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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Although Karen and CCN do a worthwhile service, Karen has to admit her own bias and slant. I sent in a very civil comment a couple of weeks ago about Karen most likely being disappointed that the Trib scooped her on Gearhart’s arrest. Never published. And, today only the anti-Hill comments are highlighted in pink as “hot topics.”

Both Karen and Adam are acting like babies. Grow up, both of you.


Who are you to tell anyone to grow up? So, if you were in the same situation, being attacked in the manner shown, then are we to call you a baby that needs to grow up if you defended yourself as well? Surely you jest? Your irrational conclusions are implicative of a Tribune supporter.

I am sure that the pink highlighted topics are relative to the software program giving the posts numbers in the way of responses; pro or con. The higher the number in like or dislike is the reasoning of the change of color to pink or green. Duh.


Karen’s stories often border on and sometimes cross over into tabloid journalism. She says, “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.” This last clause is written as pure gossip. None of us should care if his “girlfriend” (are we in high school?) will lead the homeless center. What we should care about is if that relationship has violated the law–and then reported without the lovely shade that is the background for this page.

Yes, Karen needs to grow up in her profession. It would help to give her investigations more power and credibility. As it is now, she is giving her personal vendetta sway. The reporter should not become the news. If she does, then write it up as an editorial not as news.



Your diatribe above is loaded with YOUR personal and subjective gossip. With a discerning eye, read your post again to see that this is true. You’ve become what you’re allegedly against!

Your silence was deafening relative to you being in the same situation and defending yourself under the same circumstances as shown within this article. I didn’t expect anything less.

Save your prattle for the Tribune.

The comments that are liked or disliked by a certain number of people are the ones that are highlighted.

They are not comments picked out by the staff, but ones defined by the number of hits. Are you sure your comment on Gearhart’s arrest was submitted properly. I have sometimes lost comments by clicking reply instead of submit comment.

Thank you.

mams, look again. There are both pro- and anti-Hill comments highlighted in pink and green. Once a comment hits a certain number of checks–either yay or nay–I think the system automatically highlights it and says “well-loved” or “hot debate”. I don’t think CCN folks are purposely highlighting anything; it’s automated.

Thank you for your polite reply, pasoparent5. Yes, I believe you are right. When I looked, it appeared differently to me.

I’m not on here much, but it sure seems that Ted Slanders is some kind of a neanderthal.

You’re welcome, mams. As for TS, he’s actually behaving rather nicely today. Usually he writes incoherent rants full of pseudo-Christian fire and brimstone warnings but he’s staying on-topic recently so that’s a refreshing change.


“Incoherent rants” regarding TRUE Christianity? Why I never……….. , when I read your post I heard the rumblings in the sky from far off, and I am sure that it was the Christian God agreeing with me that He does not take lightly to anyone saying that His direct words that I proffer are incoherent!

I am sorry that you can’t decipher that ALL of my godly postings are right on topic with the article in question. I will pray for your enlightenment in the way of you obtaining at least a modicum of reading comprehension so you can follow along next time with our God’s true words.

You can thank me later.


Now you have to resort to outright name calling because I easily schooled you in your erroneous notions? Is that all you have to offer at this point? Really? You obviously don’t have enough sense to feel embarrassed.

How sad to watch an individual like you in having to regress back to the sandbox of kindergarten to try in vain to save face.

You know mams….perhaps you should figure how the internets work, specifically chat boards, before you start chastising others for your misconceptions as it really makes me cranky to actually have to agree with TS on this one…..sheesh.

Ohhh yeah…..and you may want to apologize to Karen for implying that your original post was so earthshattering/groundbreaking that you believed she omitted it……you need to get over yourself, drag on some big girl panties and do some growing up too.

You’re welcome,



“… it really makes me cranky to actually have to agree with TS on this one…..sheesh.”

It comes with the territory of receiving irrational attacks upon our hive by the vacuous that meander into CCN. We innately defend our fort to the ignorant and uninformed like mams!

Uh, but don’t make it a habit of agreeing with Brother Ted because just think of what your friends might think!

No apologies necessary from me. It wasn’t printed. Karen might want to apologize to me. It isn’t the first time it’s happened, by the way.

But, actually, that’s minor compared to what happens on this chat board. Why are people always so “brave” when posting anonymously? What gives you the right to speak as you did to me? You don’t know me; I’m not a public figure. Civil speech and debate shouldn’t be that difficult.

I am as appalled at Adam Hill’s behavior as many of you are. He is a public figure, which opens him to criticism. Karen has made herself a public figure; that opens her to comment as well.

Attacking fellow posters with such vitriol is unwarranted. It demeans the forum. And, “internet” is singular.

From no less an intellectual giant than George Bush, while acting as president of these United States: “I hear there’s rumors on the internets…”


Using the term “internets” is because some of us our chastising the former president that helped screw up this economy.

I am sure that I am speaking for the majority, but, enough of your whining regarding what wasn’t or what was posted.

You are who you pretend to be, and you act in the same manner that you’re allegedly against. Your droning is getting obnoxious.


Get your facts straight before unloading your criticism. It usually helps support your case, and helps ensure a civil response.

Gearhart was served a federal warrant to appear based on his indictment in LA. He was not arrested and is not in jail.

As an contextual aside (oft-repeated on this site) if Karen had not bulldogged the Gearhart story from the beginning, theTribune would still be clueless as to the importance of the indictment. If you keep in mind that the Tribune is basically clueless, then when they do actually come up with something of value, it’s a real cause for celebration & accolades.

Yes, I should have said, “indictment” instead of “arrest.” My point was and is that Karen must have been disappointed that the Trib scooped her on that indictment. That was big news, and, certainly, she must have been disappointed after breaking the story. Who wouldn’t be? You know she was disappointed if only by her closing comment to the CCN Gearhart story: “This article will be updated as more information becomes available.” She wanted people to know this was HER story. Karen is good. She could be GREAT if she refines her journalistic style.

So, what’s the problem, R. Hodin?

For the record, ‘mams’: I posted CalCoastNews’ first article about the Gearhart indictment at 4:05 p.m. July 5. The Tribune posted an hour later. Why should this be cause for Karen or anyone else at CalCoastNews to feel any distress? What’s your point?


I love it when Mr. Blackburn or Ms. Velie or ‘spork’ pop up on the chatboard. Their insight really helps to clarify facts instead of enduirng the back-and-forth he said/she said junk. Thanks for the info, Mr. Blackburn.

PS Please keep up the good work. You’ve shown yourself to be a REAL reporter instead of a media puppet. We appreciate what you do!


My point was simple: to offer empathy to Karen! I think she may have been embarrassed to print it. But, I see no reason for her not to have printed it.

That’s my point. And, it’s not worthy of all this defensiveness.

I guess my error was believing D Congalton who said the Trib had the story first.

WOW, I’m listening to Dave Congalton. So much for Adam Hill pulling another one of his “just kidding” excuses. Congalton believed that Hill had a file which means that he believed that Hill might be telling the truth about having something that would be an embarrassment for those who support CCN.

Hill is going down big time for this but I should think that Congalton knows that there is nothing that CCN has to hide and if there is or was a file, it was full of e-mails that Hill wrote as an “anonymouse”.

I would like to quote Adam Hill and just say “FU” to him.

What does it take to get recalled in this county. I don’t agree with many of the stories on CCN but Adam Hill’s ego has finally caught up with him.

“I don’t agree with many of the stories on CCN but … ” Cal Coast News “reports” on stories; they don’t “make them up”, they report the facts ONLY after they have vetted their sources. There isn’t anything to “agree with”, either you recognize that CCN is reporting facts, or you don’t believe the stories, your choice, but there really isn’t anything to disagree with.

The problem as I see it, is that Adam Hill does not know ‘how’ to be a politician.

On policy issues, I probably agree with his positions at least 75% of the time …maybe more. And while I have never had a cross word with him, it is obvious that there are more than a few that he has rubbed the wrong way.

Contrast this with Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. We most likely disagree on the majority of issues, and I am highly critical of his voting record. But, Katcho has an engaging personality and knows how to converse with all types of people.

I don’t think there is a double standard…at least not in comparing these two individuals.

Why don’t you wait to hear what I have to say before judging me???? Jeez……

I think Dave that some were waiting for an explanation the other night on your show? When they turned-in you then announced that you were going to “go there”? Please Dave whatever you do, please don’t resort to the Swap Gas Stratagem tonight…

Please tell us, Dave, why you didn’t make these absurd threats public to your listening audience BEFORE the election. It says you received the email May 30.

Dave is the victim of Adam Hill’s game too? I’m glad to learn it, but not surprised. It doesn’t appear Hill has any values. What is surprising is that Dave didn’t reveal these emails on his show months ago, protecting himself and defending his sponsors.

I would have expected Dave would have been a willing contributor to the CCN story, as he should have been.

If one Supervisor is successful at smearing small business, then they all could have that power. This is an assault on the position we put them in. A clear abuse of power. I would hate to think that my vote encouraged my “leader” to undermine small, local, successful business in SLO County.

This is a sadder story than it appears at first glance.

Valor is not the better part of Congalton’s discretion.

Why must you promote your talk show here? If you have something to say, SAY it here…where the story AND the readership is.

Dave is welcome to comment anytime, same rules for everyone.

Dave has perhaps had his own issues with some public figures but that is his to handle his own way.

Hi Dave!

I agree

Apparently Dave can multi-task. Chat into a microphone AND troll the CCN chatboard at the same time? Impressive! Now if he would only man up and stop riding the fence… wanting to be liked by everyone just gets you liked by no one, Dave.

Cowards have no compatriotes.

I hear that they are going to do a remake of that great movie “Little Big Man.” There may be a place for Adam Hill after all.

Yeah, …..Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t .

To start off, I did not vote for Ian but I gotta say he is what his supporters claimed he’d be, a team builder. He is out there in the public and from ALL I HEAR AND SEE his performance has been great. For Adam, out there in the public has a questionable difference, he can be very personable but like a switch on the wall, very off. I understand Ian being PO’d at CCN but he has proven himself and that negative stuff is in the vanishing past but for Adam he seems to intentionally step in PO zone, what’s up with that?

CCN hs been a motivation for all media because, in my opinion, previously our local media was more about being PC rather than telling the real story for the public to weigh in on. Although I DO NOT ALWAYS agree with CCN priorities, I unquestionably suppport their full access to public information as any media would have. My belief is that the public will benifit by Karen’s and Dan’s endeavors, even Adam’s supporters will benifit because the public is always greater than just one.

Here is another thing that I find disturbing about Adam Hill. We in the state, county and all the way down to the local level have been in tough financial straights for the last four years. Adam Hill has been elected by his constituents to solve these problems. I don’t think they elected him to CONSTANTLY be going after a bunch of petty grievences with everyone. Adam why don’t you get your sorry ass to work on REAL problems and stop wasting time.