Supervisor campaigns to shut down CalCoastNews

July 16, 2012

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill


San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill has been using his elected position to bully advertisers and supporters of CalCoastNews (CCN) in a campaign to cripple the website.

In several instances, Hill’s own emails, obtained by CCN, have led to cancellations of contracts with businesses advertising on the news website. Hill sent emails to advertisers claiming that CCN reporters have committed crimes. That has been followed by a flurry of emails from Hill to county residents asking that they not support CCN advertisers.

“To claim and solicit donations to a phony site with phony stories is a crime,” Hill said in an email to an advertiser that linked the statement to a veterans site. “Those families and fellow veterans we urge all of you to no longer support any advertisers on the site, how many other stories are false, fake and imposters.”

CCN editor Bill Loving, a longtime reporter, editor and professor of journalism, defended CCN and its news staff saying that CCN does not pay sources or perpetrate frauds on the public.

“I teach reporting and media law and ethics. I would not be associated with CalCoastNews if it engaged in those practices,” Loving said. “CalCoastNews works to bring stories to people that otherwise would go unreported. It does good work.”

Sites like CalCoastNews are important for the health of democracy, because journalists tell people what they need to know so they can make informed choices, said Loving.

“It is a trust that we hold and I would not be a party to anything that would undermine CalCoastNews’ credibility or rob people of their confidence in the work of journalists,” he said.

Hill’s campaign against CCN began after he claimed to have heard CCN was planning to report on a proposed homeless service center, which his girlfriend would lead. Hill and a supporter threatened CCN reporters that they would get the Tribune to write negative stories about CCN if the website covered homeless services in any way but a positive manner.

Hill’s threats intensified after CCN reported that Hill cut off the microphone of a person speaking at a supervisor meeting because he did not like what she was saying. CCN also reported when Hill made a call to a Pismo Beach resident who had written a letter to the editor. In the call, Hill pretended to be his political opponent in the last county election.

Hill has “found” postings on the internet and forwarded them to recipients around the county, sometimes within minutes of their creation. The postings contain false claims that CCN has paid sources or deceived the public.

Hill sent an email to Loving referring him to a link with one of the posts. Loving sent a reply thanking Hill and letting him know that he would be in contact with the poster in order to hear his evidence of wrongdoing or get an apology for the statement.

“Requests have been put forward to get the identity of this person whose post Mr. Hill is spreading around,” Loving said. “It’s taking a while to reach him because the author of the post doesn’t seem to exist.”

Hill has threatened persons who are affiliated with the news site, warning them that if they continued to promote or contribute content to the site, they would lose jobs and reputations.

Tribune columnist Bill Morem repeated some of the false assertions being spread by Hill in a front-page column discussing a CCN story about a man caught up in new regulations controlling homeless persons.

The man claimed to have been a decorated veteran. CalCoastNews quoted and paraphrased the man’s claims, attributing the words to him, as all journalistic organizations do.

Morem inaccurately claimed that CCN not investigating the man’s veteran status had led to a federal fraud investigation. His only source to the false allegations was a man who claimed to be a decorated veteran named Steven Williams.

Morem said he did not verify his source was a veteran, was injured in combat, or even that the man’s name was Steven Williams. He also failed to call CCN for a comment or check to verify that CCN had not retracted its story as he had stated in his article.

Among those who have received threatening messages from Hill is Dave Congalton, host of a popular daily talk radio show, Home Town Radio,on 920KVEC.

“You need to take responsibility for promoting someone who has no ethics and gets paid to do hit pieces (yes, we have proof of this),” Hill wrote in a May 30 email to Congalton. Hill strongly suggested that Congalton no longer have CCN reporters as guests on his show.

Hill repeatedly warned that he planned to “go after” CCN after the June election.

Voters in the 3rd District handily returned Hill, a former Cal Poly English teacher, to office in June for a second four-year term. Congalton also received an email from Hill that referred to a file on CalCoastNews being kept by county officials.

“Oh, my, my, after the file I just read about your beloved protege (CCN reporter Karen Velie), I think you will be doing more than ‘distancing’ yourself,” Hill wrote. “Probably you’ll have to hold a press conference to apologize to the entire community. Wow.”

CalCoastNews filed a request under the California Public Records Act to get a copy of the alleged “file.” San Luis Obispo County Council Warren Jensen told reporters that the county does not have a file on CalCoastNews or its reporters.

“He (Hill) did say that he may have referred to such a file in an email, but that any such remarks were not intended to be taken literally,” Jensen said in a July 6 email to CalCoastNews.

Several of Hill’s manufactured claims have been repeated by public officials, many of whom have received email from Hill in which he falsely claims CalCoastNews is paid to write untrue stories and then splits the proceeds with sources who agree to lie.

The claims are not true, Loving said. Loving stepped in as editor after the death of George Ramos, who was the site’s first editor.

“George was a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and a well-respected member of the community. Does anyone think that he would condone that sort of behavior,” Loving said. “Does anyone think I would sully his reputation and memory by allowing anything like that to be done on the CalCoastNews site? I do not.

“Mr. Hill is opening a door to a lawsuit from anyone who has been a CalCoastNews source. Saying that someone takes money to lie is a statement that is defamatory. As Mr. Hill appears to be operating through his county position, this could have the county sitting at the defense table at any number of lawsuits,” Loving said.

Loving has taught media law for more than 20 years, was an adjunct at the University of Oklahoma School of Law and is coauthor of a widely used media law textbook that is in its 13th edition.

Oceano Community Services District Board President Matt Guerrero repeated some of Hill’s claims during a board meeting. He publicly retracted his statement two weeks later, but his comment had been repeated dozens of times on public access television as the meeting was rebroadcast.

CalCoastNews’ Karen Velie has asked Hill several times to correct all untrue statements and to stop sending out the libelous emails.

Hill responded with an email: “LOL.”

In February, CCN first started covering the issue of more aggressive ticketing of the homeless.

In April, attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit claiming the city’s aggressive homeless ticketing program is unconstitutional. A few weeks ago, a San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction barring police from ticketing homeless people who sleep in their vehicles because it appears to be an unconstitutional way of dealing with the homeless. Both Hill, Torres and the city of San Luis Obispo have promoted the aggressive ticketing as an important aspect of the safe parking program.

Torres requires the handful of homeless permitted to utilize the parking program in which they are allowed to live in their cars, to sign over 70 percent of their income to her department, something Torres also requires of most of those who stay for more than a few weeks in the homeless shelter she runs. In addition, homeless services then charges the client $12.50 monthly in administrative fees.

Torres contends her safe parking program is modeled on Santa Barbara’s homeless parking plan, which also requires participants to enroll in case management and that the monies are used to get people into housing.

And while Santa Barbara’s program includes case management, it does not include the requirement to sign over income and subsidy checks, said Nancy Kapp, Santa Barbara’s Homeless Outreach coordinator and case manager.

“These people are living on $1,000 a month and you don’t take money from these people,” Kapp said. “It is highway robbery and wrong. You don’t give something and ask for something, you give it unconditionally.”

In some areas of the state, homeless services require as much as 50 percent of a shelter resident’s income be placed into an account to be used to get into housing, something that generally takes no more than 100 days. Several programs CCN contacted said monies are generally returned within a day of dropping out of the program.

At a San Luis Obispo City Council meeting earlier this year, Torres said it generally takes one to two years for her staff to get someone doling out 70 percent of their income into low-cost housing. Local homeless people contend very few ever get into housing and it can take almost a year to get monies returned.

Several local attorneys contend several of Torres’ programs result in unconstitutional treatment and criminalization of homelessness.

As of June 1, San Luis Obispo homeless services started enforcing a variety of rules for the homeless to follow including agreeing to searches of their persons and vehicles upon demand and not being seen within an eighth of a mile of the Prado Day Center between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. If a homeless person fails to follow Torres’ rules, she bars them from services such as meals and a place to shower often for months at a time, according to the program’s rules and dozens of citations CCN staff have viewed.

“To deprive someone of public benefits when they are doing something perfectly legal is a violation of due process and cruel and unusual punishment,” San Luis Obispo based attorney Stew Jenkins said.

In an article about the prohibition of services, CCN accurately reported a homeless man had been deprived of services after his bike was spotted on Prado Road, but the man exaggerated his status by claiming he was a decorated veteran with several medals.

CCN issued an update correcting the story after the man admitted he was not a decorated veteran.

After that correction, Hill and the Tribune began making untrue claims that CalCoastNews was under investigation from federal officials for fraud. The Tribune went on to repeat Hill’s false claims that CCN received public donations to pay the man for making his false claim of being a veteran.

Hill has also threatened radio personalities who have hosted CCN’s reporters on their shows with a denial of access to public officials. Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Tony Cippola said Sheriff Ian Parkinson has a policy of not allowing CCN the same access as other local media.

“The sheriff has a policy that says I cannot do phone interviews with CalCoastNews reporters,” Cippola said.

Two years ago, CCN Senior Correspondent Daniel Blackburn was warned by then Public Information Officer Rob Bryn that if Blackburn covered a story reflecting negatively on Ian Parkinson, CCN’s access to information would be limited. At the time, then-CCN editor Ramos told Bryn that he had vetted CCN’s stories and he stood behind them.

Several county agencies, including the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s office, have refused to provide CCN press releases or interviews following investigative reporting by the news site of questionable acts and omissions within those departments.

California case law has consistently supported the rights of all media to have the same access to government, to prevent public officials from manipulating the media with threats of cutting off information.

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Adam claims CCN stories are “false and fake.”

OK, Adam. I know you’re reading this chat board (probably during work hours) so please tell me what was “false and fake” about the following stories which CCN investigated:

–disgraced former Paso Top Cop Lovely Lisa-the-Meter-Maid Solomon Chitty and her Chittygate scandal(s)

–indicted former Atascadero Person of the Year and probable felon-to-be Kelly Gearhart

–John Wallace’s continued shady actions…Oceano general manager Raffaele Montemurro…Jan Marx’s undercover involvment in shutting down the Dalidio project….A-town leaders and their questionable actions to secure FEMA funds..

–Paso city mgr Jim (“Phat Bald Guy”–his own words) App and city attorney Iris “I-know-lots-about-the-City-of-Bell” Yang and their continued incompetence and arrogance…

There are so, SO many more stories that broke here on CCN, Adam, and you know it. You’re a scared bully and should be ashamed of yourself. You political types have been protected by local media for so long that when a real reporter asks real questions and searches out real answers, you lash out and look like a big bully FOOL in the process.

That’s quite a resume of stories and there’s no end in sight. I wish that CCN would keep a rolling account of its big stories such as the ones you mentioned that could be accessed with a click from their website.

CCN’s reputation is growing and it’s driving its detractors nuts…

Click on the key word links under the story…. “Adam Hill” … Or, use the site search.

Too little, too late.

We needed this information BEFORE the election, so we could send a strong message about abuses of power and chicanery at the County offices.

Really, racket? Where were you when these were published?

Adam Hill admits to impersonating opponent

Adam Hill tied to phony mailer

Adam Hill using government resources in election bid

Adam Hill is not sorry, and blames the media


(1) Hill shuts off microphone was reported

(2) Hill phony impersonation prank call was reported

(3) Hill voted for and negotiated inflated APCD salaries was reported

(4) Hill falsely claimed to be chair of the Homeless Oversight Committee was reported

Either you weren’t listening, or you went along with the Tribune’s Valentine treatment of their Golden Boy deriding all these facts as “smear tactics”. The people elected who they deserve.

It is like a progressive, chronic, disease. The longer Hill operates with impunity, the more outrageous his behavior becomes. The poor sap is blind to his own actions. Hill is on his way out, he has shown his true colors.

I think we’re saying the same thing.

Yes, CCN uncovered many abuses of power and actions of chicanery on our recently-reelected supe.

But CCN did not uncover enough to get the chump turfed out, as he should have been.

Hence my assessment, “too little, too late.” If this had been in the public sphere before the election, the justifibly-outraged public could have expressed themselves in a meaningful manner. Now, we’re left with saying, “whoops,” but we’re still got Adam Hill up there being a psychotic bully.

How about restating your assertion: The people don’t pay attention enough or don’t care.

CCN is pulling their share. I spent thousands on radio ads before the election. Yet Hill’s $100K+ TV/radio/media blitz underwritten by attorneys and PG&E and friends is difficult to overcome, especially when the daily rag is patting him on the back. Adam even wrote a dripping wet ‘thank you’ to Bob Cuddy over at the Tribune.


…Support CCN. Cancel the Tribune and don’t advertise there. Tell a friend.

I believe it’s probably a little more nefarious than simply the people not paying attention.

I believe voters have become so agenda-driven that they’re willing to overlook a lot of bad governance, so long as their potholes get filled, or their neighbor’s project gets stymied, or whatever their pet cause is.

I submit that even dyed-in-the-wool anti-Price-Canyon voters would have a hard time forgiving Hill for this level of abuse had they known about it. Maybe not. But I’d sure like to believe that’s the case.

I covered that under the category “[they] don’t care”. I agree.

At least one anti-Price Canyon voter has stated that his vote is what matters. As long as he votes the way that benefits them, who cares about ethics. Sad, but true.

“California case law has consistently supported the rights of all media to have the same access to government so that public officials cannot manipulate the media with threats of cutting off information.”

As it’s rather obvious that CCN will be bringing a suit against Hill as a person and probably the County as well (since Hill is using his position as a personal platform to attack this media venue), I suggest that CCN goes after the freaks that have a clear policy of cutting CCN off from information. Guys like Parkinson and Shae need to be taught that they might be the law but they aren’t above it. This county is so corrupt and it looks like CCN is going to do more for us than we even thought possible.

Thank You CCN. I have a feeling that you’re going to be BIGGER than you ever dreamed.

Hey Adam Hill………

The lawyers and CCN are going to have a Hey Day with you.

Oh yeah and one more thing………”LOL”

just kidding????? NOT

Adam’s bulling behavior is unparallelled. I have a friend at Diablo who says Adam has threatened management with problems with negotiations over the solar plants if they do not follow his demands.

Adam first went after Grover Beach mayor John Shoalls who he felt could beat him in the election. Not only did PG&E management order John not to run they forced him to support Adam. But who do you think was his opponent’s campaign manger, John’s wife.

This is but one of several things he has asked officials at PG&E to do for him. In every case they comply often throwing their employees under the bus. Not only is Adam to blame for this bulling, but management at PG&E for being spineless and promoting this little bully. Shame on PG&E.


No wonder PG&E gave Adam $2,500 for his re-election campaign!

Hey Adam: it is because CCN publishes the truth about people like you that I began to frequent CCN and support their advertisers. Now that you’re trying to pull this totalitarian tactic, I will patronize their website and their advertisers all the more adamantly.

Certainly not coincidental that he waited until after the election. What a total piece of crap this man is! Both frightening and amazing that anyone could believe they hold this kind of power and can get away with this type of injustice. I hope you go after all of them hard CCN.

A disgusting abuse of power. Bring back the first amendment please, Adam.

The same goes for Sheriff Ian and his refusal to give CCN the same access to info that other local media get. Shame on you, too, Sheriff Ian!

Are you scared to see how your buddy Lisa Chitty was exposed and ousted? (oh yea–she “resigned”…ha ha)

If Sheriff Ian is truly an honest and ethical sheriff and really believes in government transparency, he’ll tell Tony Cipolla to treat CCN like any other news source.

Uh oh. Sounds like Adam’s off his meds again. I keep waiting for the day when this guy totally loses it. Anyone wana bet the time and place?

How about time: 6-7pm. Place: Dave’s show on KVEC.

I’d love to hear Adam take some calls on the air (won’t happen) and listen to his defensive, shrill voice try to demean CCN and any of his detractors. His ego simply can’t allow him to hear criticism and I think he’d lose it 15 minutes into the interview.

I’d even lift my ban on Dave’s show and tune in just to hear Adam squirm a bit…

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