County bullies in full revenge mode

December 24, 2013


It was a casual get-together of professional women, mostly from the South County and Santa Maria, and the tone was cordial until one of the ladies happened to mention that she had read an article on CalCoastNews.

“The mood of the gathering changed instantly,” she later recalled. “The contempt was palpable.” The room went to ice, and the subject was dropped.

CalCoastNews has been loathed by a segment of county readers since its inception five years ago. That goes with the territory; every newspaper for which I have worked was roundly reviled by the local population. Competent investigative reporting has a way of upsetting fat cats and moral midgets intent on exploiting the status quo.

But my friend wanted to emphasize: What she heard expressed at that gathering was deep, raw, visceral… pure hatred.

News outlets don’t often become the target of anonymous, ongoing, compensated character assassination, and see its reporters probed by private dicks in the hire of public officials.

Nevertheless, it’s all still just part of the job, I guess.

But there’s nothing in the job description about placing one’s family in jeopardy of governmental kidnapping.

That’s the simplest and most accurate way of describing what has happened to the grandchildren of CalCoastNews co-founder and publisher Karen Velie.

(For those of you familiar with social media terminology, the linked article already has been “shared” by 1,536 readers, and is probably CalCoastNews’ most widely read article, ever.)

Velie has been prohibited by order of the court to discuss her family situation, so those of us who haven’t yet been silenced will continue the conversation.

That’s the right thing to do, for Velie, her family, and all of the families now afflicted by these kinds of punitive child welfare services. And it’s the right thing for society.

Those who have followed the grandkids’ plight know that they were taken by San Luis Obispo County’s Child Welfare Services (CWS) last summer on the thinnest of premise after declaring the home of their mother, Velie’s daughter, “dirty.” Since then, child welfare case workers have tried to  justify shuttling the children from foster home to foster home, admonishing Velie to change her attitude and her profession if she wanted to see the children again.

In other words, some CWS people apparently did not like what CalCoastNews has been reporting about CWS’s conjoined agency, the  Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO).

These are not empty assertions. CWS case workers have been oh-so-willing to make these comments with witnesses present or listening.

Check the law: None of these arbitrary “reasons” justify splitting up a family, nor does Velie’s bogus DUI, pasted on her in the immediate aftermath of the CWS abduction.

As the family separation wore on, it became clear from their own comments that CWS employees had every intention of putting Velie’s grandchildren up for adoption.

Did you get that? Up. For. Adoption.

That’s when CalCoastNews published its first mention of the Velie family plight.

The article provided a perception of the county’s CWS policies that generally remain hidden from public view by confidentiality laws and loosely interpreted regulation. But the veil of secrecy surrounding child welfare activities in general is intended to protect the kids, not provide impenetrable cover for inept welfare workers and their unprofessional retaliatory actions.

People need to know about this. Don’t count on most of the local media to bother looking into this situation with open eyes, though, partly because there are too many sacred cows grazing on county largesse, and partly because there is a distinct lack of journalistic huevos hereabouts. This is doubly troubling because I believe an informed, bold, inquisitive, and politically insulated media guards against unwarranted governmental intrusion into our lives.

There seem to be plenty of people in this county who would not agree with that opinion.

They are the folks who are content to sit mute and watch as the sticky fingers of government pluck apart families without sound reason. They are satisfied to look the other way even when confronted with overwhelming evidence of official misconduct.

They are the folks who believe this will never happen to them, or theirs.

Lastly, I should note that this news site’s publisher doesn’t allow reporters to write commentaries. So, figuring that apologizing later will be simpler than getting her approval now, I’m just going to go ahead and post this.

Happy holidays.

CalCoastNews’ senior correspondent says unprintably hateful correspondence may be directed to

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Has CPS/CWS closed the alleged case?

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