CAPSLO threatens whistleblowers in homeless inquiry

March 29, 2013
CAPSLO Executive Director Elizabeth Steinberg

CAPSLO CEO Elizabeth Steinberg


Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) is threatening more than a dozen persons who have come forward with information about wrongdoing at the nonprofit which serves the homeless in San Luis Obispo County.

These threats occurred shortly after several law enforcement agencies launched criminal investigations into treatment of the homeless by two non-profits.

CAPSLO has served a number of persons interviewed by CalCoastNews with a letter threatening legal action if they don’t retract the statements they made recently to the news service.

“They are trying to intimidate us so we will back down, but everything we have said is the truth,” said former CAPSLO employee Joette Sunshine. “I stick by what I have said 100 percent.”

A process server hand delivered the threatening letters over the past three days, amid at least two criminal investigations into financial mistreatment of the homeless.

CalCoastNews interviewed more than a dozen former employees of CAPSLO and others for a series of articles entitled “Keeping Them Homeless,” examining allegations of mistreatment of homeless individuals.

Several articles in the series reported on the case of Cliff Anderson, a formerly homeless man. Anderson lost his income when the Social Security Administration canceled his disability benefits because of alleged financial mismanagement by Family Ties and CAPSLO.

Because of this, Anderson has been without money for food or rent for nearly two months.

An investigation by San Luis Obispo County’s Adult Protective Services led the agency to ask San Luis Obispo police to investigate allegations of financial abuse of a senior, said Officer Jim Fellows. The Office of the Inspector General is probing allegations of Social Security fraud.

CAPSLO officials announced at a board meeting last week that they had fully investigated issues of financial wrongdoing against the homeless — as well as allegations that holiday gift cards were pilfered. They claimed no wrongdoing was found. But none of the sources quoted in the CalCoastNews articles were contacted by CAPSLO’s investigators.

The current ultimatum is based on assertions by CAPSLO’S management that CalCoastNews reporters and Atascadero private investigator Mike Brennler encouraged sources to lie. Both CalCoastNews and Brennler deny the allegation.

“When you look at the history of CalCoastNews, you’ll see that the news site has been targeted by people whose wrongdoing we have reported. The list of penalties imposed and prosecutions makes clear who tells the truth in these stories,” said Bill Loving, editor of CalCoastNews.

CAPSLO’s attorneys wrote in the letter that they were attempting to gather information for taking legal action against those making “defamatory” statements against CAPSLO or its employees. The Fresno office of Littler Mendelson, a law firm representing management in labor and business and boasting 57 branches worldwide, authored the letters.

“What happens next is to some extent up to those who are making the defamatory statements,” the letters read. “If the persons making these statements seek to correct their previous erroneous comments, CAPSLO may choose not to seek to enforce its legal rights against them. If this unlawful crusade of defamatory statements and publications continues those involved will be held legally responsible to the full extent of the law.”

Earlier this week, Dee Torres, who heads CAPSLO’s homeless services division, filed a lawsuit alleging that Brennler slandered her during an investigation into Torres’ alleged actions. The lawsuit claims “Brennler and Does 1-100 knowingly and willfully conspired to defame” Torres.

Over the past six months, individuals including San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill, to whom Torres is engaged, have targeted CalCoastNews advertisers with emails and phone calls, encouraging advertisers to cancel contracts.


CAPSLO letter

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Now we know who’s paying the lawyers, and they appear to be winning. Congalton has been shut up. El Dorado Broadcasters folded immediately. They’re trying to make a buck in a “tiny market” and cannot stand up to taxpayer-funded intimidation. There are too many people with very comfortable jobs who will do whatever necessary with YOUR taxpayers dollars to protect their positions. The board of CAPSLO is made up entirely of people who have skin in the game, personally profiting from their public positions, and that includes the conservative politicians. The Tribune and KSBY also know which side their bread is buttered on as well. The waste and entitlement at CAPSLO and several other non-profits that are 100% government funded is unbelievable. Contracting government funded services to competitive bidding would provide the value and transparency that is antithetical to CAPSLO’s principles. CAPSLO will do anything to prevent this and continue to slop at the trough with no oversight.

” Congalton has been shut up. El Dorado Broadcasters folded immediately. They’re trying to make a buck in a “tiny market” and cannot stand up to taxpayer-funded intimidation. There are too many people with very comfortable jobs who will do whatever necessary with YOUR taxpayers dollars to protect their positions. ”

W-R-O-N-G……… Karen will be on Dave Congalton – KVEC 920AM today 4/1 at 5:PM ;)

Thanks for the heads up, Cindy.

Again, I’m shocked, shocked, that someone has posted something on this site that turns out to be, gasp, not based in reality. Sort of like the person who posted (w/a gleeful horde following) that Adam Hill was behind Bill Benica’s departure. Which Bill put to rest. The philosophy here is, throw out some theory and if no one comes here to dispute it, then it must be true. And when it’s especially egregious and everyone is invested in it being true, then any investigation that shows otherwise is somehow tainted.

And look, Obsipan even had 23 thumbs up!! How could they all be wrong???

Could you be wrong?

You got “philosophy” and “theory” backwards on your last bit. Too bad you can’t go back and edit your own comments, because you need an editor. Where is your wife Mr. Simpson?

Please return to English class. I don’t think you received a passing grade.

I do have a number of typos in previous comments so you get my green thumb. Thank you. = )

Well the CAPSLO board must be on board with this. I can’t see Biz S. going to this level of intimidation without their consent.

Hiring a lawyer isn’t something an exeutive director would or should do without the direction of the governing board.

Time to start making demands of this board. They can’t hire lawyers and intimidate former employees with veiled threats and not expect questions or criticisms from the public.

This is dirty pool at its worst. Shameful.

This is very common. What you are witnessing are desperate acts that always represent failed governance / management, and are often the last twitch of a dying animal.

Guess who is paying fo the lawyers for CAPSLO? We taxpayers are footing the bill. And with a budget or around $60 million, there is one hell-of-a war chest for the managers of CAPSLO to dip into, or do you seriously think that CAPSLO will set priorities in favor or the homeless CAPSLO supposedly serves over the atrtorney fees? If the investigations that are currently underway show that managers at CAPSLO were involved in criminal activities, the law firm could well find itself caught in a conflict of interest because the any managers charged with wrongdoing would suddenly on the other side of the fence from CAPSLO. Hopefully this law firm knows that its client is the CAPSLO organization and not CAPSLO’s managers.

I’m appalled by the fact that a district 3 supervisor would resort to continued bullying tactics against county residents and endorse threating words to intimidate those who seek the truth regarding matters pertaining to the treatment of the homeless and the management of donated items. Mr. Hill I implore you to stop the bullying and use your position to help serve the district of which you were elected to serve by supporting the quest of the truth and nothing but the truth.

If CAPSLO has nothing to hide then why are they hiding? We’re talking about an organization that receives 60 million a year in support of helping the less fortunate through many programs and services……this is how they respond when asked for simple accountings of monies and donations?!

As a parent I have concerns as to the message being sent to our young by your continued behavior Mr. Hill. Your fiancé has three girls…..what do you tell them after the truth comes out and its shown just how many lies have been told?

Honesty, integrity and humility are earned from a life of truth; these are not entitlements.

Perhaps a legal fund could be started to assist these witnesses with their legal costs? I agree with JQ. Those who received letters should seek legal assistance.

And lets not forget Mr Cliff Anderson, what could have been a smooth transition into housing, instead cut of of his money, food. Stay strong Cliff!

As for my taxpayer dollars going into the current slo homeless program, Fullfilling the Promise?

Failing the promise is what has happened.

Where does this “buck” stop? What adult will step forward and take responsibility?


Really good insight here! The chips are now clearly beginning to fall in to place…………..

Don’t leave Jim Patterson and Jeff Hamm out of this. They have eluded scrutiny because Dee and Adam and Biz and Co. have drawn the attention.And they deserve even more than what they have brought onto themselves. But Jim was on the County Board and the Board of CAPSLO and the HSOC (Homeless Services Oversight Committee). He knew more than he let on and he went with the flow. Jim! You went with the flow and we watched you do it! Jeff Hamm, what about you? Either you knew, or didn’t know when you should have.

1 3 4 5 6 7 9