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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The main thing in my mind is to have CCN stand tall and act professional as they always have. This shows not only restraint but exceptional professionalism.

RE: Mr. Hill…Those that bark the loudest are often afraid of the truth. They often try to suppress the truth though closed door chatter with their political hit squads. This will be very interesting.

I may be the odd man out here but I have no beef with Sheriff Parkinson. My dealings with him were smooth and polite. I think his job is not easy and his team is willing to work the streets for all of us which can be lethal. Politics are often tough to balance out for the good of the majority yet reach out to the minority best one can.

I to will donate to the cause as I find CCN both entertaining and informative.

Don’t even think about bullying me Mr. Hill.

everything I have printed is the truth. and likewise for Karen Velie! Interesting how those who are afraid of being exposed try and fire the first shot. That is the first trick a bully does. Also an attorney who knows the first trick of being an attorney is to “accuse the accuser”. Stay strong Karen! The truth always floats to the top of the heap of “S&%^”.

If Karen has posted a story that isn’t true REBUTTAL the story like a man!

The DA’s office in SLO is not helping you with your stories Karen? Big surprise! They wouldn’t help us when we submitted our criminal report and allegations against Attorney Robert Grigger Jones….and we had physical proof of a forged document.

Hang in there kiddo!

The is so entertaining. Local politicians continue to act (as they have for decades) as if they have the local media in their back pockets. Unfortunately for them CCN continues to hammer them with the sordid truth. They have not yet learned that they are going to have to begin to conduct themselves in a lawful manner. They’re going to experience a great deal of pain and voter unrest until they do.

If CCN does not deviate from its mission of unveiling the truth to the public, other local news sources will have no choice but to finally follow CCN’s lead. That should render a future crop of local politicians and civil servants who won’t feel they can act inappropriately/illegally with complete impunity. Then things will really begin to improve around here.

It might be just me but I think CCN needs to turn up the dial to the SCORCHED EARTH setting while maintaining its journalistic integrity. Local residents need to burn away all the crap that has clogged-up this wonder community over the last 3-4 decades and we need CCN to be at the vanguard of that effort.

I disagree about the scorched-earth policy.

I believe CCN has integrity, and its journalists and staff have done nothing to warrant Adam Hill’s attacks.

I believe Adam Hill has unethically abused his power as a county supervisor to retaliate against CCN, and try to negatively impact their ability to continue operations.

Therefore, the last thing CCN should do is to themselves abuse their power as a news publication to retaliate against Hill. To stoop to the purulent depths from which Adam Hill operates would do nothing but legitimatize his false accusations.

Most importantly, if CCN sacrificed their own ethics, they would be no better than Hill. And then they would lose the fight.

As Sun Tzu wrote in “The Art of War”:

“When you become like your enemy, your enemy has won.”

CCN should continue to operate and publish as they have to date.

Did you ever bother to read:

“It might be just me but I think CCN needs to turn up the dial to the SCORCHED EARTH setting *****while maintaining its journalistic integrity*****”?

Cranking things up a notch or two or three is not going to turn CCN into Adam Hill or anyone else. I do strongly believe that any politician who tries to muzzle CCN should be dealt with extremely aggressively (scorched earth) by CCN while (let me repeat this again) *****maintaining its journalistic integrity.*****”

Dave Congalton,

I just listened to a replay of your radio program today relative to the Adam Hill debacle.

“Why did I befriend them all” was your placating mantra when you signed off today subsequent to Karen calling in to school you on your perceived and erronious notions. If it’s news, then it gets printed whether it is you or anyone involved, and whether the individuals like it or not.

Here you gave Karen Velie an email from Adam Hill that explicitly stated that there was a file on Karen, of which you believe there is, and was the ethical thing to do, especially in your profession. Then, when the Sh*t hits the fan, you want to now conveniently bow out of this situation?

What did you expect subsequent to giving said email to Karen? Subjectively, because of the further truth coming out, you now are befriending all the players that you mentioned in this incident because you didn’t want to get involved? Are you kidding? Well, chain up because it seemingly will progress to biblical proportions. Subjectively, your childish actions in this situation are not becoming of any radio talk show host.

Are you not becoming what you’re allegedly against in acting in this manner? Your tone of voice when Karen called in was “ho-hum and placating” to say the least. Here, let me paraphrase your own one-liner back at you; “Why don’t you wait to hear what Karen and Dan have to say tomorrow before judging them at this juncture ….. jeeeez” Can you take your own medicine in a professional manner? Sure you can.

I did have to shake my head when Dave said that Karen and Hill weren’t getting along and that Dee got dragged into it. The obvious truth is that Karen was writing about the wrong doing surrounding the homeless which involved Dee Torres and Adam being her (Dees) boyfriend jumped in. That is when things blew up. Apart from that, Karen wrote about Hill (previously) acting unprofessionally with his fowl language, shutting off citizens microphones during public comment and all in all, Hill acts out like a thug from the Broncs.

Nobody got dragged into anything, rather they, especially Hill just didn’t like being exposed and Dee Torres was just as bad, if you don’t think so, take a look at how she consistently denies the facts and outright lies when the truth is right there on a video! She brings her boyfriend to public meetings to speak on her behalf and then has a problem when Karen points out that the guy speaking and encouraging the elect is her boyfriend! Go figure.

As for that file nonsense, I agree that any ethical media person should have done exactly what Dave did. Somehow he thinks he needs to make up an excuse to sooth Adam Hill. I say BS with that.

Is this for real? Is this what politics has become? Small city or county officials that lie, cheat , and/or steal to get elected – then their egos get the best of them and this is what you get. If Hill has any feelings left for what is right – he would resign – but he doesn’t and he won’t.

Voters can complain all they want to – but the story was available before the election – and they still

re-elected Hill. You get what you vote for. Complain all you want to – but try to find out more about what and who you are voting for – don’t just accept the candidates statement or that of their best friends.

A similiar situation is brewing here in Paso Robles. Many people are complaining about our city council and how they are running this city (or more likely, being told how to run this city by Jimmy App). But will they take concrete action and vote out the ones up for re-election in Novemeber?

I’m really sorry to say, but I doubt it. People choose to complain and complain, but take no time to really understand the issues and the candidates. They just go along with the flow and then wonder why they have what they have. You can not sit on the sidelines and complain – you must use the only legal way – VOTE to make a change.

Gee, maybe someone should get a list of all the businesses that supported Hill and ask people not to support those businesses due to Hill’s behavior.

Excellent! Thanks SLORider.

Alleged extortion ( Hill ) versus documented theoretical right here.

That’s ‘conspiracy’ and possible RICO violations.

You wing-nuts sure know how to violate federal statutes BIG TIME.

I am forwarding this to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the FBI, and the USDOJ Central Disrict of California…Andre Birotte Jr. US Attorney .

You wing-nut reactionary nut-cases think I’m joking ?

I’ve sent the links along to the Department of Justice and also to class action lawyers …friends of mine that have won BILLION dollar suits against tobacco and oil interests.

Brother Slowerfaster,

Jesus is smiling upon you for your godly actions pertaining to Adam Hill, et al. I am sure you felt the warmth of His presence as you pushed the send button on your computer to the aforementioned organizations. Praise you!

Excellant! Now the job is to print out a copy of this list of Hill supporters and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that their endorsement of Hill will result in loss of business. If we mean what we say, then put some backbone behind it. Take real action.

I think that John Carsel gave money to each and every candidate.

Then I suggest all of us write to each business that sponsored him to send them each an email how you disapprove Adam Hill and tell them you will not be doing business with them

because they endorce Adam Hill. Save the list in case Adam Hill takes the site down so you can go to each website and if you want complain.

I also might mention how he divorced his wife on filing papers on Valentines Day and off to his new girlfriend, even though this is old news but how his ex-wife said how Adam handled it and left her with no money or anything. Oh course we may not know all details but how it was done, seemed rather cruel in my opinion. Did he comment adultery or what? Isn’t there an oath of office and morals?

Thanks, Kevin. It is interesting to note how many of Hill’s supporters work in the legal field. There is a reason for that.

Because Adam Hill’s nincompoopery brings lots of business to the local attorneys?

Adam Hill is an embarrassment to San Luis Obispo County. I am shocked people voted him into office again after knowing what a piece he is. This is just the latest example of a pathetic little man. He will waste his entire term playing games and feeding his ego.

Personally I will now go out of my way to support CCN!

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

“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.”

Does this truly surprise anyone? Parkinson cheated on his promotional testing with SLOPD, his taxes and the court system, all of which were first exposed by Cal Coast News.

Is there any reason not to understand why he holds a grudge and is willing to violate the rules … yet again.

Hey Tony, we really like you and all but if you’re going to play Parkinson’s game, you need to develop some moxie — and quick…

Good work, CCN! When something like this happens, it’s a clear sign that you are getting somewhere; that the sleazy characters in this county are feeling the heat. When a County supervisor feels so threatened as to take this kind of really, really stupid action, he is SCARED.