Torres sues private investigator over questions about abuse of homeless

March 27, 2013
Dee Torres asks the San Luis Obispo City Council to approve more aggressive treatment of the homeless who do not enter case management.

Dee Torres asks the San Luis Obispo City Council to approve more aggressive treatment of the homeless who do not enter case management.


Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), has filed a slander lawsuit against private investigator Mike Brennler.

The suit, filed by attorney Roy Ogden, alleges that Brennler slandered Torres in a telephone conversation with her former husband, Charles Barber. Brennler has been investigating Torres and others providing services to the homeless in San Luis Obispo County. Brennler said the suit was an attempt to shut down inquiries into practices by homeless services providers.

Torres has been one of the subjects of a multiple-part CalCoastNews series of articles entitled “Keeping Them Homeless.” The suit has the potential to force Torres, fellow homeless services officials, workers and even the board of supervisors to testify about what they know about the practices laid out in the CalCoastNews series, CCN Editor Bill Loving said.

Torres’ three-page suit claims that Brennler told Barber that, “(Torres) has been stealing money from homeless clients at the homeless shelter and that (Torres) has stolen money from a homeless man named Cliff Anderson.”

Brennler, a former mayor of Atascadero and retired SLO police officer, told CalCoastNews Tuesday that the lawsuit is an apparent effort to “chill” an investigation into questionable fiscal practices by CAPSLO officials and a related nonprofit, Family Ties.

Brennler said his conversation with Barber was not as described in Torres’ filing.

Torres’ suit includes unnamed defendants, referred to as John and Jane Doe, who can be included in the suit at a later date. The 100 John and Jane Does include “radio broadcasting stations and individuals associated with those stations” as well as “an online news agency and associated individuals.”

The timing of the suit was suspect, Brennler said.

Mike Brennler

Mike Brennler

“As far as I’m concerned, it becomes apparent that some of the players are trying to keep potential wrongdoing as far under the radar as possible,” he said. “What I find extremely disturbing is that the lawsuit was filed the day after I had made a public records request to an administrative aide assigned to the Board of Supervisors for federal grant information.”

The suit is an attempt to keep the public from finding out what has been taking place in the system that is supposed to aid the homeless, Brennler said.

“As the legal process winds it way through court, I believe the evidence will speak for itself and expose this action for what it is, an act of desperation aimed at intimidating certain members of the media, as well as anyone who is inclined to cooperate with the investigation,” Brennler said.

The lawsuit could accomplish the opposite, Bill Loving said. Loving is the co-author of a media law textbook and has taught communications law since the early 1990s.

“Lawsuits open the door to the discovery process,” Loving said. “Discovery is that portion of civil suits in which the parties get to discover the information that the other side has. It is a way of avoiding trial by surprise.”

Under discovery, Brennler and any of the defendants later named in the suit, can require Torres to produce documents that show how the homeless have been treated, Loving said.

More importantly, discovery allows Brennler and other defendants to depose persons who have knowledge of the facts in the case, Loving said.

“This means that everyone who works with CAPSLO, the employees and members of the boards of homeless services, and even members of the board of supervisors and city councils, may have to testify under oath and answer questions put to them by Mr. Brennler’s attorney,” Loving said.


Torres vs Brennler by CalCoastNews


The suit, filed by attorney Roy Ogden, alleges that Brennler slandered Torres in a telephone conversation with her former husband, Charles Barber.


What a joke. What are the damages for slandering Torres to her ex husband? Ogden, do you understand that there’s only one person even hearing the allegedly slanderous remarks and it’s the ex-spouse? “Hey, this guy told my ex-spouse who already hates me and thinks I’m a low life (kind of the working definition of an ex-spouse to begin with) lies about me so I think my reputation with that ex-spouse has been damaged and I think I should be money for that.” Ok, here’s $10. As if slandering someone to an ex-spouse causes them any real damage.

And that’s if Ogden gets by the Anti-SLAPP motion he’s undoubtedly going to get hit with.

What a waste of judicial resources!


Hmm, seems to me that Brennler or his former partner at the sheriff’s department, Dale Strobridge were fired for conducting illegal searches and seizures or that is at least one of them was? Searching through personnel files to get the upper hand on co-workers who oppose their tactics! Illegal searches and seizures and now a PI and labor representative, hmmm gotta wonder. As everyone may recall, Kelly Gearheart wore a law enforcement uniform when he started his career in San Luis Obispo County and look where that ended. Birds of a feather seem to flock together. If the case is meritless it will be thrown out on a demurrer. Irrespective based upon all these articles Torres and her PIMP (Person of Importance), Adam Hill are crooks and need to be prosecuted.


I agree with you and the point your trying to make but respectfully, your first three sentences deviate a little too far from truth. Take no offense, as I am only trying to save you hassle or embarrassment. Stobridge was terminated for violating department regulation by conduct, and not for anything actually perceived as a criminal act, otherwise he would be sitting in the pokey in a carrot costume. Taking or duplicating department information or files for personal use was the premise on which he was fired. I believe concern for confidentiality was also mentioned somewhere in the press release.


“Stobridge was terminated for violating department regulation by conduct, and not for anything actually perceived as a criminal act, otherwise he would be sitting in the pokey in a carrot costume.”

As I posted in another folder, I don’t have much faith in the SLO PD, especially not after their investigation of SLO City first responder, psycho John Ryan Mason. This is especially true when said investigation may very well end up splashing mud all over the city’s power brokers (i.e., Marx).


Straight and honest Cops still exist, though in dwindling numbers. Part of the problem is they ALL think they are the “good-guy”, but being a good cop, and being a good person are two different things and often conflict with each other. Sewage always runs down hill and self preservation is very compelling.

I would rather go through Marine Corp boot camp 5 more times than experience 21 weeks of Police training again. At least boot camp is free! But the point I am trying to make is that Law Enforcement Officers don’t obtain their credentials, they earn their credentials and it is dedication to the privilege of serving the greater good that makes graduation day possible. For Officers that do not humbly serve, power WILL corrupt, by the gift of arrogance and pride absolutely.

I hope that may give you and more people hope


I wrote that a little too quickly and shouldn’t have hit “reply” until I was sure I was coming off the way I intended. My fault, and I apologize.

The intent behind this comment was to promote a little more positive outlook on things by giving the individuals conducting this investigation the benefit of the doubt. Yes, my faith in our local Government has been substantially damaged by my own observations and experiences. But I also know how difficult and demanding Law Enforcement is as a profession and for that reason I will at face value afford my trust to SLO PD and the other local and Federal agencies involved. Bureaucratic entities are very seldom pleasant to work for and most of the time, it’s thankless as hell.


It is difficult to find a police force which is not, to some degree, influenced by the politicians who control their salaries.

When this is the case, the public has no way of knowing when and if a police officer or their chief are making decisions based on what they swore to do when they entered law enforcement, or whether the decision is based on what is politically expedient for city hall.

SLO City and County has gone through a number of police events in which it seems what was politically expedient for SLO politicians was served, at the expense of the safety of the people the police are supposed to “protect and serve.”


You have explained it very well. Unfortunately the extremely high salaries being paid to cops in SLO invite corruption.They feel they are above the law because they make so much money. There is not much real crime so they focus on harassment and stuff that generates fines/revenue and can thus justify the size of the department. It is a vicious cycle like the military-industrial complex. Sorry, but II don’t believe many people become cops anymore out of a sense of duty. Around here anyway it’s a reasonably cushy job with excellent pay and benefits for a two-year college degree in criminal justice. Or you can go to college and law school and hope to find a starting salary of $90K a year where you work your a** off as a new associate and don’t get overtime or anything else, you are just expected to do it. And that is if you are lucky enough to land a job!

I think the answer is more screening in the hiring process to see what really motivates someone to be a cop. Years ago in SLO our police force was not the arrogant, in your face ,storm trooper mentality I see so much of today.


As this relates to the Law Suit that Mrs. Torres has filed I have this question;

When and if you felt that reports indicated “false” or “miss dealings” or “suggested” the possibilities of criminal activity, why then would you not squelch those repots by providing proof that these reports are false? I cannot imagine that many attempts were not made to allow Mrs Torres to reveal her truth to the masses that have reason to believe misdealing occurred

One would reasonably assume that when you’re working in an environment such as overseeing the homeless services that disseminates food, shelter, clothing and other donated items that an accounting for those items would be a necessity to maintain transparency and legitimacy so, when the public asks for simple validation that the donated items have been distributed to the intended recipients, you can. After all we’re talking about an organization that receives 60 Million as a nonprofit.

The truth fears no questions~


Does anyone find it interesting that CAPSLO claims that a lack of accounting surrounding the gift cards and cash donations was simply an “oversight”? What I have to wonder is why the ex baby daddy of the accused knew that there was no accounting of those particular donations? Did this just come up in an innocent conversation that there is no audit trail! REALLY ?

Why sue Mike Brennler when the name of the baby daddy who told all is well known. he even spoke about it on Dave Congalton, didn’t he? What is it that Mike is about to expose, ask yourselves that?


She can’t sue Ralph, he will go to court and insist it’s the truth and even admit that he benefited from the stolen cards himself, he has already said the publicly and apologized for it. Then he will tell the judge to ask the kids and the judge will do it behind closed doors. Then Ralph will name friends that she gave certain cards to that came from the shelter. no, they have no alternative but to try and stop the investigation from going further.

They/she could always try to say that she purchased the gift cards (from the same stores that donate to the shelter) but she will have to say that she used cash and can’t find any of those receipts which seems to be the one constant story that we can count on. No receipts.


sorry for the messy punctuation.


Well put none-the-less! I believe your prognosis is right on. I honestly do not understand how any charity organization employee could justify using any resources for personal use so liberally and without accounting.

Merchants donate these gift cards to these organizations in good faith that they will be used ONLY by the people for which they are intended and IF there ever was a surplus of gift cards or any other donated resources, they should at least notify the merchant and/or donating store to offer a return before personal use is even considered…But that’s just me and how my ethics work. Merchants donate to charities so that nobody has to resort to theft as a means of survival, and when these donated resources are misdirected or misused, the effect is immanently adverse for the whole community.


Who ever down thumbed my comment here must be in opposition to integrity and honesty. If that is the case, I will pray for you because I can only imagine how rough and confusing life may be for you. Since it is Easter, I will pray for you anyway!


JordanJ: “Did this just come up in an innocent conversation that there is no audit trail! REALLY ?”

Some people have strange pillow talk. Just sayin’.


Homer pay attention.

This sites employees are not named, does 1-100. It’s still early.

You want to decide when and what is updated? That’s rich.

“And I’m still not sure why a reporter ” Yes, we know you do not understand what reporters do on there websites, it’s not up to you.

Another anonymous media critic with nothing.

Trolling really basic stuff.


All this debate about who paid Brennler is getting tiresome. Adam’s gal pal Dee is on the hot seat now so isn’t it quite obvious? Bruce and Cherie must’ve paid Brennler so some of the heat could be off of THEM for a change!

;) *sarcasm* for those of you who may have missed it.

JQ Public

For our fellow readers, in a nutshell, a SLAPP suit is a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” The primary reason it is filed is to intimidate or silence critics making comments on a matter of public concern. For example, a matter of public concern is how the homeless are treated. In effect, the plaintiff files the suit to burden the defendant with legal fees and costs of defending the suit. They are using the courts as a club to silence public debate.

If the other side files a motion within 60 days of being served with the complaint in the lawsuit, a court may hear a motion on whether or not it is a SLAPP lawsuit, filed for an improper purpose.


I don’t think the plaintiff in this case has a history of doing much that is proper. I believe this suit against Brennler is as improper as she is.

Kevin Rice

A well-constructed CCP 425.16 motion will likely dispose of this Complaint and will reap fees and costs.


Kevin, you made me look, you rascal….

…where I found that before the suit can go forward, the plaintiff (Geraldine) has to prove to the court that, should the lawsuit go forward, there is a probability that she will win.

Unfortunately, a SLAPP motion, once filed, stops all discovery process until it is resolved.

So I hope those involved with Brennler’s case will make use of the time before the SLAPP motion is filed…if they decide to file.

If they need an extra set of hands, I’d be glad to donate my time.


Mary, I hope you do donate your time and you discover the facts. You sound like you could be intelligent enough to determine reality from fiction IF you are given more than partial information, and if you are not one of the ‘fired ones’, who have their own agenda. Go donate. Good idea.


Truth fairy , the ‘fired ones” as you refer, could very possibly have time to donate and if that’s what they choose to do, who’s to stop them? They are under no control of Ms Torres or CAPSLO!


Is it legal to file a law suit and not use your legal name? I also can’t help but wonder if her employment app reflects any criminal history in Orange County, ( I’n assuming that’s what these comments are pointing to anyway) because lying on an employment application can be a cause for termination. CAPSLO needs to look into things, her “law suit” could be one huge headache CAPSLO doesn’t need!

JQ Public

You asked, “Is it legal to file a law suit (sic) and not use your legal name?”

Yes. She can use a name that people commonly know her by. However, if a person is also known by another name and if the attorney drafting the complaint knows it, they will usually put in the other names and say, “also known as” or a/k/a.

Word to the wise. Be careful about assuming and then writing on a public forum that somebody may have a criminal history or might have lied on an employment application. From what I’ve read here, I wouldn’t assume those things. She might have been outspoken on some political issue. She might have run for office. We don’t know what they are referencing.


Thanks JQ, my intention wasn’t to accuse but to question what could be? But thank you, I’ll be more careful how I phrase my thoughts.


Yes, thank you JQ Public, good thoughts you have there .


See, already Geraldine has the upper hand. She is effectively chilling discussion here. I think her strategy is winning at this point. That is a disappointment.


P.S. If anyone wonders who put one of the “down” checks on this JQP post and its replies, it was me.

The vibe I’m getting here is that posters should not post their opinions if it involves possibly criminal activities by ANYONE (because if you make that rule for one subject, it pretty much sets a precedent for future), no matter how damning witness statements are.

I bet Lisa Solomon is kicking herself in the kiester now for not filing a slander lawsuit against CCN. I believe public pressure (including pressure from the message board posters at CCN) is a part of what drove Paso Robles to finally get rid of her.

That’s all Geraldine had to do to convince CCN that their posters need to be eunuched. It would have worked equally well for Lisa Solomon and Kelly Gearhart.

It will also be a dandy strategy for any future targets of CCN’s anti-corruption crusade.

JQPublic is a recent poster here, no? My, what an impressive impact he has on what is allowed to be posted here.


You know that if a person has been in trouble and managed to get their charges expunged by turning states evidence or the like, then they don’t have to reveal that to an employer. Expunged charges only have to be disclosed if you run for public office. It’s also possible that they have to be revealed if you apply for a gov position but I’m not certain about that. Maybe JQ knows?


And how would you know about that, Cindy? lololol.


I looked it up. There is a lot of background chatter lately about some expunged records from Orange County. ;)


I’m really looking forward to this discovery.

What do you think Geraldine used to put in the locking safe under her desk? I say “used to” because, after all this time, I’m sure she’s cleaned out the safe to hide the evidence.

I’m thinking, based on the CCN articles, that the safe contained gift cards and other goodies meant for the homeless but actually used by Geraldine and her family.

Any other guesses?


They throw lots of fundraisers. Geraldine always has her hand out looking for cash for the homeless services. That is what she puts in the safe and of course it’s difficult to account for all those cash donations.

Frankly, it makes me sick but after hearing what people in the know have to say, I’m afraid it’s probably very true. Yes, she probably locks up the gift cards in there too, gift cards spend just like cash and by her own words, “people are so generous at Christmas that she grins for ear to ear every year” (those are her own words!).


Why in the world would CAPSLO allow ANYONE to take cash at fundraisers? Based on what we’ve heard about the gift cards, I would bet there is zero accountability or chain of possession documentation of the cash once it hit Geraldine’s hands.


Jordan, sounds like you REALLY know what your commenting about! I pray it all comes out so this can be over and done. The homeless and their best interests are being harmed by all that’s happening, now and before! It’s time this is exposed so we can get some REAL help to them!


Hey…. people will steal food or whatever else needed to stay alive and the whole community has a right to be pissed off at CAPSLO and Torres and family ties because its going to cost EVERYONE. These people need to stop serving themselves and start serving the homeless or things will get worse.