Supervisor tries to get witness to change story about homeless gifts
August 16, 2013
By KAREN VELIE
Less than a week after his fiancé filed a slander lawsuit against a local private investigator, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill began contacting a key witness in the case, attempting to get him to change his statement.
On March 21, Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), filed a slander lawsuit against private investigator Mike Brennler claiming he slandered her in a phone conversation with one of her ex-husbands. The lawsuit was one of several actions taken by Torres and CAPSLO against persons looking into or providing information about practices by providers of services to homeless persons in San Luis Obispo County.
Brennler became aware of allegations of fraud against the homeless after reading a CalCoastNews exclusive about allegations of CAPSLO mistreatment of the homeless. After learning that former CAPSLO staffers said that Torres took and used the gift cards for herself, her family and friends, Brennler volunteered to identify individuals who might have information about Torres.
Brennler spoke to several of Torres’ ex-boyfriends and former co-workers who said Torres regularly pilfered items donated to the homeless including gift cards.
Torres’ lawsuit claims that Brennler told one of Torres’ ex-husbands 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 has denied 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.
Torres’ former boyfriend told CalCoastNews and Brennler that Torres had taken gift cards that had been donated to CAPSLO for use by the homeless.
On March 26, Hill texted Torres’ former boyfriend Ralph Almirol 18 times attempting to get him to change his story.
The texts began at 10:05 p.m. At first, Hill keeps repeating “123” to Almirol, which Almirol took as a physical challenge, he said.
Hill — “123.”
Almirol — “Still need to clarify what 123 means? If you can?”
Hill — “Streets.”
Almirol — “Well, you know where to find me! Anytime!”
Hill –“What does that mean?”
Hill — “O, beating up women, I suppose. You do have that record.”
Almirol – “Over 13 years ago. Now I am back too well you can catch me in wrestling room doing what I have always been good at. So if that’s all you got your wasting my time. But nice pathetic try. LOL Would you like to know the things I sexually did to your finance?”
Hill – “You are a deadbeat meathead, Ralphie. You did a stint in our county jail for beating up Dee. You have not been able to hold a job and you have paid next to nothing to support a daughter who is ashamed of you.”
Hill – “You really expect to have a relationship with Savannah after smearing her Mom? Why do that? To satisfy your spite? How are you going to make that right, Ralph?”
Almirol – “And if Dee was a good person she would never have stopped Savanah and I from having a relationship. It is a two way street Adam. Dee could make this right she does not want too so it on her for her actions are now being called into question and should be.”
Hill –“ Look, I do not know about your relationship and did not need to know until you lied about her to CalCoastNews, Ralph. I have gone through difficult times with my own father–even until this day, but my mother would never have done what you did by lying to CalCoastNews. How is that going to make anything, anything at all, good for Savannah, Ralph?”
Almirol – “I am not lying that is the part you keep denying to yourself. And Savanah knows the truth and it will take time for us to heal but I will never give up trying to be a small part of my daughter’s life. Dee could have made this right she choose the lower path not me. I am just telling the truth.”
Almirol – “There were gift cards back then at Prado. And I am doing the honorable thing and willing to take what punishment I deserve for my part in letting my children and myself benefit from the charity of others for those that were less fortunate then us.”
Hill – “Ralph, please. This is stupid. We already have a sworn statement from Tom’s Toys, we already have other documents. You went to jail in ’99, Ralph. So come clean. What is it you want? Everyday I work to settle issues. What do you want?”
The documents that Torres filed in her lawsuit do not include a declaration from Tom’s Toys. The manager of the toy store said they no longer make gift card donations. He told CalCoastNews that he did not want to discuss the past.
Almirol – “Dee could make this right!”
Hill – “I asked you how she can make this right. And no, I would not badmouth you to your daughter. But this is ugly to have done this to her mom. Let me know if I can help to make any of this right. You will have to let me know.”
Hill continued to text Almirol to shortly before 2 a.m.
On June 22, Hill began messaging Almirol through Facebook asking him to change his statements.
Hill – “You agree to write up a statement admitting that you lied about Dee, revealing how that website and their PI worked with you, and you don’t get sued. Otherwise, you get sued and you will need a lawyer and more $$$. The truth will set you free, Ralph.”
Hill – “More court coming for you, Ralphie, and more $$$ you will be paying. You do have a way to save yourself.”
In his August 15 declaration to the court, signed under penalty of perjury, Almirol said he stood by his earlier statements that Torres had taken gift cards and other items donated for the homeless. Almirol also swore that Torres’ own declaration included false statements.
“I have read the declaration by Dee Torres filed on or about August 9, 2013,” Almirol’s declaration says. “Her statement that ‘I have never taken a gift card donated to the CAPSLO (or any of its programs including the shelter) or any gift card intended for a homeless client’ is untrue.”
CCN sent an email to Hill, asking him for a response about the texts and messages.
Hill declined to answer the questions directly.
“As you know, there is only one person named in Dee’s lawsuit, so even the foundation of your typically loaded questions is fallacious,” Hill emailed. “Your vendetta against me is tiresome, Karen. But the courts will unlikely let you continue lying and smearing. Your hatred of me has turned you into a sad farce. The courts will not find it amusing.”
Brennler’s attorney Stew Jenkins has filed a motion to strike down Torres’ lawsuit citing California’s anti-SLAPP statute. (SLAPP stands for Stratetic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.) The law was created to prevent people from using slander and libel lawsuits to silence critics or opponents on matters of public interest.
The motion is set to be heard on August 22. If Brennler’s motion is successful, Torres’ suit will be dismissed and she will be responsible for paying Brennler’s attorney’s charges.