New Arroyo Grande councilwoman leads a harried secret life
June 8, 2010
Scandal-ridden former councilmember Ed Arnold stepped down to allow the Arroyo Grande City Council to avoid distraction related to his personal life, but at his replacement’s very first council meeting, questions about her lifestyle started a confrontation between her supporters and her critics.
Public comment about recently appointed Arroyo Grande Councilwoman Caren Ray’s activities with the San Luis Obispo Hash House Harriers brought a moment of stunned silence to Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
“I think it is highly embarrassing,” said Kevin Rice speaking about Ray’s activities as part of the reputed drinking club during the public comment period. “It is not reflective in what the community is looking for in a councilmember.”
An unnamed supporter of Ray and the SLO Hash House Harriers confronted Rice in the lobby of the city building and angrily accused him of ruining Ray’s professional life by making private matters public. Another supporter, who also refused to be named, objected to Rice mentioning Ray doing Jello shots in the Wal-Mart parking lot in ear shot of his 8-year-old daughter during public comment.
And while some residents contend that what Ray does in her private life should be kept private, others do not agree.
“With her lifestyle, she should not be a councilmember,” said Deb Napzok, an Arroyo Grande resident. “This is not who we want to represent our town.”
According to the SLO House Harriers web site, they are “a drinking group with a running problem.” They organize runs called hashers, an event that involves drinking and running after someone dubbed the hare.
Hashing is a mixture of athleticism, drinking, public nudity, cross dressing and hedonism, according to a hasher website.
Members are given nicknames such as Princess, Panama Jackoff, Rub Her Dinghy and SLO-Cop-You-Later (Ray’s nickname).
“It is a running group,” Ray said. “I have not been to an event in some time because it can be misjudged. I am no longer a member.”
And while Ray, a Santa Maria High School social sciences teacher, contends this is just normal adult activity, her comments about drinking in public places such as the Arroyo Grande Wal-Mart parking lot, sex on the running trail and her students’ drinking has caused some to question her ability to represent the city.
A 2009 news article about the Santa Maria High School swim team which is coached by Ray, notes that the swimmers have been given nicknames such as a girl dubbed Cherry Drop and a guy named Princess.
A few days after the story was published, another Hash House Harrier, Julie Workman said on the Yahoo string frequented by the group, “What’s up with one of them having the same nickname as our own Princess? Hmmm, nicknaming a student after your husband, should I be concerned?
“Also, Cherry Drop isn’t a half bad hash name,” Workman added. “Does she like to drink beer?”
Another hasher, “Otter Sea My Clam,” chimed in and asked Ray if the naming of her student was part of a hash crossover.
Ray responded, “We’re totally unashamed of taking a page out of the Hash Handbook for namings! The kid named Princess… :-) And yes, funny you should ask, Cherry Drop has been known to toss a few back.”
Santa Maria Principal Craig Huseth said it is inappropriate for his teachers to be discussing their students on public message boards. Ray, however, does not agree.
“There is nothing wrong with me commenting on a student’s drinking,” Ray said. “She (Cherry Drop) is known to toss a few back.”
Earlier this year, another Yahoo message string starts with the posting of a man’s bare butt with the word “bitch’ welted or stamped into the skin three times. While the picture says “by SLO-Cop-You-Later,” Ray contends someone else posted the photo.
Next on the string, Stubby Python asked, “Where is my phone, where is my hair, why do I have a black eye and what the f**k is stamped on my ass?”
Ray responded by telling Stubby Python she could clear up his questions.
“That’s not your ass,” Ray said. “Yours was tied to a pole with a five dollar bill stuck in your crack.”
Ray told CalCoastNews her postings were in reference to a birthday party she attended with people she has know for 30 years and that her comments should have been kept private.
“There is nothing questionable or irresponsible,” Ray said. “Some of this is tongue in cheek.
“This goes back to a difficult appointment and there are camps of people upset that their person didn’t win (the council seat).”
Rice does not agree and points to several YouTube videos which display hashers exposing themselves and to photos on the group’s website.
Late Tuesday night, most of the photos from the site were removed. Nevertheless, CalCoastNews has copies of the website’s original version.
Last month, the City Council voted to replace former councilman Arnold with Ray, one of seven candidates for the recently vacated council seat. She had been serving as chair of the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission.
Arnold faces five felony charges stemming from an alleged assault last December involving a female Arroyo Grande city employee, who is allegedly dating his wife, and two charges related to allegations of child pornography. He has pled not guilty to all counts.
“I am not the only person involved in city politics who is a hasher,” Ray said and refused to provide the other SLO Hash House Harrier member’s name. “What upsets me about this is the city has been through so much.”