Brennler files anti-SLAPP motion against Torres

May 10, 2013
Mike Brennler

Mike Brennler

By CALCOASTNEWS STAFF

Mike Brennler’s attorney filed a motion to strike down a lawsuit filed against him by a Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) coordinator, citing laws enacted to stop people with deep pockets from attempting to silence their critics.

In March, Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for CAPSLO, filed a slander lawsuit against private investigator Mike Brennler alleging that he slandered Torres in a telephone conversation with one of her former husbands. Brennler has been investigating Torres and others who provide services to the homeless in San Luis Obispo County in the aftermath of numerous claims of embezzlement.

Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) legislation was enacted 20 years ago to help small defendants avoid harassment by better-funded plaintiffs. The motion is used to strike a complaint and can also lead to the plaintiff collecting attorney costs.

In this case, Brennler’s attorney Stew Jenkins cites the Sarbane-Oxley Act’s rules against threatening retaliation against witnesses providing information to law enforcement relating to the possible commission of a federal offence.

Brennler explains in the motion that he became aware of allegations of fraud against the homeless after reading a CalCoastNews exclusive about Cliff Anderson, a man who says his Social Security Disability income was mismanaged by his CAPSLO case manager and Family Ties’ payee.

After looking into the issues, Brennler volunteered to identify individuals who might have information about the management of homeless services for CalCoastNews reporters to interview. Brennler also volunteered to provide investigative services for a contemplated civil suit by Cliff Anderson and contacted law enforcement.

“Brennler contacted several federal and state law enforcement agencies requesting that they look into the matter,” the motion says. “Brennler commenced interviewing individuals, and seeking other information to provide contacts and witnesses who might have information relevant to the use of public funds and charitable donations to law enforcement to determine if those funds are being used in a lawful manner.”

Torres’ three-page suit claims that Brennler told Charles 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.”

In his response, Brennler denies telling Barber that Torres had stolen from Anderson and says that none of the statements he made during the two and a half minute phone call were false.







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103 Comments

  1. Rambunctious says:

    This will probably cause Adam Hill to lunge at someone…lol

    (53) 79 Total Votes - 66 up - 13 down
  2. MaryMalone says:

    Props to Mike Brennler for going mano-a-mano with the CAPSLO gang. Standing up to them is the only thing they understand.

    (53) 91 Total Votes - 72 up - 19 down
    • Black_Copter_Pilot says:

      You do realize Mary, that mano-a mano means “hand to hand”?

      (26) 36 Total Votes - 31 up - 5 down
      • kettle says:

        “It was used originally for bullfights where two matadors alternate competing for the admiration of the audience.”

        And yes, props to Mike Brennler.

        (30) 50 Total Votes - 40 up - 10 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        Yes, I know the meaning of mano-a-mano…it is as in “mano-a-mano combat.” In other words, Brennler is standing up to the CAPSLO gang, in the same manner that they are going after him…in the courts.

        (6) 26 Total Votes - 16 up - 10 down
  3. Citizen says:

    I would like to ask CCN if they could do a short news story summarizing the major problems with CAPSLO, perhaps with a title like “Homeless Shelter Caught Stealing From the Homeless”, or “San Luis Obispo Ignores Homeless Scandal” and write it in standard newspaper format so that we can mail it to every online news source we know, California legislators, Homeless advocates, etc.

    We need to move this story forward faster.

    (52) 76 Total Votes - 64 up - 12 down
    • Homer says:

      I think a headline like “Homeless Shelter Caught Stealing from the Homeless” would, well, require someone actually being caught stealing. Now, “Shelter Officials Accused of Stealing from Homeless” would work. See, someone actually caught stealing would be arrested and in jail. Because, see, they were caught stealing. You see how this works?

      (22) 50 Total Votes - 36 up - 14 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I suppose having a title with the phrase “waving her legs in the air” is out of the question?

      =)

      (-3) 31 Total Votes - 14 up - 17 down
      • r0y says:

        hehehe

        (-6) 18 Total Votes - 6 up - 12 down
      • TruthFairy says:

        Maybe waving your legs in the air is how you get things done, but if you ever spoke to Dee, you would learn she is an intelligent, articulate, woman with, (dare I say it, I can hear it coming), with a good sense of humor. I am certain, she uses her BRAINS, not her body, like perhaps you seem to think woman do to get what they want. Wake up. It is 2013. There ARE intelligent women who don’t have to wave their legs in the air. Something wrong in Demark, Mary?

        (7) 23 Total Votes - 15 up - 8 down
  4. pasoparent5 says:

    Deja vu! In 2012 another SLO county female on the government payroll was accused of inappropriate actions and wouldn’t publically say a word…until she decided to take a leave of absence, then “retire” from her beloved career. (*gag*) She went on to collect a quarter of a million bucks because she claimed the public had tarnished her reputation. The woman–Lisa Solomon Chitty– also will receive a hefty pension for life.

    Chittygate 2012 will become Deegate 2013. My prediction is that behind-the-scenes, an exit strategy is in the works for Dee Torres. She’ll get a nice payout if she promises to stay quiet. Ms. Steinberg will also “retire” within a year or two and this will all blow over.

    Kudos to Mr. Brennler for fighting back but the corruption runs so deep in SLO County, I’m not sure any “justice” will ever be served in this situation. It seems that the laws and ethical standards are different for city/county employees than they are for the rest of us little people.

    (51) 79 Total Votes - 65 up - 14 down
    • karma2come says:

      Except CAPSLO employees are not city or county workers!

      (-5) 25 Total Votes - 10 up - 15 down
      • TruthFairy says:

        Why would anyone give a FACT that is actually a fact, a thumbs down? Karma2come is actually correct. CAPSLO employees are not city or county workers. Go figure.

        (11) 19 Total Votes - 15 up - 4 down
        • r0y says:

          Perhaps people are so disgusted with the leadership of CAPSLO – which are government employees for all intents and purposes? Sure, the volunteers and entry-level people may not be employed by the government directly, but when 59 million of your 60 million dollar budget comes from confiscated wealth (aka taxes), then you are a government employee.

          (5) 25 Total Votes - 15 up - 10 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Very good connection, PasoParents.

      (-5) 19 Total Votes - 7 up - 12 down
  5. No_More_Anger says:

    I admire the fact that Brennler shows up here as Mike B., but that’s as far as the admiration goes

    (-40) 66 Total Votes - 13 up - 53 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      I admire that you can spell “Mike B.,” but that’s as far as the admiration goes ….

      (-8) 12 Total Votes - 2 up - 10 down
  6. racket says:

    From the comments on earlier stories re Torres’ slander suit, I thought the process of Discovery for that suit was where all the skeletons were going to get found. Brennler’s anti-SLAPP suit give Torres a reason to “stand down” and avoid the potentially damaging discovery.

    I am not a real lawyer, nor do I play one on T.V.

    (-8) 32 Total Votes - 12 up - 20 down
    • LAH says:

      I see where Brennler has to defend himself against a frivolous law suit, but I would assume his investigation would continue and the results will eventually be exposed. I see what you are saying though…..

      (20) 36 Total Votes - 28 up - 8 down
      • racket says:

        My point (which was missed, based on the “thumb survey” above) is that in the process of preparing a defense for the initial suit, Brennler’s team would have access to evidence of Torres’ misdeeds. The discovery would help shine light into the dark recesses of CAPSLO’s skulduggery.

        Whereas, now, in the face of an anti-SLAPP suit, Torres can (indeed em must /em ) withdraw her slander suit. Which shields her and CAPSLO from any untoward inquiry.

        Am I making this up, or was this a topic of lengthy comments in prior articles on the Torres suit?

        (-2) 20 Total Votes - 9 up - 11 down
        • kettle says:

          “Whereas, now, in the face of an anti-SLAPP suit, Torres can (indeed em must /em ) withdraw her slander suit.” Or pay all the legal fees on both sides if she presses forward and fails.

          “Which shields her and CAPSLO from any untoward inquiry.” Only for this lawsuit and associated discovery. Other actions and/or agencies will carry on regardless.
          I am not a lawyer.

          (7) 23 Total Votes - 15 up - 8 down
        • TruthFairy says:

          And if there are NO MISDEEDS? Then what? Brennler and all others find themselves guilty of slander.

          (4) 16 Total Votes - 10 up - 6 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      I am also not a real lawyer…

      However, I do have some experience with lawsuits, and this is my take on it.

      The process of “discovery” can occur when one party files a lawsuit against another. The way I understand it, Brennler had the right to initiate the discovery process once Torres filed her lawsuit. He also has the right to the discovery process because of his own SLAPP lawsuit against Torres.

      In my experience, if the discovery process is going to be used by the party filing the lawsuit, it will usually be done relatively quickly following the filing. In other words, they have their ducks in a row before they file the lawsuit.

      Torres had the right to “stand down” (i.e., withdraw her lawsuit against Brennler) at any time after she filed it. Perhaps she thinks she is above the discovery process. I don’t think this is true because her allegations aren’t going to be easy to prove/justify in a court.

      (11) 35 Total Votes - 23 up - 12 down
  7. r0y says:

    I know who I’d like to SLAP in all of this…

    (27) 57 Total Votes - 42 up - 15 down
  8. LAH says:

    Notice Torres says nothing about her stealing the gift cards, or selling donated items. She is not denying those allegations? Just about the Cliff Anderson case that she has nothing to do with? Reminds me of a girl I knew when I was a kid. She was a whiner, spoiled, wanted her way or she would throw fits. If you said to her Don’t hit me” she would scream at the top of her lungs until her mother would come and get mad at us kids! Same scenario here. Someone sees Dee misappropriating funds, she throws a fit and tells Liz they are “just the homeless, or disgruntled employees”, then Brennler looks into the allegations and Dee screams at the top of her lungs….files her law suit, and Mama Liz gets mad at everyone else except for Dee.

    (54) 86 Total Votes - 70 up - 16 down
    • Niles Q says:

      What a perfect analogy. She does seem to be that spoiled brat (every neighborhood has one) who bullies people and then cries to mama when she gets it thrown back at her.
      Time to grow up Dee.
      CAPSLO, clearly has issues within its organization that need to be addressed before the whole company gets tarnished and potentially ruined.
      Much bigger corporations than CAPSLO have had small flickers turn into raging infernos and then crashed and burned under public outcry and eventual law enforcement actions.
      Biz Steinberg needs to realize than all fires start small and that’s the best time to put them out too.

      (34) 64 Total Votes - 49 up - 15 down
      • Citizen says:

        Biz Steinberg’s lax oversight of the organization allowed everything else to happen. She needs to resign before her incompetency is fully realized.

        (35) 53 Total Votes - 44 up - 9 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        After Biz Steinberg wrote those harassing emails to witnesses, I have zero inclination to give her the benefit of the doubt in anything that has to do with CAPSLO scandal. This includes any belief that she is simply a bad administrator, and was taken in by Dee Torres’ guile.

        Steinberg’s harassment of witnesses, IMO, makes her an active part of the intimidation and cover-up attempts by Dee Torres and SLOCo Supervisor Adam Hill.

        (24) 52 Total Votes - 38 up - 14 down
        • obispan says:

          Please provide a link, very interested in reading these e-mails.

          (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
    • karma2come says:

      I would guess there are people who mike has talked to that have first hand knowledge of theft by Ms Torres, because if not she should have taken a firm stand against these allegations a long time ago! I would have been at SLO pd, DA, or whoever and demanded I be given a lie dectector test and clear my name! With that in hand, I would have hit every news paper and tv station from here to Ventura clearing my name!!

      (-4) 26 Total Votes - 11 up - 15 down
      • MaryMalone says:

        Actually, all Torres, Steinberg and CAPSLO had to do was simply provide records to prove wrong the allegations.

        Instead, they have–consistently, without fail–done everything they could to indicate they are guilty.

        (7) 25 Total Votes - 16 up - 9 down
        • obispan says:

          Don’t have to. Not a government organization subject to disclosure despite 97% government funding. Sweet deal, huh?

          (2) 12 Total Votes - 7 up - 5 down
      • obispan says:

        If you worked at SLOPD you would have no such time between calls for service due to mommy’s little Cal Poly angels.

        (-3) 9 Total Votes - 3 up - 6 down
  9. Spirit Filled says:

    About time we fought back.

    Blessings

    (53) 83 Total Votes - 68 up - 15 down

Comments are closed.