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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SamLouis

Like it or not, CCN is batting better than .950. CCN has performed where the Tribune has failed our community time and time again.


Given Adam Hill’s continued crazy behavior I have to wonder if and when he (or his sidekicks) is going to become physically dangerous? When will Velie become too big of a threat to their gravy train? Given Hill’s recent behavior it would seem that time is now coming with Hill’s reelection effort.


CCN was the driving force behind the rightful falls of Gearhart and Ferrara. CCN is now poised to administer yet another enema to the bowels of SLOC politics. Beware though — dislodging that fat tub of goo is bound to make a huge mess for many.


Keep it up CCN! You have earned your stripes.


surferdude

And who are Adam Hills Best Buddies?


Caren ( never won an election) Ray

Erik ( FPPC investigation) Howell

Ryan( steal your money) Petit

Dee ( need a gift card?) Torres


and lastly


Aaron( I live with Mummy & Daddy) Ochs


agag1

A man is known by the company he keeps.


JordanJ

Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson are known to push for their cohorts to get governor appointments. For example, you have Caren Ray, who has never won an election and had a history as a swinger, but was appointed by the Governor to the board of supervisors after her buddy Hill lobbied for her.


A few years before that, Ray was appointed to the Arroyo Grande city council through the old Tony Ferrara and Ed Arnold regime. You remember Ed Arnold, him and his wife were having threesomes with a city worker when the wife decided she liked the city employee better then Ed and he tried to kill the city employee.


City police raided the house and found a video camera in the shower of a foreign exchange student. The police also found photos from swinger parties were several council members and others, including Ray, were present.


After officers caught the city manager with a partly dressed employee, the police pushed to get in new blood, Jim Hill.


Nevertheless, you have the council majority – Jim Guthrie, Kristin Barnich and Barbara Harmon battling to bring back the old regime. Don’t forget, AG is a small town, you can go on claiming everything was great under Ferrara and the former city manager, but many know the truth and the officers have friends and family, who have their backs.


surferdude

Arroyo Grande City police raided the house and found a video camera in the shower of a foreign exchange student. The police also found photos from swinger parties were several council members and others, including Ray, were present.


Ray and

Big Tony sitting in the tree….


obispan

The video of the underage foreign exchange student is beyond the pale. Swinger parties with other council members? Get down! As long as we are not violating the “Brown Act” (I’ll leave that one alone, thank you).


PolyProf

Jim Hill has a new campaign slogan to use against Caren Ray if she challenges him for re-election:


“AG doesn’t need a Mayor who ‘swings’ on the major issues.”


FreeAGCouncil.com

Good memory.

Guthrie, was like Ferrara, so loyal to Arnold, he lost his way.The voters must be reminded how many bad decisions Guthrie has made including spending millions on the so called Brisco solution, not being able to place Adams on administrative leave, not even able to ask the Human Resources officer for the City what they should do, and then taking up most of a City Council meeting to whip a Planning.

Commissioner they did not like and then vote to do nothing.


Guthrie and the Princess have got to go!


horse_soldier

Again, It was Jim Guthrie, Kristen Barneich, and Barbara Harmon on the wrong side of the issue.

Arroyo Grande got it right when they voted Hill in. Watch Harmon, she is disingenuous.


hijinks

You left out Gary Grossman, Jan Marx, John Ashbaugh. Peas in the same pod, all living off the fat donations of developer contributors.


doglover

Thank you Karen & Dan for exposing the July 3rd indiscretions of Steve Adams & Teresa McClish in Arroyo Grande and the inability of Tony Ferrara, as mayor to demonstrate any kind of professional leadership during those months after the Cal Coast News brought the entire incident to light.


The Friday night tree removal?

The Saturday morning special meetings?

The investigations with no written report?

The resignation printed in all media sources, but never accepted by the City Council?

The no show when Big Tony lost and refusal to hand over the gavel????


Hundreds of South County residents discovered Cal Coast News because Karen Viele was not afraid to report on a popular mayor, City manager and staff. They rushed to their phones in the middle of a Chamber luncheon to see the hot story of the year!


THANK YOU CAL COAST NEWS for bringing us the TRUTH about what the hell is going on behind the scenes. CCN has repeatedly brought us our own “Panama Papers”


VOTE JIM HILL for Arroyo Grande Mayor and put a STOP to these politicos who think they are so important.


They’re not!


FreeAGCouncil.com

Are you speaking of the $17,000 Charles Hookstra report?

Good ‘ole Otis tried to give him his interview and the guy would have nothing of it.

He interviewed over 30 people including policemen and attorney and YET NOTHING WAS WRITTEN DOWN.

What a wonderful use of City general funds.


Daniel Blackburn

Dave Congalton and I will discuss this in more detail at 5 p.m. tonight on his HomeTown Radio show, 920/KVEC. I’ve asked Dave to invite Hill’s participation.


http://920kvec.com/listen-live/


hijinks

And Aaron Ochs will be blogging during the show.


Pelican1

No…he will again be puking his daily vitriol.


Roxanne

Thank you Dan for having the strength to write this story, I know it was not easy. It is high time that others become aware of the full picture of what has been happening to Karen Velie, her family, and CCN’s staff. Unbelievable that such ugliness could be going on for so long and with no regard. But now that time has come to an end. I will be listening.


surferdude

All this in the “happiest place in America”

BS

And for that matter, many are not that nice and friendly in AG either.


FreeAGCouncil.com

Who the heck was that woman from the Public Art to demand she go before some marijuana smoking dying man at the last Council meeting?

NICE..


taxpayer

This is the same Aaron Ochs that the Morro Bay mayor and city council placed on the Morro Bay Park’s and Recreation Commission. What does that tell you about their judgment?


Slosum

Suggestion: Spray with bleach. Scrub thoroughly.


hijinks

Thank you Dan for your tough writing. You hit the nail on the head when you blame the dominant media for the mess this community is now in. “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.” The alleged daily fishwrap is a disgrace that has promoted the downward shift in political culture by aligning itself with the developer-Hill clique, and totally forgotten its mandate to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.


Your charges are hard to take — they are very broad-sweeping and difficult even to wrap one’s head around. But every time I try to convince myself Dan’s gone over the edge, I remind myself of what I’ve heard on the radio — Hill’s own mean and nasty ads against Dan Carpenter, who whatever his faults is a decent sincere hard-working political person who doesn’t deserve this sort of abuse. Then I say to myself, if Hill’s mean and nasty enough to do THAT in full public view, he’s mean and nasty enough to do anything, even hiring a hit man to go after Karen.


Damn, is this what life in SLO County has come to?


Pelican1

Perhaps the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his/her refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect.

Adam & Aaron, you obviously had NO integrity to begin with. What a shame.


Jim Anderson

Adam Hill’s favorite troll , Aaron Ochs, is at it this morning, trying to spin the exposed facts of his repulsive team. Bill Leys was first to like it. Adam, do you realize how you have hurt yourself and your reputation using these disgusting people to speak for you? You are finished.


Pelican1

Aaron is much like the Fecal Fairy of Montaña de Oro who loved to wallow in it under the outhouse.


obispan

A little too much inside baseball for most around here now. FYI, a Santa Barbara physician was discovered having dropped down into a deep pit toilet at Montana De Oro wearing a “rain-suit” by State Park Rangers after their being alerted by a woman using the facilities. They had to hose him off before taking him to jail, hence the Adam Hill analogy.


Pelican1

I believe he was a nurse..not a physician.