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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It is unfortunate that Karen will no longer uncover corruption linked to her local corporate sponsors-She’s moved up with the big boys now-new rack and all…

Huh? new rack?

I think pasovino is suggesting that Karen has a “puffed up chest”?

Yeah, a new rack is a boob job.

Sure pasovino, what with all those payoffs, it’s no wonder that she could afford one, now go have another glass of Boones Farm.


I moved out of Hill’s district a little over a year ago so I didn’t get a chance to vote for or against him in the last election. I don’t know how I would have voted if I had because I had reservations about both candidates. However, I do know that when I move back into the district (hopefully within a year), I will oppose him unless his opponent has a record as bad as his — in which case I won’t vote for either one.

Even if he had evidence of lies on CCN’s part (which I doubt given the lack of credible evidence), his attempt to organize a boycott of advertisers puts him in the same league as big-city machine politicians. We don’t need and shouldn’t want that type of person representing us here even if we agree in a general manner with his politics.

My response will be economic support for CCN, directly or indirectly, even though my finances are hurting at this time. If we let him get away with his unethical behavior, things will only get worse and he may move his corruption to higher levels. I urge all others to do what they can to support CCN in this battle too. (Even encouraging new people to view this website is helpful — although some of the less coherent and rational comment postings might minimize the benefit.)

If we can get Instant Runoff voting instituted for local elections, then we can eliminate the primary for local offices altogether, and no one will be discouraged from challenging a sitting officeholder.

As it is, with our primary system, progressives are discouraged from opposing Hill if he decides to run again. So we’ll just end up with a repeat of 2012. Hold you nose, etc.

QUOTING OTOH: Even if he had evidence of lies on CCN’s part (which I doubt given the lack of credible evidence), his attempt to organize a boycott of advertisers puts him in the same league as big-city machine politicians. We don’t need and shouldn’t want that type of person representing us here even if we agree in a general manner with his politics.


I think Adam Hill may have delusions of being on the level of a politician in a “big-city machine.”

However, I don’t believe he is now, and I don’t think he ever will be, for the simple reason that he is stupid, he has no finesse or class, and he is far too obvious in his retaliations. I think perhaps those involved in “big machine” politics would try to avoid being associated with someone like Hill, no?

I believe Hill’s destroy-CNN buffoonish antics are related to the hiring of a SLO County Program Manager for the Homeless Services Coordinator–and it’s not Dee Torres, either.

The Board voted unanimously to authorizethe one FTE position ($106,499+ annual salary) on 4/24/2011 Records indicate it was made secondary to “a request.” However, I can find no information regarding who made the request.

Was Adam Hill the one who requested the creation of this FTE position for, coincidentally, a homeless services project manager–a field in which Hill’s paramour, Dee Torres, works.

Who requested this position be created? Who chose the winner of the candidates for this position? Why didn’t the Board stay local and choose Dee Torres for the position?

It looks like a slap in the face to Torres, and if it is a slap in the face to Torres, it reflects negatively on Adam Hill, too. She was very involved in his political campaign for reelection. This position would have been a good payback.

Link to the NewTimes article:

I agree, this seems to me to be a Big fish in a little pond (slo county).

On the national scene we see discourse beginning in the US on the issue of bully’s in schools, but what happens when they grow up and becomes a boss, neighbor or perhaps a politician?

“the serial bully in the workplace is often found in a job which is a position of power, has a high administrative or procedural content but little or no creative requirement, and which provides opportunities for demonstrating a “caring” or “leadership” nature.”

Adam Hill,

Please do the honorable thing and resign before you cost all of the taxpayers in this county a lot of money.

Karen and Bill,

Great program on the Dave Congalton show tonight! One can tell by Dave’s voice that he is leaning in your favor. Logic 101 and the truth will always prevail, praise Jesus!

Wouldn’t it be great if Adam Hill was brought on Dave’s show, and asked certain questions relative to his side of the story? But, then again, how can he have a side that is not bathed in outright deceit, spurious accusations, threats, hearsay, and a myriad of other fallacious actions? (His council has probably told him to STFU by now)

Cal Coast News, go after him in the name of journalism to set a precedence for others to witness. Barring the fact of other news agencies picking up this story then, do not let the quashing of facts and news stories from you, or from other organizations, or the Adam Hills of this world, hold you back in any way. An example must be made!

This nation fought hard in many wars to give you the right to do what you’re doing, and you’re doing it well! In part, it is what our nation stands for, the unencumbered and available facts to news sources, so don’t let those dismembered and lost lives in our past wars be in vain, go after him!!!

Hmmm…..Sounds as though ol’ Adam might just have some skeleton’s hiding in a closet that he doesn’t want CCN to stumble upon…..I hope he does, and I hope they do.

Hey Adam, Shouldn’t you just stick to being a County Supe and doing the business of such?


I also think Hill just broadcast to the world that being held accountable by CCN is getting underneath is very thin skin.

Finally, how stupid is Dee, anyway? To link her dog-and-pony show to someone like Adam Hill?

Hiding in a closet with?

Quick someone give that woman a shovel.


I am not going to bash anybody down on this issue; I will say my two cents here and that’s all.

First – Karen Velie, Dave Congalton and Adam Hill all have something in common, they are all democrats. I have nothing against any of them even though I am a republican but I do have some issues with Adam Hill but I think that is for voters to decide.

Dave Congalton as much as he is a liberal democrat and Obama supporter (I can’t stand Obama), I still like the guy (and always will). Dave had a choice to email Karen or not but he did so it backfired because of his honesty and so here we are. Karen a reporter investigated and decided to go civil where Adam Hill beforehand might have used many phony user names on Facebook and etc sites to discredit Cal Coast News anyway possible. He knows it would be far worse if he used his real name but he played it safe unless his ip address was recorded, then I think Karen has a story.

I know for a fact if we still had Jerry Lenthall in office I know we wouldn’t be here depending if Karen Vilely had something accept for his salary increases or his double dipping issues. I also know if we ever had Patty Andreen (a democrat) as a supervisor when she ran back in 2004 there would have been far more dirtier issues in her closet compared to Adam Hill take I would take Adam Hill or Jerry Lenthall any day vice versa, end of story.

Personally I think they should put the civil on hold, cool off and have Karan and Adam work out there differences in a mediation or something but that is just my opinion. Should Adam step down or wait for the civil to heat up? That’s like when Governor Davis ran and won his second election till he waited to be petitioned for a recall when the economy went south. Do you step down or fight it out if people don’t like you?

I think Adam Hill should step down in a fashionable way before this issue gets worse or work it out with Karen and apologize.


Your kidding us, right? If you’re not, then take your namby-pamby candy @ss notions to the Tribune!

Adam Hill drew first blood and made outright stupid mistakes, period! Conversely, CCN will draw the last blood in this situation! An example must be made, and Cal Coast News is about to make it.

Just like what happened in Paso Robles with their “Chitty chitty bang bang” embarrassing episode, it’s about to happen in San Luis Obispo as well to Adam Hill!

If you’re a Republican, then learn how your party fights when things of equal proportions are presented to them. Take no prisoners.

With a moniker of “leatherpink”, what did we expect? Milque-toasts are so predictable. :(

This is not the cowboy (r) going after the hippie (d), this is the hippie (d) going after the hippie (d) for name calling and offensive comments to advertisers. Agreed – it is a no no.

Should Adam Hill step down and pay damages? or should Adam Hill fight and refuse to listen to his actions?

You do know that Adam Hill is reading all of these comments? I am sure he is.

So if and want to say something, write to Adam Hill on the top of this story and tell him what he should do.

I said he should step down, that’s one for starters

You know leatherpink, this article isn’t about Karen and Adam having a tiff so they should just kiss and make up……this is about a lying, manipulative, aggressive bully who is throwing his weight around and expecting to get away with it. And why their respective politic affliation is of interest to you is a mystery as it isn’t germane to the main topic at hand. And instead of being thankful that Adam Hill is in office vs someone else you deem even more corrupt…..shouldn’t we expect a higher standard behavior from those officials versus what we have been getting here in SLO?


I agree, he is a bully and as I said he should step down and apolgize because if he fights this one out and is impacted by it, it will cost him money. Which the question is if he drops out and says I am sick of it, what should he owe Karen in pain and suffering? $1 million or few thousand dollars? Not sure, depends on how they lost their sponsors and how many, what it cost them. I mean he could have posted on Ripoffreport and and other high pr sites and stated his opinion instead or something and I agree when he contacted Cal Coast News clients and said otherwise, is a call to sue or settle the matter in a mediation or something.

Mentioning other past supervisors and running mates, I said above we had other issues that might of been worse yet this is prertty bad as it is with this issue at hand.

You have to be kidding.

Do you really think that journalists who have been willing to publish about the SLO County corruption, to the extent KV and DB have, are doormats?

While you may be the type to play doormat for a political fraud like Adam Hill when he attacks your livelihood and professional reputation by using his taxpayer-bought-and-paid-for political influence to widely distribute complete lies–not everybody else is.

It is clear that the CCN journalists aren’t doormats, and you insult them by suggesting them to be doormats.

Just about the time I think Adam Hill’s dooshbaggery cannot get any worse, he proves me wrong.

If there is a bright side to this, it would be this:

Hill’s abuse of his power as county supervisor to target a news media publication is his acknowledgment that CCN reporting on his doooshbaggery is getting under his skin and causing him behind-the-scene problems…AND I think it might indicate that there is a yet-unrevealed Hill scandal that he desperately wants to keep CCN from reporting.

Interesting thing about CCN is that all of those that dislike are upset because either CCN’s brings out the truth or don’t do as they are asked to by others.

Of course we have Paso and their story, the Gearhart saga, Adam the gift that keeps on giving, Atacscadero, etc. They are all upset because they are exposed or CCN won’t do as they wish and not tell the truth.

On the other side you have the Tool known as Dave Congalton that just like the above is fine and danty, till you don’t play by his rules. I.e. be on his show only. Across the aisle you have Sewer Gas and his cohorts over at the Trib all upset because they don’t do their jobs. So basically they are all upset about the same thing. CCN is getting to the truth which the public has asked for, for years from all the above types. The above types are all envious or embarassed by their lack of ethics and or just malaze at their handling of things. Don’t blame CCN. Look in the mirror and blame the one you see looking back at you.