The supervisor, his toadies, and the Internet

April 7, 2016
Daniel Blackburn

Daniel Blackburn


Karen Velie’s adult daughter Autumn died two years ago after suffering a seizure in her bathtub. In the aftermath and in the midst of family grief, a rumor was floated that Karen, co-founder of CalCoastNews, was being sought by investigators as a suspect in her daughter’s death.

The rumor was widely promulgated through an online account regularly shared by a county supervisor.

A couple of weeks ago, a website oozed to the surface called “Deport Karen Velie,” featuring a decades-old photo of Karen in a maternity ward holding baby Autumn, with the caption “Rosemary’s Baby?” and calling the child the spawn of Satan.

In another post, there is a photo of Karen with her stepfather a few weeks before he died. The post claims Karen resembles “Justin Beiber” and that her stepfather was already dead. Again, the meanness is being spread through sites promoted by the same county official.

For about four years now — half of this news website’s existence — an ever-nastier, one-way war has been waged against CalCoastNews, Karen, and anyone remotely connected to the site, even family members. Somewhere along the line, the assumption was made by someone that Karen, being just a mere woman, would wilt under pressure like a flower under a hot sun. That someone made a terrible tactical error.

A photo of Karen Velie with her now deceased daughter.

A photo of Karen Velie with her now deceased daughter.

I’m talking about Supervisor Adam Hill. There is really no conjecture here about his involvement in this incessant character assassination: Just ask him. He’s proudly boasted about it to a few too many people.

So I’ve been in a bad mood for days now, compelled by the increasing vitriol to mull Hill’s history of Internet venom spit at Karen. I’ve needed to keep reminding myself that even swallowing something benign like salt will make one retch when taken in too large a quantity.

A professional lifetime spent reporting on politicians and other powerful people made me witness to the hovering clutches of sycophants so often at their elbows… which is to say I understand succinctly what’s going on right now in old SLO County with Hill and his culpable cabal. But there is a real difference between now and the good old days: it’s the Internet, which allows bullies like Hill to soil the atmosphere under color of authority while sustaining minimal blowback.

Supervisor Adam Hill

Supervisor Adam Hill

But even before this odd fellow was elected to the county’s District 3 supervisor’s seat, a local media environment was proliferating which would facilitate the eventual malignancy. I’ve always believed that a lack of media oversight (here it must be termed purposeful ignorance) is a key factor enabling rampant civic corruption and blatant ripping off of taxpayers that thrives in this county.

Remember North County’s free-spending thief Kelly Gearhart?

CalCoastNews reported on his financial crimes, alone, literally for years, its work countered constantly by The Tribune’s puff pieces on the man. CalCoastNews’ offers to share with the daily’s reporters its volumes of evidence were declined. Gearhart is now spending 14 years in federal lockup.

Remember Paso Robles’ police chief, the popular Lisa Solomon?

CalCoastNews was called “Swamp Gas” by a Tribune columnist now retired, Bob Cuddy, for daring to report on her salacious conduct with unwilling underling officers. No other media seemed to think it strange when Solomon “resigned” and asserted in an official city press release that she was leaving city employment because this website had “made it impossible” for her to do her job any longer. Oh. And only CalCoastNews bothered to ask why she got more than $220,000 in city taxpayers’ money for walking. And got no answer.

Remember Tony Ferrara, the mayor?

His official actions caused community angst in Arroyo Grande, and he ignored a last-second write-in candidate only to get ejected from office at a particularly unfortunate time for him. CalCoastNews’ reporting was again controverted by the daily, which did everything to support Ferrara short of hiring a public relations firm.

Even today, several of CalCoastNews’ most vigorous detractors are media people here in the county — not one of whom has made the slightest effort to verify CalCoastNews’ documented reporting. New Times’ cartoonist Russell Hodin is one frequent critic prone to making phony online accusations about Karen.

In one post, Hodin claimed Karen started a website critical of Hill; she didn’t. Hodin then claimed Karen stole one of his cartoons and placed it on the website; she didn’t.

Against this backdrop of media negligence, guys like Hill fester and somehow prosper with little fear that their malfeasance will become the subject of reporters’ curiosity.

So Hill brazenly shares and promotes tasteless online posts penned by his minions, bedeviling Karen and CCN reporters, affiliates, and family members with spurious and false assertions of felonious activities, mental illnesses… even claiming Karen is an ex-con. (She is not.)

In 2012, when CalCoastNews published unflattering articles about Hill’s and Sheriff Ian Parkinson’s behavior, the pair badgered KVEC’s general manager, Ron Roy, into banning Karen from the station’s airwaves; that ban remains to this day.

Aaron Ochs

Aaron Ochs

Subsequently, county employees were instructed by top bosses to prevent CalCoastNews or KVEC’s popular talk radio host, Dave Congalton, from obtaining equal access to government information by denying or delaying records requests, refusing to answer questions, or failing to provide public information. (Congalton too has had the temerity to muse publicly about Hill’s fiscal machinations. So did another long-time radio icon, Dick Mason, who was subsequently terminated by management at KKJL after complaints from Hill.)

Hill frequently uses his office to threaten CalCoastNews advertisers who have pending projects with the county, thereby deflecting vital reporting by trying to choke off the news source’s revenue stream.

He has loudly claimed that CalCoastNews writes about his children (not true), and that legitimate reporting of his actions in office constitutes harassment (it does not). He refuses to meet with constituents he deems “friends” of CalCoastNews. Don’t believe me? Ask Hill.

CalCoastNews reporters have had their phone numbers and addresses posted online; homes vandalized; a family dog poisoned; mutilated cats left on porches. On one occasion, a commercial alarm was left taped under Karen’s porch. She has moved three times in the last four years because a few of his thugs continue to act on Hill’s coaxing.

In 2012, Hill told CalCoastNews if reporters did not stop writing about his girlfriend (now wife) Dee Torres-Hill and her habit of pilfering gift cards from the county’s homeless she ostensibly was serving, he would retaliate.

One of Aaron Ochs photo shopped displays.

One of Aaron Ochs photo shopped displays.

Shortly after that, several anonymous ads were placed on Craigslist seeking to pay a blogger to “change public opinion” in SLO County. One job applicant reported Tom Fulks, a campaign consultant and regularly-featured columnist for The Tribune, was the originator of the ads. Fulks, whom Supervisor Bruce Gibson has called “his evil genius behind the curtain,” has denied any connection to the ad.

But from that appeal immediately emerged a slimy website called CalCoastFraud (perhaps coincidentally?) which may be the only website in the world devoted to minute-by-minute critiques of a single news outlet. Initially promoted by Hill through Facebook, it’s “written” by Aaron Ochs.

Ochs allows comments on his site from miscreants like Bill Leys, a local businessman and owner of Central Coast Waterproofing, who calls another of Karen’s daughters “a dried-up c**t.”

Earlier this week, Leys posted several threats against Karen and supervisor candidate Dan Carpenter, Hill’s opponent. The threats prompted a local chief of police to send an officer to one of the events Leys claimed he would attend. Leys failed to show.

Ochs claims he’s not being paid by anyone for his efforts, which if true only confirms his lack of acuity. Ochs claims to “monitor criminal activity, misconduct, malicious and fraudulent activity conducted by CalCoastNews and their contributors.”

Hill, on a regular basis, forwards Ochs’ garbage via the Internet to folks all over the county.

We asked for Hill’s emails, only to learn that County Counsel Rita Neal encourages supervisors to expunge emails from public servers as they desire, in violation of state law. Hill deletes his county emails almost daily, and the county has installed a system that scrubs deleted emails from the servers within 30 days.

A couple of years ago, Karen’s grandchildren were taken from their home by Lee Collins of the county’s Public Health Department under the auspices of Child Protective Services. The reason? Allegedly having a “messy house.” The grandchildren were eventually returned after a growing public outcry, but Collins still posts under his own name on CalCoastFraud about Karen. Confidentiality? No such thing in Collins’ vernacular.

Hill, too, makes frequent and shameless mention of this incident.

Recently, CalCoastNews wrote a series of articles about a local developer, PB Companies, that has surreptitiously been using Hill as a paid advocate. CalCoastNews has been provided with evidence that those articles prompted internal company discussions of hiring “a hit man” to terminate the reporting, and the reporter.

Adam Hill speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a PB Companies project.

Adam Hill promoting a PB Companies project.

Law enforcement authorities have been notified about many of these egregious actions.

Last month, Karen requested copies of several law enforcement reports to include in correspondence to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in an attempt to get an unbiased investigation. Sheriff’s records staffer Makay Butz first told Karen that exact dates of the incidents were needed in order for her to locate the right records. Then Butz said a state law prohibited Karen from sharing the reports, but was unable to identify the law.

Butz eventually did send the reports, which were essentially blank. The deputy who originally took Karen’s report said the document she received from Butz was not as he had written it.

Another deputy told Karen he was ordered by his commander, who just happens to be the uncle of a PB Companies principal, not to investigate another of her incident reports.

I’ve been curiously omitted from much of Hill’s and Ochs’ toxin, maybe because I’m an old and cranky man whose reaction to this misogynistic nonsense could prove very unpredictable. But I’ll certainly get targeted now by these two little fellows.

So here’s my message to the twin aberrations: Let fly the insults. If I can distract for even a short time your despicable assaults on Karen, then purpose served.

These are some of the things that have been happening around CalCoastNews lately. I just thought some of our tens of thousands of loyal daily readers would like to know.



  1. kettle says:

    “As part of a series on the rising global phenomenon of online harassment, the Guardian commissioned research into the 70m comments left on its site since 2006 and discovered that of the 10 most abused writers eight are women, and the two men are black.”

    “This is what the model predicts will happen: People who come from a supportive and friendly environment learn intuitively to cooperate—even with strangers where there is no potential payoff—because they have often benefited from such generous behavior. However, if they take time to deliberate, they overrule their cooperative instinct if they realize there is no possibility of future payoff.

    People who are typically surrounded by jerks, on the other hand, learn intuitively to be selfish—and also learn not to deliberate. So, the model shows, they wind up acting selfishly even when cooperating would actually pay off, because they don’t stop to think. ”

    “Here’s a research finding that should surprise no one: The men most likely to harass women online … are the men most likely to have their own problems.
    Men who harass women online are quite literally losers, new study finds”

    (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  2. SamLouis says:

    Did Hill swallow a basketball?

    (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
  3. Ugluk says:

    “Though the mills of God grind slowly,
    Yet they grind exceeding small”

    Hill, Ochs, Leys, et al. are headed for an epic “reap what they’ve sown” moment. You cannot behave as they have and be recompensed by fate.

    Unbelievably despicable.

    (23) 29 Total Votes - 26 up - 3 down
    • r0y says:

      Pshah! Not to side-track, but by that logic, Hillary would not be a front-runner for president. Heck, neither would any of them (except prob. Carson)

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  4. what the says:

    Hey James Wagstaffe of Kerr and Wagstaffe! Wish Adamski and Moroski, the PG&E Diablo Canyon Lawyers/Team Adam Hill members, never talked you into being a Team Adam Hill fall guy? Sucker.

    (27) 35 Total Votes - 31 up - 4 down
  5. antishillnetwork says:

    seizures… are horrible. if ONLY we had a government; and LOCAL government; with politicians that were not CORRUPT DOG SHIT; and allowed Cannabis to be freely grown and consumed; to help save lives…as this one might have been. Vote out the local scum that think the year is 1950! get rid of the trash politicians and police that oppose progress.

    (9) 23 Total Votes - 16 up - 7 down
  6. Skip Tracer says:

    I know the commander at the sheriff’s office that’s Ryan Petetit’s uncle. WTF commander dumbass? You make good cops look bad. That one’s going to bite you on the ass.

    (41) 59 Total Votes - 50 up - 9 down
    • the situation says:

      Commander Taylor and his merry men from Pismo PD and AGPD have been turning a blind eye to Petetit’s crimes for years. But you can’t outrun the feds slime ball!!!!

      (45) 51 Total Votes - 48 up - 3 down
    • Peppermint1962 says:

      I’m interested in hearing how Ryan Petetit has an uncle when his mother’s
      only sibling is a sister, and his father an only child?

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  7. kettle says:

    The Internet trolls we all know may not be very nice or particularly mentally healthy individuals in real life.

    Welcome to the Dark Tetrad:

    Machiavellianism: Willingness to manipulate and deceive others, “To succeed in politics, you must manipulate others, E.g., flatter important people. Most people are ignorant and deserve to be manipulated”

    Narcissism: Egotism, sense of superiority, egotistical self-attention-seeking and self-obsession, constant bragging, derogates others and shows enjoyment. In principle, they are secretly insecure.

    Psychopathy: The lack of remorse and empathy, also reckless and callous, psychopaths often increase aggression after a gratuitous escalation.

    Sadism: They get pleasure in the suffering of others, even more from suffering they directly cause. they literally enjoy suffering.

    Internet trolls are also real-life trolls

    Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists

    Who hangs out with a narcissist? Study suggests its other narcissists

    (13) 31 Total Votes - 22 up - 9 down
  8. just thinking says:

    Hey Jana, I was thinking: They found O.J. innocent too. Just thinking.

    (22) 26 Total Votes - 24 up - 2 down
  9. jana says:

    I’m glad to hear there will be a follow-up story Karen.

    I wonder how much of a role Cal Coast News’ reporting played in the decision to refer the case to the California Attorney General and how much of a role the coverage played in the prosecution of an apparently innocent man.

    The Santana story should give Cal Coast News pause and perhaps cause them to reflect on exactly how they cover the news.

    Cal Coast News does provide a good source of information and performs a valuable service for the public, however it must be on guard against making news happen rather than simply reporting what has happened.

    When the Santana story first broke the statements attributed to the DA’s office were that they had not even concluded there preliminary investigation, meaning that there really shouldn’t have been anything to report until that investigation was concluded and an outcome was announced.

    Is it possible that you guys so spooked everybody that they pulled the trigger on somebody that maybe should not have been prosecuted?

    (-16) 50 Total Votes - 17 up - 33 down
    • what the says:

      Okay Jana, let’s stay on point and not get distracted. Public outcry to law enforcement outside of SLO to investigate Team Adam Hill. Thanks.

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

      “The Santana story should give Cal Coast News pause ”

      Gee why are you bringing this up here? Are you one of the toadies?

      Also even you said: jana says: “The real story is that the D.A. palmed Santana off on the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s detectives began noticing problems with Santana’s work and when they discovered he had lied, they turned him in to their boss, sheriff Parkinson. Parkinson then sent Santana back to the D.A’s office and told them what he had done.”

      This was totally news, he was a sworn liar/law enforcement, why do you want a pause? Upcoming election perhaps?

      (17) 35 Total Votes - 26 up - 9 down
    • r0y says:

      YEAH, CALCOAST NEWS! You should PAUSE next time you want to try that “INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST” stuff. Just stick to regurgitating press-releases like all our other professional “journalists” do.

      I would rather they be wrong on 1 out of 5 investigative pieces than to have ZERO investigative pieces. Are they perfect? Nope. Were they wrong? Dunno, like people have said, OJ was found innocent, so… ? Should they NEVER investigate and report ever again on anything? If you’re team a damHill, then probably…

      (5) 9 Total Votes - 7 up - 2 down

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