Ray brings boyfriend into political fray

May 1, 2014

ethicsBy JOSH FRIEDMAN and KAREN VELIE

A San Luis Obispo County supervisor currently running for election has used her political position to further the career of her boyfriend, in violation of an ethic’s policy.

Last October, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Caren Ray to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to fill a seat vacated by the death of Supervisor Paul Teixeira. Ray is currently running for election to keep her seat on the board.

Prior to joining the board of supervisors, Ray served on the Arroyo Grande City Council. As a member of the council in Jan. 2013, Ray skirted the city’s ethics policy and appointed her boyfriend, Arroyo Grande architect Randy Russom, to the city architectural review committee (ARC).

An Arroyo Grande ethics policy prohibits any decision making by government officials that even appears to create a conflict of interest. The policy strictly forbids making decisions that relate to financial interests or personal relationships.

“Officials and employees shall not use their official positions to influence government decisions in which they have a material financial interest or where they have an organizational responsibility or personal relationship that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the policy states.

Still, Ray said she did nothing wrong by appointing her boyfriend to the ARC.

“There is no conflict, there was no gain for me,” Ray said.

Caren Ray

Caren Ray

Just a few months after Ray appointed her boyfriend to the ARC, San Luis Obispo architectural firm RRM Design hired Russom, according to a post on his Facebook page. In addition to doing architectural work, RRM provides land use consulting services and often brings projects before the board of supervisors and city councils in the area.

In October, Arroyo Grande Councilman Joe Costello appointed Russom to the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission.

Ray said that on her second day with the board of supervisors, she spoke with County Counsel Rita Neal about her relationship with Russom. Neal informed her that she could vote on matters pertaining to RRM, so long as Russom is not working on the project, Ray said.

Neal did not respond when asked for confirmation. Neal’s county email said she is currently out of the office.

Ray and Russom have been dating for at least a few years and are now living together, according to multiple sources. On March 18, Ray purchased an Arroyo Grande home where the couple now resides.

On March 4, 14 days before the closing of Ray’s home, the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission meeting minutes note an administrative decision to designate her recently purchased home as historical. Because of the Mill’s Act, this decision is slated to significantly lower Ray’s property taxes.

State law prohibits officials from making any governmental decisions on issues in which a party involved has a shared investment or interest in real property. Government Code Section 18730 bars office holders from deciding on any issue when a conflict of interest of such has surfaced within 12 months of the hearing.

Multiple requests for a copy of the San Luis Obispo County’s ethic’s policy to the board of supervisors, county council, and the county clerk recorder’s office over several days were unsuccessful. However, several employees responded noting that they were attempting to find the document.

During the past few years, questions about officials violating conflicts of interest codes have arisen because of the romantic relationships of two other county supervisors.

Board chairman Bruce Gibson has dated his legislative aide Cherie McKee for several years, and Supervisor Adam Hill is engaged to Dee Torres, the homeless services manager for the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, for which the supervisors approve millions of dollars of funding.

Gibson hired and rehired McKee as his aide, a position that pays a base salary of $70,000 a year. Hill has advocated that the board increase the homeless services funding to CAPSLO while decreasing the amount of support given to competing organizations.

But, Neal has exonerated both supervisors of any wrongdoing and of failing to recuse themselves when they had conflicts of interest.

In addition to creating a looming conflict of interest, Ray has left Arroyo Grande with an advisory body member who has admitted to financial misconduct.

Shortly before meeting Ray, Russom went through a divorce. During the end of the marriage, Russom took loans and credit cards out in his then wife’s name swindling her out of almost $100,000 she inherited following the death of her father, according to notarized statements signed by Russom.

“I have forged her name to use her checks and signed for credit cards she knew nothing about,” Russom says in a notarized security document he signed at the time claiming he planned to pay his wife back. “I, Randy Russom, have stolen, cheated and lied to my wife.”

Russom did not respond to a request for comment.







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  1. hijinks says:

    With all the pkr problems at the board, maybe marriage should be a requirement. Oh, forgot, they boys were married when elected.

    (14) 30 Total Votes - 22 up - 8 down
  2. bobfromsanluis says:

    Josh, keep up your record of attacking some in political office; could your political agenda be more clear?

    (-15) 53 Total Votes - 19 up - 34 down
    • kayaknut says:

      If by “some” you means those guilty of illegal activities, then YES Josh keep it up.

      (23) 49 Total Votes - 36 up - 13 down
      • bobfromsanluis says:

        That is quite an assumption; what is being published here are allegations of wrong doing with some facts and some supposition written in an editorial manner; I have appreciated CCN’s reporting in the past, they have uncovered quite a bit of wrong doing by people in positions of authority and power. My growing objection to some of the reporting being posted here is the manner in which an editorial slant is added to the reported facts and the supposition of guilt that would not be evidence alone in a court of law.

        For whatever reason, Mr. Friedman has been on a path of more and more supposition and allegation against a select few of some in power, and it is my speculation that Mr. Friedman’s Libertarian filter through which he views just about everyone in elected office has an assumption of corruption, greed, avarice and abuse of power by any and every elected official. Yes, there are “bad actors” who get elected or those who get elected and then take a turn for the worse; they should be reported on when evidence can support the allegation of wrong doing, but to continually go after one select segment of elected officials in a consistent manner gives to me (at least) the idea that there is an agenda being pursued by Josh Friedman against anyone in any office that happens to have a “D” behind their name when indicating their political affiliation.

        CCN, please go after those who do abuse their positions of power, go after those are being dishonest, go after those that deserve it; just try to do so without such a transparent partisan slant and reduce the speculation and stop holding a trial in the court of public opinion. I have seen good reporting here in the past and hope to continue to see good reporting in the future, but allowing the writing to continue to have a slant that hints of a particular agenda is straying too far from impartiality, which is what “good” reporting should be.

        (-4) 42 Total Votes - 19 up - 23 down
        • kayaknut says:

          Talk about a writing with a bias, by the way the BOS race is non-partisan.

          (8) 24 Total Votes - 16 up - 8 down
  3. monkscrew says:

    The fact that no one in county government can find the ethics code is pretty telling…

    “Multiple requests for a copy of the San Luis Obispo County’s ethic’s policy to the board of supervisors, county council, and the county clerk recorder’s office over several days were unsuccessful. However, several employees responded noting that they were attempting to find the document.”

    Its no wonder there is so much problem with ethical behavior in the county, the policy is missing!

    (42) 46 Total Votes - 44 up - 2 down
  4. wineguyjc says:

    How is this any different then the same crap Gibson and Hill have been engaged in. Is this any different than Christine Dietrick getting her brother in law a job in the Community Development Department under Derek Johnson. In this situation, they reclassified with Monica Irons help a full-time position to a temporary position and didn’t post the job for qualified applicants to apply – thus all the idiot had to do is sign his name to a blank application and walla the job was his. This is also the same organization after the idiot in utilities directed his staff to dump hazardous waste at the back of the City Yard and then they hired his son with no qualifications. Then the former HR Director in San Luis Obispo got her worthless nephew a job at the City without a open recruitment process. But then there is Paso Robles and the hiring of personal friends, favor givers is legendary. So why would anyone be surprised that Caren Ray got her boytoy and appointment. Keeping concubines at work is a local political practice that is deeply ingrained in SLO. Point is, the corruption at the top is simply a reflection that we work for them, they do not work for the people.

    (28) 46 Total Votes - 37 up - 9 down
    • taxpayer says:

      Also, don’t leave out the fact that Jamie Irons wife, Monica, gave a job to Councilwoman Christine Johnson’s husband in the City of San Luis Obispo.

      (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down
  5. Human Reason says:

    How do we fire Rita Neal?

    (33) 53 Total Votes - 43 up - 10 down
    • SLOBIRD says:

      Start with her bosses being replaced. As long as she has to keep protecting them, she is not going anywhere.

      (25) 35 Total Votes - 30 up - 5 down
  6. Pelican1 says:

    An election sign spotted recently said the following:
    You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead; your next stop…the Twilight Zone.
    VOTE CAREN

    (22) 42 Total Votes - 32 up - 10 down
    • mesaman1651 says:

      They are all pretty much the same.

      (13) 19 Total Votes - 16 up - 3 down
  7. cliffclaven says:

    These folks long ago determined that ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is their motto. Especially since they usually oversee administrations with an uninvolved audience. Too many slippery admins exist due to a lack of over site. Be it a result of subterfuge, or more likely the combo of lack of time to attend meetings and hearings, and local “news” that is in-bed with you know who.

    (26) 34 Total Votes - 30 up - 4 down
  8. Brahma says:

    It seems like Karen Velie has a thing for people’s love lives. How does she come up with this crap except by engaging in gossip with people who work for the county?

    How would Karen like it if someone at The Trib did story after story mentioning her drunk driving conviction?

    (-46) 102 Total Votes - 28 up - 74 down
    • Kevin Rice says:

      You confuse love life with political misfeasance.

      (37) 79 Total Votes - 58 up - 21 down
      • Kevin 99 says:

        I am appreciative of your use of the word “misfeasance.” Under law, of course, “misfeasance” means that no crime has been committed. None. And, certainly, that applies in this case, whether or not you think it has a bad aroma.

        (-25) 49 Total Votes - 12 up - 37 down
        • Kevin Rice says:

          Thanks for your appreciation. Webster says: “the performance of a lawful action in an illegal or improper manner.” In no way does that clear impropriety from the table. Caren Ray should not get votes.

          (31) 55 Total Votes - 43 up - 12 down
    • CherieMcKee says:

      tips@calcoastnews.com

      (1) 19 Total Votes - 10 up - 9 down
    • givemeabreak says:

      The Trib? What a JOKE!!!!! :like we would believe anything they have to say?

      (15) 31 Total Votes - 23 up - 8 down
  9. Pelican1 says:

    There really is something to the old adage, “birds of a feather, flock together.” (Buteo buteo buteo) There seems to be a certain sleaze factor that has become a common denominator among the majority of our supervisors.

    (41) 63 Total Votes - 52 up - 11 down