The supervisor, his toadies, and the Internet

April 7, 2016
Daniel Blackburn

Daniel Blackburn

OPINION by 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.


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JordanJ

Hill must be desperate to go as low as attacking children and deceased relatives. Does he think he can stop the reporting by reminding Karen that she recently lost a child and her step father is no longer around to give support. Lets call the child the devil, that is sure to cause some sadness. Lets harass Dick Mason’s daughter and go after his job, how dare him cover my bad behavior.


At the same time, the little man claims that CCN writes about his wife’s children, but there have never been any stories about them. Are his supporters so uniformed or are they getting favors and willing to turn a blind eye on his despicable behavior.


Hill and his trolls Aaron Ochs, Bill Leys and the New Time’s Russ Hodin are obsessed with finding out who is behind the Fire Adam Hill website and Facebook page. Hill first accused Dick Mason, right before he got him fired and Hill’s wife began harassing Mason’s daughter. Ochs chimed in shortly afterwards saying he had done voice recognition and proved it was Mason


Then they blamed Kevin Rice and now Karen, with Russ Hodin saying he knows it is Velie and she is a thief because Fire Adam hill posted one of his tired cartoons. Is this the type of investigation the New Times does, guess, attack and if wrong, don’t admit it just attack someone else.


diamond

Ochs saying he did voice recognition is wacko. Maybe Ochs is a CIA operative in his spare time when he’s not a recording artist, movie star, unicorn. I actually fear the mental stability of this cyber troll. He has admitted making up fake personalities and sets up several phony profile accounts in various social media venues to harass and torment anyone he disagrees with in his pursuit of getting a milk bone tossed his way from the likes of Hill and company. If Ochs twisted life ever tips over the edge, I Guarantee Hill will act like he never met you, Aaron. And, I know you’re reading this Aaron, because you thrive on attention, any way you can get it. He is surely thrilled that his face and name are in a public forum. He now has purpose for a few weeks.


diamond

I must add, I read Cal Coast Fraud to see Ochys glow from being mentioned in CCN. He Hilariously writes, “It has come to my attention” regarding this article. It came to his attention because he reads CCN.


surferdude

I would never give him the satisfaction to have the hits to his creepy postings.


justbeware

Perhaps it was Ochs who helped Adam Hill with his voice alteration during the last election. Remember when Hill left a nasty voicemail claiming to be his opponent?

Once caught red-handed, Hill had no choice but to admit he had done the deed, but tried to pass it off as a joke.


achillesheal

Politicians need to be held in disdain by citizens. All citizens. Fear is the only thing that would keep them honest.


Yet every election cycle we have fools treating politicians as if they can walk on water.


This is what you get.


Otis

The prevailing honesty of CCN is reflected in the characters of Blackburn and Velie (and the CCN staff). They assiduously pursue the facts. Their intent is consistently driven by the highest journalistic ethics. As particular cited by Blackburn – CCN’s enemies are masters of deception – especially in their cruel intent to destroy Velie and the truth driven reporting of CCN. Velie and Blackburn are very special professionals in forming the important journalistic voice and character of this important news organization. CCN deserves the highest praise and support of all who believe in the political integrity of our governments.


r0y

San Luis Obispo has become a huge mess. I’ve only been here since the early 90’s, but even that short window of 20-some-odd years has been a DRASTIC change. At first, I thought it was just a bunch of progressive NIMBY’s (hello, Christine!) that somehow fooled just enough people to enact their crazy crap.


Then it was the “pave” Romeros who couldn’t tear down and build up fast enough.


Then something unusual happened. The crazy lefties WERE the pro-development, business-corrupt, people they used to rail against. They got a taste of that political CRACK and were immediately hooked. They used the “Rules of Radicals” techniques of the simpleton, Alinski, to push their quasi-republican-style backroom deals through. Don’t agree with them? Destroy them. Use satire, use media, use everything. Just do not let anyone focus on the problem.


Wow. Meanwhile, the “conservatives” are silent. Taking in the rear. Again. Their “party” (joke that it is) completely falls for the tactics used against them. Honestly, it’s like they aren’t even the J.V. team, let alone a real varsity team.


Yet they all ask for money and votes. And we (or most of us) are so stupid that a commercial or a media puff-piece is enough to sway our votes because we are too lazy, physically, emotionally, and mentally to do our due diligence and truly seek out who we elect; who we allow as bureaucrats and non-elected officials.


I mean, I can be mad at Hill; I can really not like the small-minded, small-caliber man that he is… or I can just admit that ignorance in our society has been so highly encouraged over the years that one cannot ever underestimate it when it comes time to vote. (Case in point: last 3 presidents, all the current “front-runners” of both parties).


diamond

Aaron Ochs nick name is Ochymorron for those of us who have had the unfortunate task of dealing with him, He thinks he’s a unicorn. He is completely unhinged and I can see why he is a fluffier for Adam Hill, perfect fit. He flings poo then whines and cries if someone dares to defend themselves. If you want entertainment check out his Facebook page or cal coast fraud which is the weirdest train wreck. Then we have Adams wife, who is a documented thief, so of course she’s now running her own “non” profit for Her own profit business. A real mother Teresa…Being a thief she fits in nicely with government funding type rackets and I’m sure her latest boyfriend / husband is showing her how to properly rip off taxpayers as he’s a professional. This group is super creepy. Every one of them is the perfect example of how to steal from taxpayers and exploit the system. It was a BIG mistake that Dee Torres Hill was never prosecuted for being the thief she is. Every time government fires one of their own it turns into a big payday for the crook. We are in crisis because our spineless so called leaders are too busy planning their own retirement from the huge salaries, pensions and big benefit packages on taxpayers dime. I’d rather see these slimy jokers prosecuted and lose, that just roll over like a cheap date, right Dee? They threaten to sue, then the powers that be start shoving money at them. Cal Coast news is one of the few that actually do the work of reporting. Thank you Daniel Blackburn for taking out the trash here.


bobfromsanluis

I voted for Adam Hill back in 2008, thinking that anyone would be better for the county than Jerry Lethall, and for a short, brief, shining moment, it seemed like Adam was going to be a pretty good supervisor. I do happen to agree with quite a few of his policy decisions and votes, but I cannot stand how petty, vindictive he has become, and the bully he apparently is. Agree or disagree with your political opposite when you hold an elected office, but never harass, plainly or sexually a politician whom you disagree with when they are the opposite gender. Defend your significant other, but don’t harass and try to bully anyone who thinks there just “might” be something to allegations of improper behavior.

The latest bad behavior of Adam Hill is either choosing or allowing the commercials to run against Dan Carpenter accusing him of all the bad behavior that Adam has exhibited over the years; that is called “projection” (technically, political projection) where you accuse your opponent of doing the bad things that you personally do, either privately or publicly. As a life long member of the Democratic Party, I am embarrassed by the behavior of Supervisor Hill, and plead with everyone not to associate anything he does as an example of how Democrats are supposed to behave.

The venom directed at Cal Coast News, especially directed at Karen Velie on a personal level needs to stop, period. Disagree with her work, with her as a person perhaps, but keep the discourse on an adult level, please.

I am planning to vote for Debbie Peterson, a person who I think will serve the interests of District 3 and San Luis Obispo County better than either our current supervisor or Mr. Carpenter.

Adam, act like an adult, please.


r0y

I know several life-long republicans that left their party (or felt their party left them); I’m beginning to see some democrats do the same.


I always like to joke with my “very” democrat friends, “Hey, do you think JFK could even get nominated for president today?”


(for the record, I don’t think most republicans would even support JFK because he’d be seen as too right-wing)


bobfromsanluis

(for the record, I don’t think most republicans would even support JFK because he’d be seen as too right-wing)


Um, no; as far as I can see, there is no “too right-wing” for today’s “modern” tea-party type conservative. Especially since he would have a “D” after his name …


what the

Holy sh*t.


Scarlet

Holy cow, Dan. You hit THAT out of the park.


But now I’m worried for Karen. And my community.


mej

Persevere, Karen has done so much for this county. I think her strength must come from Him. Carry on your good deeds.


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