CalCoastNews staff appeals million-dollar libel award

June 17, 2017

CalCoastNews reporters have filed an appeal of a $1.1 million libel judgment in the case where much of the information used by Karen Velie and Dan Blackburn was kept from the jury.

In 2012, CalCoastNews reported on the Integrated Waste Management Authority and one of its contractors, Eco Solutions. Eco Solutions owner Charles Tenborg later claimed he was libeled in the article. He sued and the case was tried in March.

In the two years leading up to the trial, two allies of Tenborg, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill and online commenter Aaron Ochs, engaged in a campaign of harassing CalCoastNews advertisers and making false claims about staffers.

CalCoastNews lost advertising revenues as Hill threatened advertisers who had business before the board of supervisors. Hill sent CalCoastNews’ advertisers texts where he said he was working with Tenborg to destroy a media outlet through a lawsuit.

CalCoastNews advertising losses left the news site and its staff with virtually no money for a defense.

Two of CalCoastNews’ witnesses died before trial. One died shortly after writing a declaration and the other died before she could be deposed.

In March, most of the reporters’ witnesses and evidence was kept out of trial for a variety of reasons. Following a number of errors in the case, the jury returned its verdict, and a judgment was then entered for about $1.1 million in favor of Tenborg.

Since the trial, Hill and Ochs have continued to spread misinformation. Their latest false claim is that Phillips 66 is funding CalCoastNews’ appeal. Hill again has wrongly concluded that people are working together to antagonize him.

On June 2, Ochs posted online that CalCoastNews’ attorney Paul Beard, with the firm of Alston & Bird, is a close friend of San Luis Obispo County Supervisor John Peschong, a claim that Hill then shared on Facebook. Peschong and Hill are political rivals who disagreed on a proposed Phillips 66 rail spur.

Nevertheless, Peschong said he has never met Beard.

“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to Paul Beard,” Peschong said.







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15 Comments

  1. lkeating93420 says:

    Cal Coast News has continued to uncover the corrupt antics of some of our local government “leaders” and corrupt businesses. These individuals are a cancer growing in our city and county governments. They destroy the good and leave behind scotched remains.

    I think it’s absolutely appalling that the almighty dollar is trying to squash their voice.

    So to quote Mr. Thomas Jefferson… “…and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter….”

    Linda Keating

    (0) 18 Total Votes - 9 up - 9 down
  2. Jorge Estrada says:

    We have all heard the term “building a case”, in reality and done often, this equates to disallowing evidence through a costly process that puts the advantage on the highest bidder (the party who can afford to raise the ante). We truly have the best legal system that money can buy.

    (-2) 20 Total Votes - 9 up - 11 down
  3. jimmy_me says:

    Welcome to 2017: include enough money with your lies and dirty dealings and you can convince the courts that you’ve been wronged. We’re to the point where people who don’t fear the consequences of the exposing the truth are the guilty ones.

    (1) 25 Total Votes - 13 up - 12 down
  4. Otis says:

    Tenborg, Supervisor Hill and Ochs are joined in an apparent conspiracy to undermine CalCoastNews. Why? Obviously, CCN’s credo is to provide insightful objective reporting of facts that are typically dismissed by other media outlets in the area,

    If justice is served, CCN’s appeal will be sustained. True justice is served honoring those in the media that with honest intent pursue the facts, the foundation for truth on controversial issues in both the political and secular domains. I pray that CCN’s appeal is sustained!

    (0) 42 Total Votes - 21 up - 21 down
  5. sloweb says:

    HA! Silly Rabbit, expecting legal justice for a conservative in California.

    (-1) 35 Total Votes - 17 up - 18 down
  6. sezlittle1 says:

    “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to Paul Beard,” Peschong said.
    Same lies Trump and his crooked politicians keeps lying about regarding the Russians and others.
    We have 3 supervisors that are as crooked Trump and his croonies. I used to side with CCN. Now that we have the 3 crooks on the majority of the board of supervisors the reality has changed. People make fun of Hill and Gibsons appearance and other petty things that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to serving the people of SLO County. The digs may be humorous but that is all. There is anything of substance. Yet, the 3 majority sleeps with the enemies and gets away with it.

    (-23) 59 Total Votes - 18 up - 41 down
    • billygatez says:

      Agreed 100%

      (-2) 32 Total Votes - 15 up - 17 down
    • Citizen says:

      You have it wrong, sezlittle1.. The three majority sleep with their spouses, contrary to what the two minority supervisors do. Hill and Gibson are the liars and cheats, look up their histories. Obviously, you have been brainwashed by the Team of Fulks, Hill, Gibson, Leys.

      Our conservative supervisors are not crooks. It’s the crooks who are pointing the finger at three respectible and honest people trying to do a good job. I don’t know Supervisor Gibson personally, but I do know Hill, Peschong, Arnold, and Compton. Who’s the crook? It’s Hill.

      (7) 35 Total Votes - 21 up - 14 down
      • billygatez says:

        Well i guess if supporting big oil, quarries, john wallace and kelly gearhart doesnt make people crooked, i dont know what does! And i think you have been brainwashed, because flipping the coin and saying that to someone else is super redundant.

        (-3) 15 Total Votes - 6 up - 9 down
    • jimmy_me says:

      If people who post to CCN were responsible for BOS votes, Gibson and Hill would have been gone a long time ago. But I seem to recall a lot of CCN hype for removing Hill, yet he somehow managed to win in a race that wasn’t even close. I find it quite entertaining how the conservative three BOS members are going handle unpopular projects such as quarries and oil trains without pissing off a majority of their constituents.

      (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
  7. Gordo says:

    Two of Calcoast’s witnesses died before the trial. I wonder what the odds of that happening are?

    (22) 40 Total Votes - 31 up - 9 down
  8. just4fun says:

    I am not sure what half of this article has to do with the filing of an appeal. Whatever Hill and Ochs do/say at this point is only going to show what idiots they are, but doesn’t make a difference on the verdict. As for Peschong potentially being a friend of an attorney- who cares?

    (15) 49 Total Votes - 32 up - 17 down
    • Karen Velie says:

      Ochs and Hill’s antics were included because several people have contacting me asking if Phillips 66 was paying for the appeal. While it does not make a difference in the appeal, Ochs and Hill put out misinformation for three years which could have impacted the jury pool.

      (12) 74 Total Votes - 43 up - 31 down

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