will then slowly sink into the ground, unless Mr. Gearhart buys it for pennies on the dollar and converts it into…hey, how about a tourist attraction – The Leaning Tower of Atascadero!

Will we ever be rid of the curse of EG Lewis! ARGHHH!

By: Anonymous on 4/26/08

we need your help!!!!!!! wrote:

"Here is a comment made by Dave Congalton to one of the bloggers: 'Of course, that will never happen. So save your breath. You'll need it later to blow up your inflatable date for tonight.'

Can you see how disrespectful he is? How condescending?"

What you call "disrespectful" and "condescending," WNYH!!!!!!!, I call hilarious.

I had no idea Congalton had that kind of smack in him. I'll have to stop by his comments section more often.

And, WNYH!!!!!!!, I don't know why you're so sensitive to it. He wrote it to an anonymous person.

Here's a question I once asked in the comments section of my blog — profound stuff — along the lines of, "If a tree falls in the forest… "

"Can the feelings of an anonymous commenter be hurt?"

Think about it. It'll make your brain itch.

Karen wrote:

"Actually Dan and I have discussed the idea of expanding the site so readers could blog more on various local and national issue"

I'm not too sure that's a good idea.

Personally, from experience, I happen to subscribe to the great Jim Rome's philosophy on why he limits callers to his amazing radio show: "More of me and less of you is a good thing."

By: Anonymous on 4/26/08

I would encouorage skeptics to go back and read Karen Velie's original reporting on this story. I think she has her facts straight and if I had to choose between her and Lon Allan in the Integrity department, I'd choose Karen in a New York minute.

But is was nice of Mrs. Allan to write in anonymously and defend her husband.

By: Anonymous on 4/26/08

Tired of all this:

I would like to remind you of the statements that Brady Cherry made at the cOuncil meeting that he was unaware of any use at the Printery as a "youth center." The old granery building had been purchased for a youth center, upgraded and our local officials had a grand opening for the facility-I was there. The city had plans drawn for improvements but like most things it was way over budget and the improvements were put on hold.

The Masons wanted the building back because the city was not honoring the terms of their agreement by NOT utilizing the building as a youth center. The city council directed the city manager to draw up the paperwork to give the building back to the Masons.

Then the earthquake came. All of a sudden the city council determined maybe they wanted to honor the terms of the Masons agreement and then began the FEMA application. This can all be found in the minutes of the city council meetings on their web page.

The conclusion is that the city used the Masons and Kelly Gearhart to facilitate their fraudulent application to FEMA to obtain the funds. There was never any intention to use the money on the Printery. The deal was already made with Masons to get rid of the building after receiving the money. The city very simply lied, defrauded FEMA and used the Masonsand Kelly Gearhart to commit their crime.

If you have lived in town for anytime at all you have to realize that any information out of this city needs to be accepted with a grain of salt. Atascadero is not known for being fair, honest or having any integrity. Why then is FBI and Treasury Department only investigating this city? Put all of the pieces together and you have what we we now have-a dysfunctional city government.

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

It's fascinating to read comments from folks who don't really know what goes on day to day in city government. The fact is, the Printery WAS used for youth and community events and activities. Those folks at City Hall have accurate records of its use. It's a shame that because the building may not have been used on an everyday basis like the new community center is, that people jump to the conclusion that it doesn't qualify as a true youth center. It did. It does. The FEMA funds were honestly and accurately acquired. End of story.

Leave Lon Allen alone. He has his own viewpoints and people may differ with them, but the man has never been anything but a tireless advocate for a cohesive community of Atascadero.

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

Lon Allan needs to be replaced at the Tribune. Too much of a conflict of interest.

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

You have plenty of space dow the right side of your page! Reporting to the left…blog to the right. Advertisers across the top! Bingo! I am excited!

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

Thanks for the input anon e mous! Great sites!

I say for now, just change the color of the titles and keep it simple. Green for spot-on investivgative reporting, Blue for local blog toptics, and red for national topics or polls…something like that.

Once the traffic picks up on a daily basis then the advertisers will pony up the bucks allowing you more flexibility.

It sure would be easy to try with little or no risk and certainly no costs.

There is so much we want to share and read opinions about! Even local talk radio only gets in 3-5 callers an hour! I want more input than that, plus they are always the same callers.

This definately needed…

pwetty pweeeze won't you try a few?

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

Uncovered SLO is right. Lon Allan, Atascadero's flack-in-chief, wrote a questionable version of the Printery's history.

The big question is: Who really owned the Printery at the time of the earthquake and what was it actually used for?

The answer to that question will determine if Atascadero owes FEMA millions of dollars and/or anyone committed fraud.

If someone is indicted, maybe Lon Allan can sponsor an E.G. Lewis commemorative going-to-federal-prison float during the next Colony days parade.

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

A good way to do the blog would be similar to how sbnation does it for sports team blogs… check out or to see what I'm talking about. Only a few people can post stuff in the main section… that's where you could post articles like what you do now. On the side is a place where visitors to the blog can post things… sbnation calls those "fanposts." It can also do polls and such… it seems to me like the best way to combine what this blog is now and what it's suggested to be, all in one.

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

Why is censorship always important to radical lefty Marxists?

Can stand straight up debate?

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

before yuo all get carried away with this uni-blog idea, it might help to install some security on this site….anyone can post as anyone

By: Anonymous on 4/25/08

Thanks Karen for being willing to consider an USL local and national blog.

It's really quite simple. In stead of articles just post blog topics…a few at a time to see how it goes.

A local issue and with upcoming election a national topic every now and then.

Taxes? health care? Obama's issues, etc.

Locally topics like House prices, food prices, jobs, local politcs, you can even run your own polls!

Throw up a topic and see what the response is!

If it takes off like we think it will I am sure you can find someone to help with the blog portion so you and dan are not taken away from your great reporting!

What say you?

By: Anonymous on 4/24/08

Actually Dan and I have discussed the idea of expanding the site so readers could blog more on various local and national issues.

Feel free to contact me directly at and share the details of your idea with us.

Thanks for reading UncoveredSLO!

By: Anonymous on 4/24/08

To the idiot who keeps whining about wanting a blog:

Why don't you just go to and set up your own blog on local and national issues? What is keeping you from doing this.

If that's what Dave said to you, I suspect he had a reason.

By: Anonymous on 4/24/08

Karen & Dan! You simply must do a local and national blog!

Here is a comment made by Dave Congalton to one of the bloggers:

"Of course, that will never happen. So save your breath. You'll need it later to blow up your inflatable date for tonight."

Can you see how disrespectful he is? How condescending?

Please consider it. Test it! Just give it a try! We need your help!

By: Anonymous on 4/24/08

Well if it is like every Golf Course he owns or operates he will run it so poorly it will be ruined anyway. Might as well give the place away before he screws it up.

By: Anonymous on 4/24/08

Sandwich — good

Chips — delightful

Milk — tasty

We just ate your lunch on the Estate Financial meeting yesterday.

What gives? You own this story. When are you going to release it?

(Keep up the great work!)

By: Anonymous on 4/24/08

Several plans have been submitted to the Atascadero Planning Department. Each time that Mr. Gearhart has a pre submission meeting with the Planning Deapartment and City Management it's business as usual in Atascadero. The rules change at each attempt at obtaining a permit. The Planning Department attempts to design Mr. Gearhart's building to meet their wishes with no actual legal authority to go as far as they desire to. Consequently there is another great project in Atascadero that is stonewalled at City Hall. The problem that we have is that Mr. Gearhart will not be intimidated by these same people who have defrauded FEMA out of $4 million dollars from his building. I think it's unfair to question the charitable contributions that the Gearhart's have provided not only to the City of Atascadero but also to the many organizations and citizens of the community. The Gearhart's request nothing for their contributions and consequently few really know what they are. Let me just say that they are in the millions of dollars.

I find it absolutely amazing that Mr. Gearhart even attempts to do business in Atascadero. The "inside" take on Mr. Gearhart's project at City Hall is to delay them and scrutinized them excessively so that "some people" don't think he is being treated favorably. So much for Mayor Brennler's fair treatment policy. As long as these scoundrels in the Planning Department and City Management discourage any development in this town we will coontinue our slow "financial death."

I would encourage all to visit the city's web page and follow the history of The Printery in the minutes of the City Council, it's so clear what they have done by defrauding FEMA and what they have consequently done to Mr. Gearhart and all of us.

By: Anonymous on 4/23/08

I think you two do a great job, but did your copyreader go on vacation? Too many typos take away from your credibility. You need to clean up this copy.