New Arroyo Grande councilwoman leads a harried secret life

June 8, 2010

By KAREN VELIE

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.

Pictures include female genitalia, a man with his testicles placed on a passed out man’s head, a man with his pants down and Ray at a picnic table.

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.”


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Paperboys

Five Cities has a bunch of wild stuff like these harrier parties going on. I know a guy who goes to group sex and wife swapping parties in Pismo (he’s not married too) and an old girlfriend used to go to sado-masochist parties at a winery in Nipomo. She said there would be like 500 people there, all dressed in leather and going around whipping each other with riding crops.

You people in South County, man I don’t know…


zaphod

Years ago I read about a dungeon decor furniture Mfg. here in SLO their stuff used in Pulp Fiction film, just keep your eyes wide shut.


AGDUDE

grovvey ….


JordanJ

Check out the front page of ” La Rouge lingerie and Scissor Clothing fashion show, event photos ”


You will immediately spot an obvious member of The San Luis Obispo Hash House Harriers.


I clicked on the photo, there is a fellow in the front row with red suspenders and a black bow tie. He sure does like the outfit, or lack there of. LOL


inverse Condemnation

—————At least Arroyo Grande does not conduct their meeting like the Oceano Community Service District.


Lilylu

The only thing that comes to my mind to say is: Arroyo Grande is the only city in the county that can make Atascadero look good.


BiggerProblems

I’m very sad that you have had children. You are incredibly stupid to make the generalities that the hash or Ms. Ray is promoting the “joys of drinking to you pass out and sleeping around when to inebriated to remember”. You’d rather have a teacher who is a swinger? Someone who flouts the commitment of marriage. I’m going to go out on a limb here and also assume that you think sex education should onlly include abstinence and that not talking about drinking (which all studies have shown that it happens in high schools) will make you child more responsible. How’s that all working for ya’? Epic FAIL.


AG Non-Freek

Why are all these wanna be politicians such maniacs? If you have a secret warped double life, then stay out of the public eye! Go home Ms. Ray. Resign and let someone who has a bit of decency be part of the council. What a mess.

AG E


BiggerProblems

So you’re a “Non-Freek”. I’m proud that I don’t see any problem in Ms. Ray’s association with the group. I guess that makes me a freAk.


ThomasPaine

Just another Kevin Rice hatchet job. It’s what he does.


BiggerProblems

This is probably the most sane comment on this chat. What would happen if 6 months from now, after impressing the council and public with her work, the “hash issue” came up?


SCH3RNR

I have not read all the comments. I just want to say that while the hash has a lot of juvenile characteristics most folks find it simply a stress relief to go someplace and be accepted (“sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name” BUT not your job, etc – unless you want them to!). Many very smart, educated (PHD, MS, JD, etc) run with the hash all over the world. I’m looking for much more important reasons to keep someone out of government than the fact that they run or ran w/ the hash.


Scarlet

Could care less if Karen Ray runs “with the hash.” She inappropriately discussed her underage students in a public place. Do the lawyers or CPAs who also run “with the hash” comment on their clients publicly?


mkaney

Now I know why politicians have such an easy time spinning things. If what you said were true, yes it would be a problem. Unfortunately, it’s not true.


You have morphed “student” into “students”, and taken “underage” out of context. Underage meant under 21, in the context of drinking, it did not mean under 18.


Now what will be really interesting is to see if these factual corrections make any difference to your view.


PaulJones

mkaney – “You have morphed “student” into “students”

Scarlet hasn’t morphed anything. Ray mentioned two students. These students are also minors, they are a sophomore and a junior. Where are you coming from, you are the one that just put on a spin here.


For a person who is generally so level headed I have to ask you a question.

mkaney, are you one of their group or a wanna be? You sure sound like one. Do you miss your old time frat parties? Do you think it would be fun to wake up with your back side welted with bitch all over on it, a black eye and find that your hair has been pulled out, which is what they claimed happened to the guys missing hair on the message boards. Sorry, that isn’t the sort of mentality that needs to be making decisions that effect the populous of an entire city.


MarkJames

If these people were in college, there would be a law protecting them from the likes of each other!


mkaney

I apologize, you are right and I was mistaken.


No, I am not a member of their group. And pretty much no no and no to missing such things.


Maybe my point is better made this way… rather than defending this woman’s behavior, I will say this. If this sort of thing is of concern to you, then I would highly recommend checking out all politicians you support for membership in social orders, including secretive ones, that practice all sorts of odd behavior.


I simply think that anyone who does some research on that will probably wind up being concerned a lot less with this particular level of inappopriateness.


AGDUDE

I just want to know, does anyone flash their POWER RACK?


ds_gray

Wow – I actually read through all (56 so far) comments to see if anyone had made this important point.


Nope.


We don’t elect officials with clean slates and, to quote a previous poster, ‘puritanical morals’ to take the high ground, or because we think they should represent the moral fiber of the community. The reason we shouldn’t choose to elect officials with private baggage is so they have nothing in their past that can be leveraged, either by special interests or other elected officials, or secrets that can be used to sway the official.


A squeaky clean politician is one that can’t be blackmailed. Karen Ray was not squeaky clean.


It sounds like the council, in appointing Karen Ray, got exactly what they wanted – a person that was already morally compromised and could be manipulated at the whim of the council with threats of bringing all this personal back-story to light. Too bad for them – somebody else already aired the dirty laundry. Now watch for Ms. Ray to resign before she casts a vote and another easily manipulated individual will be nominated to take her place.


Its Capitol Hill politics played out in hometown AG…


mkaney

Unfortunately nearly ALL politicians, in fact all people, have something that could be criticized. That is why, using this logic, all we will ever elect will be liars. Perception HAS been a huge issue in politics, however I argue that this is a bad thing and something we need to move beyond. Moral fiber should be based on criteria like honesty, fairness, hard work, you know.. things that actually effect others.


ds_gray

I did not write ‘criticize’ – I used the words ‘leverage’ and ‘blackmail’.


You are correct that all politicians will face criticism, as well they should. Sadly, honesty, fairness and hard work can be undermined if there is something egregious in a person’s background that the person wishes to remain secret, especially if the secret is so dire that the person can be manipulated. In this case, the lid is off, the secret is out there, and Karen Ray’s judgment can now be evaluated by the voting public. If she faced a ballot box, I seriously doubt Ms. Ray’s work ethic would matter at all…her affiliation with a dubious drinking club would be front and center in the minds of voters.