EXTREME JEOPARDY

That’s the dire situation the County finds itself in as supervisor candidate Lynn Compton borrows from the Tea Party playbook in her manic attempt to unseat incumbent Caren Ray in the 4th district race that could tilt the balance of power on the SLO Board of Supervisors to the extreme right.

Lynn Compton
Lynn Compton

By AARON OCHS and ED OCHS

District 4 Supervisor candidate Lynn Compton embraces the midterm election madness that has consumed the country from coast to coast. Like the federal midterm races, elements of extremism have permeated an already heated political climate on a local level. Voices of extremism—which the voter majority has traditionally dismissed as fringe—now reverberate the loudest in District 4. With Compton’s brash and aggressive tactics in tow, the far right is waging war against the moderate Democrat voter majority with the intent to reshape the board and the direction of the county.

Deploying extreme tactics to win elections is nothing new in national or local politics, but the rise of extremism in county politics has reached new and alarming levels in the past several years. Nowhere is that extremism more evident than in the crucial District 4 Supervisor race—representing Arroyo Grande, Nipomo and Oceano—between newcomer, agri-businesswoman Compton and Gov. Brown-appointed incumbent, Caren Ray.

The County faces challenging issues like the drought, dwindling water supplies, oil companies seeking increased access by rail, drilling and fracking, and the current and future needs of SLO’s large homeless population. There’s a lot at stake for county taxpayers. Yet a burgeoning network of extremists have joined forces to assist Compton while, at the same time, undermining the clear severity of local issues.

Gov. Brown did Ray no great favor when he appointed her to fill the seat on the County Board of Supervisors. The seat was vacated by the untimely death of popular conservative Republican Paul Teixeira, but he knew what he was doing.

Ray, a registered Democrat, served as councilwoman for the city of Arroyo Grande from 2010 to 2013 and had been a modern world history teacher at Santa Maria High School since 2007. Before her tenure as councilwoman, Ray served on the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission from 2005 to 2010. Ray was vocal in extending the emergency ordinance in Paso Robles, which prevented further planting of vineyards in the Paso Robles groundwater basin. Before she was appointed, the Board of Supervisors were deadlocked, failing to obtain the four vote majority required for a moratorium extension. Since the drought began to adversely impact the entire state, Gov. Brown has supported local water conservation measures. Brown recognized the record-setting depletion of the Paso Robles groundwater basin, as evidenced by signing Assembly Bill 2453 into law. Authored by conservative Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, AB 2453 was designed to establish the governance structure and authority of a water district in Paso Robles. The district would be responsible for managing the basin and taking proactive measures to conserve water.

Compton, who has sided with forces to oppose long-term management of the Paso Robles groundwater basin, wasted no time jumping into campaign mode. Just two days after Ray was officially sworn in, Compton held her kick-off party in Nipomo. Compton told news sources that she had every intention to enter the race after she sought the governor’s appointment. Compton told reporters that she waited to announce her candidacy in respect to Teixeira’s family.

Despite seeking the appointment, Compton later dismissed any legitimacy associated with the appointment process. Compton told the New Times’ Jono Kinkade, “It should be the people that decide, not the governor, with no disrespect to the governor.”

Three months after Gov. Brown selected Ray over Compton, Compton launched her campaign on that basis alone, without any platform, and that non-platform has continued to consist largely of charges, irrelevancies, assumptions and suppositions. Her often-stated support for property rights, less government, fewer taxes, and her abhorrence of rules and regulations that she claims cripple small businesses is eerily reminiscent of Tea Party strategies. Compton has not officially declared herself a Tea Party candidate. Despite resonating strongly in the national polls during the 2010 midterm elections, Tea Party relevance within the political landscape has sharply diminished. Any admission of toting Tea Party principles could risk offending some voters who might otherwise vote for her if they didn’t know her hard right-leaning bent.

Network of Supporters

Like a comet, Compton’s basically burst of nowhere, and she would probably prefer it stay that way at least until Election Day, but one look at the Compton campaign and who’s endorsing her raises a row of red flags on her candidacy.

The Republican Party chose Compton early on and threw their weight behind her as a viable candidate, which the successful businesswoman and attractive mother of two surely is; however, this isn’t your father’s Republican Party. Despite Compton using the Reagan namesake to tout her conservative values, the party she belongs to has swung to the right of her presidential icon. Though Ronald Reagan’s adopted son Michael Reagan keynoted a Compton fundraiser in February, the Republican Party of 2014 has veered so far to the right that if Ronald Reagan was president today, he’d been thrown out for raising taxes more than 10 times. During his presidency, Reagan also raised the debt ceiling 18 times.

Compton’s supporters display a long list of conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists and thinly-veiled corporate interests. Hiding behind her many contributors, Compton is safely tucked in the back pocket of the current Republican establishment as they seize this golden opportunity to get control of the powerful Board of Supervisors, which, as they see it, the left has controlled too long. Though the late Teixeira tended to vote independently, it is doubtful that Compton, who often invokes Teixeira’s name to appeal to his voters, will do the same given her heavily partisan campaign pulled from the pages of the Tea Party playbook.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising public support for Compton comes from a handful of political lobbies clearly on the lunatic fringe, including Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists.

The “Agenda 21” conspiracy group, whose members believe that liberals are working with the United Nations to take away their property rights and personal liberties, preach weekly at Board of Supervisors meetings.

Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists, such as San Luis Obispo resident Laura Mordaunt, have sharply criticized District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson and District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill for allegedly bargaining with the United Nations to erode the rights and liberties of citizens. Mordaunt referred to the alleged attempt of subversion by Democrats on the board as “domestic terrorism” on March 6, 2013. Local residents attending South County events have witnessed Mordaunt and other Compton supporters—donning Compton t-shirts—videotaping known Ray supporters and following them in their cars. Residents have informed law enforcement. Mordaunt’s videos, photos and letters to the editor are prominently featured on Compton’s website.

Mordaunt is not the only Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist to be featured by Compton’s campaign.

Former Republican congresswoman and Compton supporter Andrea Seastrand has appeared before the Board of Supervisors to criticize the supervisors on several occasions. Last year, Seastrand accused supervisors of being complicit in a conspiracy to keep CalCoastNews co-publisher Karen Velie’s grandchildren in foster care as retaliation for the site’s investigative reporting. In September, Seastrand criticized Ray for voting to “weaken” Proposition 13. On February 11, four of the supervisors—with the noted exception of District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold—noted to approve their legislative platform. A portion of the platform sought a sales tax increase in SLO County’s unincorporated areas. Compton supporters point to a portion of the platform which reads, “Should a Constitutional amendment be proposed for the 2014 ballot that would authorize local agencies to raise taxes with a 55% approval threshold [instead of a two-thirds majority vote, as required by Proposition 13], seek inclusion in that amendment for counties to raise a tax in the unincorporated area only.” However, the platform merely anticipated a potential challenge to Prohibition 13, and offered to only advocate for an increase of tax in the unincorporated area. There was no endorsement, implied or otherwise, to “weaken” Proposition 13.

Additionally, Seastrand and the Compton campaign erroneously claimed that Ray and supervisors voted to increase sales tax in unincorporated areas. Compton wrongly concluded that the approved platform would place “a hit on property taxes,” when the portion dealt solely with sales tax. The platform stated nothing about weakening Proposition 13 homeowner protections statewide, as Seastrand and Compton supporters have claimed.

Despite Compton clearly misunderstanding the verbiage of the legislative platform, property rights advocates Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association rushed to endorse her and her interpretation. Ironically, the HJTA, a right-wing lobby, supported a significant modification to the Proposition 218 assessment for the Los Osos wastewater project in 2007. Traditionally, the HJTA supported Prop 218 property tax assessments that were approved by a two-thirds majority. Instead, the HJTA worked with then-Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee to undermine the two-thirds vote by allowing only a select group of homeowners to approve a tax that arguably benefited the entire community of Los Osos. The assessment was ultimately approved under duress by homeowners by a significant margin, although the margin touted by the County was embellished.

Claims that Ray sought to weaken Proposition 13 were echoed exclusively on controversial tabloid website CalCoastNews.

The website has echoed claims about Ray since she became a councilwoman for Arroyo Grande in 2010. The website accused her of having a “harried, secret life” as a former member of the SLO Hash House Harriers, a local chapter of an international running club. The story originated from CalCoastNews contributor Kevin P. Rice, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the San Luis Obispo City Council. Rice, a vocal, sometimes inflammatory supporter of Compton’s campaign, was assigned by CalCoastNews to track Ray’s movements. In July 2013, Rice was seen taking photos of Ray as she met with Supervisor Hill at a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo. In an email dated July 26, 2013, Supervisor Hill told the Grover Beach City Council that Rice had “stalked” him throughout the morning of July 23. Rice denied the claims. Mired with stalking accusations from Hill and supporters of Oceano Dunes dust regulations, Rice has continued his one-sided campaign of sandbagging Ray on a myriad of issues on CalCoastNews, though he’s received ample criticism for being obsessed with the supervisor at the expense of the facts.

CalCoastNews boasts a heavy right-wing presence, featuring fringe personalities like Rice while shamelessly publishing right-wing propaganda and failing to disclose their affiliations to Tea Party groups. CalCoastNews and writer Josh Friedman have promoted their work within the North County Tea Party. Acting as a conduit for Tea Party principles and ideologies, the site has attacked Democrats such as supervisors Hill, Gibson and Ray under the guise of investigative journalism. However, the site has mostly deferred to unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous sources.

The site has sharply criticized and targeted supporters of Ray while publishing a series of misleading articles about her.

Supporters contend that CalCoastNews’ Karen Velie personally threatened to expose Ray supporters over stealing campaign signs without offering any evidence to back her claims. Shortly after filing with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Compton campaign on May 20, Ray supporter Ed Eby received a call from Velie, who told Eby that she had photos, implicating him in theft of Compton yard signs. Eby recalled the phone conversation with Velie. “Since I have never touched a Compton sign, I demanded she show me the photos,” Eby wrote on CalCoastNews on June 2. “She then backed off and said the photos didn’t clearly show they were Compton signs. Of course not. It didn’t happen.”

Velie has reportedly harassed other Ray supporters, accusing them of sign thievery: a common theme on CalCoastNews. But when supporters demanded to know where she heard the accusations from, Velie replied, “Compton told me.”

Another related supporter of Compton in this dubious network is the Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association, which is part of the ongoing independent investigation involving Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish. The Association, whose role in the investigation and credibility have been questioned as a result of their adversarial relationship with Adams during heated contract negotiations with the city, has collaborated with CalCoastNews to help force Adams’ termination, unseat AG Mayor Tony Ferrara in the coming election, and replace him with a write-in candidate that the website is also promoting. Adams was forced to resign amid a string of allegations, although he denied any sexual misconduct took place in the late-night encounter with police in City Hall—as promoted but, as usual, unsubstantiated by CalCoastNews.

Compton will not be alone philosophically if she wins the seat. Supervisor Debbie Arnold, a sister property rights advocate from North County, voted consistently against a Paso Robles Water District. Compton has drawn considerable financial support from North County vineyard owners such as Cindy Steinbeck of Steinbeck Vineyards, who is leading the lawsuit against the county and any sort of groundwater management in North County, plus another suit to try to stop the urgency ordinance, and Steinbeck expects Compton to fight recently-enacted legislation establishing the district, which will attempt to equitably regulate how much water is allotted to vineyard operators, property owners and businesses. Vintners have a huge interest in controlling the Board of Supervisors and avoiding water regulation of any kind. Arnold has aligned with Compton, while fellow Republican supervisor Frank Mecham has for the most part stayed neutral on crucial water issues.

In an interesting regional angle with a national footnote, Kevin McCarthy, the new majority whip in the House of Representatives, representing District 23—Bakersfield, Kern and Tulare in the Central Valley—has donated $1,000 to Compton’s campaign. Why? Because this election is all about taking over the BOS, and Compton fits the GOP’s current right-wing leadership profile.

Other large contributors reflect Compton’s array of reactionary supporters. H.D. Perrett, who tried to secede from the county, to be annexed by Santa Barbara so he could develop his land—which would have been a huge loss of tax dollars both for the county and the schools—has contributed $5,000. Etta Watterfield, a Tea Party conservative who ran against Katcho Achadjian for Assembly, and attacked him in the same way Compton has attacked Ray, especially on Proposition 13, a Howard Jarvis/Republican protectorate, has along with her husband contributed well over $10,000. The conservative Lincoln Club kicked in $5,000. Wing luminaries Matt Kokkonen, Ed Waage and Jeanne Helphenstine have also chipped in. The Republican Party has dropped $16,000 on her, but her biggest contributor so far has been Lynn Compton, propping up her campaign with over $42,000 in loans to herself, in addition to tens of thousands in in-kind donations, after having earlier failed to report the campaign expense of painting cars and trucks in her business fleet with her image, and spending $20,000 on deceptive “slate mailers” to every home in the district. This fiscal conservative has over-spent and gone into debt in her campaign to win the seat at any cost, outspending Ray in a landslide.

The Manchurian Candidate

While Compton enjoys legitimate support in the rural, unincorporated areas of the 4th district and in hardcore Republican circles, sooner or later she must face the fact that some of her supporters represent the most radical elements in the county and will hurt any attempt by her to build consensus on the board. So far, however, Compton shows no interest in consensus building. Her arrogance, combative style of non-diplomacy and Tea Party roots ensure she will only be the candidate for some of the people, sharing none of Ray’s crossover appeal to the broader community.

Unlike Ray, an experienced community leader, Compton has never served in the community on any level. She has made an appearance at the Board of Supervisors a few times for public comment and left before the board deliberated or voted. To fill the void, Compton has resorted to anger—anger that Gov. Brown didn’t have the decency to replace a Republican with a Republican, but instead chose a moderate Democrat; anger at Ray for usurping that seat, for her voting record and for taking donations from developers; anger mirrored and fomented at every turn by CalCoastNews to drive their feverish hate campaigns against Ray, Hill, Gibson, Torres, Ferrara, and other politicians, public figures, allies or family that get in the way of their extreme right-wing political agenda whose face is now Lynn Compton.

Backed by a coterie of right-wing extremists, Compton makes a compelling candidate for her base and presents a nice front. Attractive, well-spoken, assertive, Compton basically burst of nowhere, from the private sector, and that works well for her. She has no record, no government service and, apart from her own business and corporate life, no real leadership experience. At the same time, she is curiously robotic, as if she’s a contestant on “Jeopardy,” rather than a candidate for higher office. At least Sarah Palin was the Mayor of Wasilla before becoming Governor. And like Palin, what she believes—and doesn’t believe, like climate change, solar energy and air control—disqualify her from office. She has stated that SLO needs to loosen land-use policies to be more like Bakersfield, and that the problem in Oceano was “the Hispanics, and all the problems that go with that”—comments that are inherently dangerous to the advancement of serious public debate on issues vitally important to the future of the district, county and country.

Because she is “fresh out of Compton” with no track record to critique, voters know little about her closely-held views other than what’s in the neatly-scrubbed sketch offered on her website. However, each day more people discover that Compton’s business, Valley Farm Supply Inc., as homey as it sounds, is actually a wholesaler of environmentally dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, that she’s worked for pharmaceutical giants Monsanto, Pfizer and Merck, and is owned by Big Ag, Big Oil and Big Chemical, which is why she’s against water-protection regulations and ambiguous about her support for the Phillip 66 rail project in Nipomo. And more people are realizing that she’s not looking out for the little guy, no matter what she claims in her bitter, belligerent effort to win. The real question is, given her Manchurian candidacy, lack of substance and well-armed attack campaign, given what’s at stake in gallons of water lost and budgets for vital services slashed, how concerned should the taxpayers of the 4th district and the county be if Compton and her supporters get hold of the BOS?

Compton has a brief video on her website:

It announces: “In the life of every winner… There comes a moment of truth… Heroes will rise… Stars will fall… Let’s win one for the Gipper with Lynn.”

If stars fall when this hero rises, they should be very concerned.

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CalCoastNews and The Templars of Hate

CalCoastNews wrote on January 1 that their articles fetched more than four million pageviews. After reading this article, you might wonder if that’s really the case.

Above is a video produced supposedly by a group of people known as the Knights Templar. The actual Knights Templar did exist at one point in documented history as an organization comprised of the most wealthy and powerful Christian elite of the Middle Ages. The Knights Templar are commonly known as skilled fighters and assassins who fought during the Crusades to claim the Holy Land in the name of Christianity. Their mission was to assert Christian dominance in Europe through force. The Templar order was disbanded in 1312 by Pope Clement V. The organization never officially reemerged except in legend. Although the Knights Templar no longer exists, we now know that apparently they are staging a comeback after reading CalCoastNews’ always-insightful, never-wrong reporting.

If we take the video and the propaganda behind it with a grain of salt, we know the knock-off Knights Templar have emerged under a few names: Citizens Protecting Children, Longarm Productions, Dave Longarm and simply “Longarm.” This mysterious, totally anonymous “Longarm” posted several times on CalCoastNews promising ”100 [YouTube] videos, articles, a documentary, fliers and posters all over California, and the making of a 1,000 person protest in SLO.” It makes it sound like a big movement is taking place. Change is about to come to SLO County, and it’s about to come in full force. Watch out, you kidnappers and child extortionists!

CalCoastNews Misfires Against Torres, Again

EDIT (4/20): An astute reader added that the CAPSLO budget for homeless services is estimated at $2-3 million, not $60 million as CalCoastNews claimed. Here is their 2012 audit.

CalCoastNews published a new article on Friday, April 19 titled, “San Luis Obispo’s homeless barred from services.” The article reignites the claim that some of the homeless are prohibited from utilizing Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO)’s services. Like the article they published nearly a year ago, which included similar accusations that were made by a non-credible source, CalCoastNews published a misleading article. Here are the claims CCN has made (in bold) with our corrections.

The homeless are required to follow a set of rules imposed under the tenure of Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator. If the homeless don’t follow the rules, they are suspended or barred from receiving help.

Torres is not solely responsible for managing and enforcing rules. The Prado Day Center is managed by Shawn Ison and the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter is managed by Della Wagner. Torres works with Ison and Wagner and collaborate on decisions regarding clients of CAPSLO’s homeless services.

Peggy Fowler, a former 20-year employee CAPSO’s homeless services, says the refusal to provide food to homeless barred from services is not only cruel, but also increases the likelihood someone will resort to stealing in order to eat. “Suspensions from homeless services are for violation of the rules which include throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or arriving five minutes early,” Fowler said. “I felt that making someone sleep in the dirt for failing to do a chore is wrong.”

The ROCK cannot independently verify Fowler’s subjective statements. As we reported previously, we looked into the nature of these allegations. “Throwing a cigarette butt on the ground” or “arriving five minutes early” are not grounds for suspension or banishment from homeless services, according to CAPSLO policies. Disciplinary action such as suspension and banishment require repeated and severe offenses, which we address below.

Taking food to homeless outside the Prado Day Center is prohibited because that circumvents the incentive for the homeless to enter case management. CalCoastNews didn’t cite the primary motivation behind these rules, which directly coincide with case management. Their goal is not, as CCN says, to “keep people homeless.” It’s the opposite. The goal is to encourage service recipients to be independent and not rely on services for an indeterminable amount of time. CAPSLO’s policies, which strongly push for client responsibility and independence, are commonplace among homeless shelters across the country.

The rules include a ban on giving food to homeless persons who have been suspended from the program, entering the Prado Day Center through the driveway on foot and failing to control the physical tics and other behaviors resulting from medical conditions or mental illnesses.

CalCoastNews omitted substance abuse as a reason clients are barred from homeless services. According to officials, Prado Day Center has a limited number of volunteers that assist in the shelter’s day-to-day operations, and they’re not trained to handle people with severe mental illness — those who exhibit a strong tendency to behave violently, thus posing a threat to other clients — and substance abusers. According to CAPSLO’s policies, clients who want to take advantage of CAPSLO’s homeless services must enroll in case management; clients going through case management must also be alcohol and drug-free. “Physical tics and other behaviors” do not accurately describe how one is disqualified from partaking in homeless services.

On 920 KVEC’s “Hometown Radio” with Dave Congalton, CalCoastNews’ writers have complained about how much funding CAPSLO receives compared to other homeless shelters and services. However, officials have repeatedly gone on the record to push for detox and mental health services, services that could help rehabilitate those who suffer from problematic mental and substance issues. These vital services require funding. Yet CalCoastNews has explicitly communicated their intent to deprive CAPSLO of funding — some of that would go toward helping those who would otherwise be barred from services.

If a homeless person fails to follow Torres’ rules, she bars them from receiving meals and a place to sleep and shower, according to the program’s rules and dozens of citations CCN staff have viewed. Many of those barred are refused services for months or years because they are unable to make it through a laborious readmission process Torres has put into place, Fowler said.

To date, CalCoastNews has not shown any of the “dozens” of citations from people barred from CAPSLO services. CalCoastNews doesn’t explain the “laborious readmission process” to readers, but states that Torres is the primary enforcer, which is inaccurate. The readmission process involves a drug test to show that the person seeking readmission is sober. Medical records and documentation must show that the person seeking readmission is no longer a danger to anyone else. Without evidence to substantiate her claims, Fowler’s statements are purely subjective and incendiary.

CalCoastNews have spoken to several ex-employees who The ROCK has verified were terminated from their positions at CAPSLO. CAPSLO policy prohibits disclosure of employment records, so the specific causes for their termination is not public knowledge. CalCoastNews has repeatedly declined to disclose their sources’ termination, which would provide objectivity and allow readers to question their sources. Similarly, CalCoastNews originally did not disclose that one of their sources, Ralph Almirol, physically abused Torres and had a criminal record that spanned nearly 20 years. The website has a long history with lack of transparency, non-disclosure and willful deprivation of context.

One rule strictly enforced by CAPSLO prohibits the homeless from coming within an eighth of a mile, or 660 feet, of the Prado Day Center between 4 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. and within an eighth of a mile of the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter between 7:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. Torres enforces the policy because her employees are afraid of the homeless, so she wants the homeless out of the area when employees are coming and going, [former employee Estella Bonds] said.

As we reported on February 18, CalCoastNews does not mention hours of operation for Prado Day Center, which would easily explain why CAPSLO prohibits homeless from entering the facility or loitering in the area. Prado Day Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After the center closes, clients who need overnight shelter are sent by bus to the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter. The Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter operates exclusively during the evening hours and clients must vacate the premises by 7:30 a.m. The hours are readily available on the Friends of Prado Day Center and Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter websites. The claim made by Bonds is contrary to common sense.

The ROCK can confirm that corrections were e-mailed to CalCoastNews writers when they published these details previously, but they continue to publish misinformation.

In 2008, Torres’ boyfriend San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill became the founding chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council, a group with a plan to end homelessness in 10 years by promoting a 200-bed shelter to be managed by Torres. Those staying at the shelter are to be required to give 50 to 70 percent of their income to case management allegedly to be used to get them into housing.

The comment is wildly misleading. Sources familiar with Homeless Services Oversight Council activities reported that Hill, who started dating Torres in mid-2011 (not 2008, as CCN suggested), has recused himself from CAPSLO-related agenda items. This is confirmed in board minutes, which are public record and readily available by request. The website claimed that Hill voted to “provide government funding to CAPSLO,” but public records show otherwise.

The proposed homeless shelter, which was originally slated to be built on South Higuera St., has hit a series of community and bureaucratic roadblocks. At this stage, there has been little discussion on who would be managing the shelter, assuming the shelter will be constructed. There is no documentation indicating that Torres would be managing the shelter.

Several law enforcement agencies are looking into allegations that those managing the required savings accounts have been misappropriating the funds.

Law enforcement officials deny that they are looking into allegations of misappropriation — allegations which originated from CalCoastNews, not the site’s sources. In mid-February, CalCoastNews co-founder Dan Blackburn called into Congalton’s show and announced that he notified the Office of the Attorney General of the allegations and would be receiving a statement from them in a matter of days. No statement by their office was made. The ROCK contacted the Office of the Attorney General for comment. Were were told by staffers that they received no communication from Blackburn or any other writers working for CalCoastNews.

Officials told The ROCK that CalCoastNews has not come forward with evidence to substantiate the misappropriation allegations, even though the site recently started to solicit donations under the guise that the allegations were already proven to be true.

CAPSLO's Dee Torres Sues Investigator, Others for Defamation

Dee Torres, Director of Homeless Services for the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), filed suit on March 21 against Atascadero-based private investigator Michael Brennler and as-yet-unnamed others for defamation.

Torres’ suit claims that in March Brennler “stated in a telephone conversation with [Torres’ former husband] Charles Barber that Plaintiff (Torres) has been stealing money from homeless clients at the homeless shelter and that the Plaintiff has stolen money from a homeless man named Cliff Anderson. These statements are and were false.”

The suit, filed by Torres’ attorney, Roy Ogden of San Luis Obispo, seeks damages exceeding $50,000 as well as punitive damages.

In addition to naming Brennler, a former mayor of Atascadero, the filing leaves open the later inclusion of additional still-unidentified defendants referred to as “Does 1 through 100.” Included in the “Does,” according to the complaint, are “radio broadcasting stations and individuals associated with those stations” as well as “an online news agencies and the individuals associated with those agencies” located in SLO County. Sources confirm that these unnamed radio station and online entities include KVEC and KVEC talk-radio host Dave Congalton, CalCoastNews and its primary owners Karen Velie and Dan Blackburn.

In seeking damages, the suit claims Torres “has been injured in her business (and) suffered injury to her reputation,” and that the defamation was “published by Defendants with malice, oppression and fraud.”

Defendants have 30 days from March 21 to respond to the complaint.

Judge Charles Crandall has ordered the first Case Management Conference for July 24 in SLO County Court.

The ROCK has learned that Brennler, who — we can confirm — was retained by CalCoastNews for his services. In their “Keeping Them Homeless” article series, CalCoastNews declined to mention the former mayor of Atascadero’s involvement with their publication. Private investigators are licensed by the state and registered in the California Department of Consumer Affairs database. Brennler is licensed (#23904) in the state database with the status “CLEAR,” meaning his license is valid. Though he has a valid license, sources close to Brennler were concerned with the ethics surrounding a private investigator being hired by a news site — especially involving a private investigator with a checkered past.

Mike Brennler
Mike Brennler

Brennler, a former San Luis Obispo police officer, also has a contentious past with law enforcement. Sources in local law enforcement mentioned that he was given the nickname “5150,” which is a reference to Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. The section allows an officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person that is legally deemed to suffer from a mental disorder that makes them a danger to him or herself. The sources explained that Brennler, who exhibited an explosive temper in the office and often verbally assaulted department heads, was disciplined repeatedly by officials after they received several citizen complaints. The specifics of these complaints are sealed.

In a separate legal action, on March 27 Fresno-based attorney Gary Bethel of Littler Mendelson served a letter to several “former employees and possibly others making untrue and defamatory statements about CAPSLO and its employees” demanding retraction or revision of their previous statements. “What happens next,” the letter explains to recipients, “is to some extent up to those who are making these defamatory statements. If the persons making these statements seek to correct their previous erroneous statements, CAPSLO may choose not to seek to enforce its legal rights against them. If this unlawful crusade of defamatory statements and publications continues those involved will be held legally responsible to the full extent of the law.”

CalCoastNews subsequently posted the letter on their website. Velie stated on Congalton’s April 1 show that all the recipients are standing by the statements they made to the publication and told Congalton on April 1 that more people have come forward because of the letter by Bethel.

CalCoastNews Editor/Cal Poly Journalism professor Bill Loving and Publisher Velie appeared on KVEC’s Dave Congalton Show to discuss the lawsuit filed by Torres and the threats of legal action by CAPSLO’s legal representative. Loving defended CalCoastNews only by saying his “curiosity was satisfied” regarding the alleged multiple sources that Velie has accumulated throughout her investigation into homeless services. Loving — who Congalton referred to as an attorney — appeared fixated on the lawsuit’s discovery process. He reminded Congalton that discovery is a pre-trial phase which allows both parties to obtain evidence that is held by the opposing party.

Despite his claim that he graduated with a law degree from Texas, Loving is neither listed in the State Bar of Texas nor the State Bar of California databases. According to his bio on CalCoastNews, Loving graduated with a law degree at Southern Methodist University in 1991. It is illegal to impersonate an attorney if the impersonator does not carry a state bar license.

At one point, Loving told the former contributing editor to CalCoastNews that Torres’ children can be subpoenaed to testify since there were accusations that they used gift cards donated to CAPSLO. Loving also suggested filing a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) lawsuit against CAPSLO and Torres. Loving was referring to a specific part of the RICO laws that help curb alleged abuses of the legal system by parties who utilize the courts as a weapon to retaliate against whistleblowers and victims. Loving did not mention that the parties involved in silencing the opinions of others must be tried and convicted for racketeering (18 U.S.C. § 1961). CalCoastNews has stated unequivocally that CAPSLO has misappropriated funds and Torres stole gift cards, but they have not publicly offered physical evidence other than hearsay and scans of documents from the Social Security Administration explaining the state of homeless man Cliff Anderson‘s account, which did not indicate misappropriation or theft by Torres or CAPSLO.

Velie revealed that there were e-mails, text messages made by people using the same Internet Protocol (IP) address but different names, aggressively communicating to CalCoastNews advertisers that their services and products would no longer be supported if they continued to support the website and their reporting on homeless services. Velie announced that CalCoastNews was going to file a lawsuit to obtain the IP addresses of those who complained to their advertisers. Previously, Velie — who The ROCK investigated for exaggerating and fabricating several articles on CalCoastNews — has claimed that District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill has bullied and threatened advertisers. The ROCK received e-mails from site advertisers, which showed Hill expressing his displeasure with CalCoastNews coverage, but there were no signs of threats and intimidation.

Behind the Mic at "The Dave Congalton Show"

Dave Congalton
Dave Congalton

UPDATE (6/4): Sandra Duerr has confirmed Congalton’s recollection of events and stated he did not “slam his fist” on her desk.

UPDATE (2/24): Congalton has denied any confrontation with Sandra Deurr. He provided a correction regarding the year he joined The Tribune (see below the article).

Local radio host Dave Congalton has helped shine a light on CalCoastNews’ recent investigation of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) and Family Ties, a local 501(c)(4) that provides financial services to the mentally ill and homeless. On February 19, Congalton unleashed a lengthy, rambling tirade against the “establishment” for criticizing CalCoastNews and him. Between expressing fears that the “establishment” was out to get him and comparing District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill to Al Capone, the 920 KVEC radio host dedicated more than an hour to insulting people who previously supported him and worked closely with him. His explosive rant came as no surprise to those who know him best.

Congalton has hosted his show on 920 KVEC, which he calls “Hometown Radio,” since January 1992. Previously, he was a college professor. Congalton was an instructor at the University of Tulsa before moving to the Central Coast to teach in Cal Poly’s Speech Department for a year. After leaving his position at Cal Poly, Congalton worked part-time at The Tribune starting in the fall of 1989. Congalton left The Tribune in 1998 because, in his words, “newspaper work was boring,” though there was more to that story.

Like CalCoastNews reporter Karen Velie, Congalton had trouble with his former employer.

With co-author and wife Charlotte Alexander‘s help, Congalton published his book, “Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss,” on April 13, 2000. The book described tragic circumstances that unfolded in December 14, 1997. Congalton and his wife returned from a holiday party to find their five animals — Topper, Triptych, Tripper, Trio and Tess — dead from carbon monoxide poisoning after their home caught on fire. Congalton, who wrote columns in the Tribune for eight years about his pets, was devastated and overcome with grief. Desperately seeking support, Congalton turned to The Tribune, hoping he could work through his grief by penning columns about his loss. Tribune staff told Congalton to “move on,” a sentiment he found callous and insulting to someone who had an unquestionably deep bond with his pets. He subsequently lashed out at his elderly parents, who offered the same advice.

“Enough is enough, Dave,” former Tribune publisher John Moore reportedly told Congalton sometime after the fire.

Congalton was disappointed in former Tribune publisher Julia Aguilar for not calling him and sending him a note. In his book, Congalton scoffed at Aguilar: “Our loss, for whatever reason, simply wasn’t an important issue to her.”

Congalton was befuddled. He couldn’t understand why Tribune staffers couldn’t relate to his grief. At the time, Tribune staff deeply sympathized with Congalton but expressed concern that he was emotionally unstable. When he taught at Cal Poly, Congalton developed a reputation for being confrontational and acidic. The tragic loss of his pets, which were mentioned in his columns over the years, transformed a typically tolerable media personality into a vindictive force of nature. Sources working closely with The Tribune were irritated with Congalton’s portrayal of the newspaper in his book, saying the newsroom supported Congalton throughout the ordeal even though he yelled and threatened staff, including Moore and Aguilar, for not being supportive enough.

By July 1998, Tribune staffers wanted him out. It wasn’t personal, they said, but they wanted to work without Congalton’s hostile behavior. After The Tribune was purchased by Knight Ridder, the company hired Sandra Duerr, who replaced Moore. Congalton hoped that Duerr would understand his plight; that he could write a column about his feelings without editorial censorship. He was still grieving over the loss of his five pets. Unfortunately for Congalton, Duerr wanted Congalton to “move on” and stop writing columns about animals, including his own. Similarly, Congalton wanted to “move on” from doing beat reporting.

“I couldn’t understand why a new editor who hadn’t even bothered to try and get to know me, was detailing everything that was wrong with my writing. Arguing would be pointless. The meeting couldn’t have ended soon enough. She received my letter of resignation the next morning,” wrote Congalton in his book. It was implied in the book that the meeting between him and Duerr was tense, but there was more.

According to staffers, who described him as a “maniac” and “violent,” Congalton slammed his fist down on Duerr’s desk and yelled at the new editor. The newsroom was horrified by Congalton and wanted nothing more than the columnist to make a speedy exit, and hoped that he wouldn’t return. When they heard of Congalton’s resignation, Tribune staffers had a collective sigh of relief.

Cross-promoting agendas

Though Congalton was tired of working in the newspaper business, he saw something different in CalCoastNews. Over the years, he penned several blogs and columns on other sites that ridiculed the dysfunction of local media like The Tribune and New Times. He held a grudge against The Tribune because of his personal issues with the publication and New Times for supposedly moving away from investigative journalism and firing his friend, Karen Velie. When Velie informed him of CalCoastNews, which brandished the hard-hitting, investigative journalism that appealed to Congalton, he was ecstatic. He became Contributing Editor in early 2010, wrote news briefs and contributed columns that were exclusive to the site. He resigned from his role in November 2011, citing “drama” as the reason — as some of his comments and columns on CalCoastNews instigated feuds. Nevertheless, Congalton has regularly contributed to the site by providing CalCoastNews writers guest appearances on his show.

Once CalCoastNews publishes an exclusive article, Congalton schedules the author to discuss the latest on his show, which runs weekday afternoons from three to seven in the afternoon. Velie is one of his most frequent guests since January 14, 2008. Since he became CalCoastNews Contributing Editor, Congalton has allowed Velie to promote the site for nearly twice as long as radio guests not affiliated with the site. This is according to the averages calculated from his 2012-13 shows featuring Velie. In return, CalCoastNews operated as a promotional vehicle to promote his movie script (“Congalton sells movie script to Hollywood,” August 30, 2012) and his eBook, “The Talk Radio Guest Book: How to be the Perfect Radio Guest” (“New ebook serves as Talk Radio 101,” September 5, 2011). CalCoastNews also interviewed Congalton when he celebrated his 18th anniversary on KVEC (“The CCN Interview: Dave Congalton,” January 3, 2010). When he became Contributing Editor, Congalton rarely disclosed his connection to CalCoastNews on his show; instead he regularly refers to himself as a “disinterested party.”

Congalton was indebted to Velie for the platform that CalCoastNews gave him and the ratings he garnered as a result of her guest appearances. He had every reason to be appreciative. According to Arbitron data from 2009 through late 2012, 920 KVEC struggled with their ratings even though El Dorado Broadcasting, who bought the station in 2007, added syndicated conservative radio shows to the lineup. Since Velie and CalCoastNews co-founder Dan Blackburn started appearing on his show, Congalton’s ratings climbed. Feeling pressure from El Dorado Broadcasting’s growing lineup of charismatic programming to match the flamboyance of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, Congalton sought the controversy of CalCoastNews to liven up a show that critics said was “sleep-inducing.” Congalton has jokingly admitted to the tedium of his broadcasts. Ratings indicate that CalCoastNews helped bring life to a show that was struggling to remain relevant in an increasingly loud, conservative local market.

Congalton rewarded CalCoastNews with unrestricted access. Unless he specifically extended an invitation for someone with a contrasting viewpoint to appear on his show, Congalton has frequently refused to air opposing viewpoints to challenge the guests. The ROCK spoke to people who attempted to express disagreement with Velie’s opinions, accusations and conclusions. They all asserted that Congalton discriminated against them. Screening calls, the producer at 920 KVEC would ask potential callers for their name and occasionally what “side” they’re on. The ROCK was told that if Congalton does not like or disagrees with the caller, the caller is disconnected; if a caller specifies that they disagree with CalCoastNews, the caller is disconnected. Congalton has supposedly engaged in this practice while promoting “Hometown Radio” as an opportunity for contrasting viewpoints to be broadcasted equally. Our sources have e-mailed Congalton to have their viewpoints aired, but he either ignored their requests or denied them outright.

According to Congalton’s abbreviated biography on KVEC’s website, “[Hometown Radio] encourages all points of view.”

Recently, Congalton has told his critics to “start their own radio show” if they want to air their disagreements with him.

Sometimes, Congalton didn’t need CalCoastNews to stir controversy.

 

Annie

In mid-2010, Annie the Dog dominated local headlines. The seven-year-old Australian Shepard was involved in a bitter custody battle between Chuck Hoage, the original owner who lost Annie, and the family from Arroyo Grande who adopted the dog. Annie, who was not legally licensed by Hoage, ran away from Hoage’s ranch in June 2010 after hearing a loud gunshot. Hoage, who didn’t own a computer at the time, contacted Animal Services frequently in hopes that the dog would be found there. Three weeks later after losing Annie, Hoage received a call from Animal Services. The dog was found and ready to be picked up. By the time Hoage arrived at the shelter where Annie was being kept, he discovered that the dog was adopted a day prior to his visit. Annie’s adoptive family initially refused to return Annie. This drew the ire of Congalton, a known and respected animal rescue advocate, who dedicated several lengthy segments on his show to Hoage. Congalton lashed out repeatedly at Annie’s new owners and initiated a letter-writing campaign. He also set up a Facebook page called “Friends of Annie,” which quickly rose to more than 4,000 members within days.

The Tribune reported on August 25, 2010 that the San Luis Obispo County Counsel’s office inadvertently leaked personal information about Annie’s adoptive owners to Kitty Crockett of Atascadero. Crockett forwarded the leaked information to Congalton and Hoage. She promised County Counsel Warren Jensen that she would “hold [her] powder” and not forward the sensitive information to anyone else. The accidental leak from Counsel forced officials to scramble for a resolution between Hoage and Annie’s new owners. District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill and County Animal Services quietly worked with Annie’s new owners to form an amicable resolution. However, on the day before The Tribune posted about the leaked information, Congalton called the owners and left the following voicemail: “I’m calling mainly to let you know that if I know, a lot of other people are about to know, and I’m hoping there’s some way we can resolve this […] we need to talk sooner rather than later.”

The owners informed the Arroyo Grande Police Department. While the department didn’t believe Congalton’s voicemail was particularly threatening, they were concerned with Congalton’s line, “A lot of other people are about to know,” even though he publicly expressed concern about the family’s personal information being leaked to the public. Officials in charge of the investigation at the time were puzzled. If Crockett only provided the information to Hoage and Congalton, what does Congalton mean by “a lot of other people”? The family told investigators that they received several anonymous calls and had people park their vehicles in front of their house, surveying the property and occasionally walking around. Fearing retaliation, the daughter of Annie’s new owners stayed in their neighbor’s home. The family was certain that Congalton leaked their address and phone number to “Friends of Annie.” On August 30, one of the family members anonymously penned a letter to The Tribune, adding that Supervisor Hill “stalked our house, left phone messages and got my personal e-mail,” but officials reported at the time that Hill had been negotiating with the family.

Hoage eventually reunited with Annie, but sources close to the investigation told The ROCK that Congalton prolonged the reunion with his voicemail and incendiary calls for actions on his radio show.

The Tribune’s Bob Cuddy fired back at Congalton and the media for sensationalizing the conflict — and he took himself to task for jumping on the bandwagon. In his August 30, 2010 column, Cuddy wrote, “Annie is going back because its new owners have been terrorized into giving up the dog. Terrorism works. That’s the lesson here. And all of us who were involved in this, starting with yours truly, should re-examine our behavior.”

Cuddy revealed more about Congalton’s involvement. Cuddy referred to an e-mail sent to Supervisor Hill by Congalton. Congalton wrote, “County fucked up on the redacting part of the adoption papers […] They didn’t black out everything. I’m not going to give out the information, but Chuck [Hoage] has it. So do his friends.” This was in sharp contrast to earlier comments by Congalton, who expressed concern to The Tribune about the leaked information going public.

“I’’ve been trying to tone things down,”” Congalton told The Tribune on August 25. ““Animal people can be very passionate.””

Cuddy’s column angered Congalton. On his blog, Congalton wrote on August 31 that Cuddy “considered [him] to be a terrorist and the head of a terrorist organization. Really. I’m not making this up.” Cuddy never made the claim — only to say that the family was terrorized into handing over Annie. The police investigation lined up with Cuddy’s claims. Congalton added, “Contrary to accusations from Mr. Cuddy, there were no incidents in Arroyo Grande where the new dog was staying. The accusations flying about have never been proven.”

 

Ready For War

Congalton has feuded publicly and privately with several public officials and journalists; his feuds often spilled over to coverage in CalCoastNews, which he sometimes penned anonymously. In May 17, 2010, Congalton accused New Times of “sexism that pervades [their] male-dominated newsroom.” Just a week earlier, Congalton quietly removed incendiary and threatening comments he made toward New Times staffers on CalCoastNews, including Executive Editor Ryan Miller and Staff Writer Matt Fountain. Congalton also accused New Times of firing Karen Velie because she is a woman. Calling his attack on New Times “babbling” and “obsessed,” critics eviscerated CalCoastNews for Congalton’s article.

Congalton’s fixation on New Times continued through September when he anonymously penned an article that speculated about changes in their newsroom. Citing “inside sources” and “curious minds,” Congalton wrote about the sudden disappearance of former editor Ed Connolly, who was replaced by Ashley Schwallenbach. Congalton speculated on the circumstances surrounding the change of staff. New Times declined to comment on Congalton’s article at the time.

Other times he will play mediator who often defends CalCoastNews’ reporting with condescending snark. Speaking to officials, Congalton has expressed occasional disagreement with Velie and her reporting. Over the years, the two would have an on-again, off-again professional relationship, though he’s defended CalCoastNews rigorously when Velie’s reporting was attacked. Some of the people Congalton has feuded with have had complex relationships with Congalton, and they tread carefully with their responses to him — hoping that they wouldn’t set him off. Sources who know Congalton told The ROCK that he would retaliate against them if they were critical of him by cutting access to his show and subsequently berating them on air. Congalton has actively discouraged and threatened others who are associated with his critics. E-mails provided to The ROCK show Congalton being dismissive of local officials and activists. He often focuses on ridiculing trivial matters and semantics.

Since December 2011, Congalton has worked as a Media Strategist for SansTree, a company that helps fiction and non-fiction writers with brand marketing and e-publishing.

Congalton has struggled with containing his emotions. CalCoastNews massaged his ego and gave him a platform. In return, Congalton awarded the site with untethered access to the airwaves, despite growing concerns about their overall credibility. In defense of CalCoastNews, Congalton isolated himself from several local connections — leaving no room for reconciliation.

There is evidence to show that the more success he’s had with “Hometown Radio,” the more distraught he’s become. The good-old-boy radio personality — beloved by animal lovers, small business owners and charity organizers — had descended into a state of disarray as a result of personal tragedy and turmoil over the media he believes slighted him. On February 19, San Luis Obispo County heard the Congalton that CalCoastNews has helped shape, and he sounded like a man in need of his own emotional rescue.

CORRECTION: A typo was fixed. Congalton started working at The Tribune in 1989, not 1991.

The Wild Imagination of Karen Velie

velie
Karen Velie

Karen Velie is more than a reporter at CalCoastNews, the controversial local news site with a heavy emphasis on investigative reporting. She is the one who, in late 2007, took Senior Correspondent Dan Blackburn’s Uncovered SLO and turned it into a shining beacon of scandal. She’s uncovered exclusive after exclusive, which crowds the already packed site and generates a strong buzz of activity among those who feel disenfranchised by the “nanny state” government and public officials. Velie often positions herself as the boisterous, hard-nosed watchdog, unmoved by the frustrations of her adversaries.

On CalCoastNews, Velie describes herself in her bio as a “a professional journalist who has interviewed national figures such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett,” though ProQuest and Newsbank database search results indicate she’s never interviewed them. When she’s not writing stories on CalCoastNews, Velie operates and manages Ballot Press, an eBook publisher and distributor. Little is known about Velie’s professional background other than she was once a staff writer for New Times. During her tenure at New Times, Velie wrote traditional news articles, but clearly demonstrated a penchant for pomp and suspense. She wrote articles about local businesses for their “Strokes & Plugs,” specifically under the “Fast Facts” subhead.

But it was Velie’s articles on government corruption, incompetence and dystrophy that allowed readers to thoroughly empathize with the plight of affected individuals and groups. Her most ambitious article, “Atascadero Leaders Have Something to Hide,” from July 13, 2006, focused on allegations that Atascadero city officials forced residents Pat and Sue Gaughan to sell their property on El Camino Real — which was across the street from the Carlton Hotel — at a below-market price. This was the first time Velie wrote about North County developer Kelly Gearhart, who later became the subject of a four-part series on CalCoastNews in late 2010.

Readers submitted letters to the editor, complaining about Velie’s inaccuracies. San Luis Obispo resident Geraldine Jones wrote in her September 28, 2006 letter to New Times criticizing their “irresponsible journalistic disgrace” for publishing Velie’s September 21 cover story about Measure J. Jones was an opponent of Measure J. She accused Velie of “distorting, ignoring, concealing or dismissing concerns of Measure J opponents.” Jones speculated over Velie’s intentions, saying that Velie may “need to be enlightened because all she wanted to do was abuse her public trust as a ‘news’ reporter to transmit her own bias to the public as fact.” This pointed criticism would later haunt her tenure at CalCoastNews.

Later that year, Andrew Christie of the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter criticized Velie. In his November 2, 2006 letter to the editor in New Times, Christie ostracized Velie for alleging that Measure J opponents used “shifty” tactics and “shenanigans” of “dirty campaigns” that are “designed to misrepresent and misguide voters.” He told Velie, “It might be helpful if at some point in the story you mention what the alleged tactic actually was. This is a journalistic device that allows readers to judge for themselves.” At CalCoastNews, Velie’s articles often hinge on all shades of allegations. The evidence to substantiate the allegations is withheld, which deprives readers of additional context and specificity.

Eventually, there was acrimony between Velie and her employer.

It was December 2006. Velie sent a draft to Executive Editor Ryan Miller, which dug deeper into the miscellaneous scandals surrounding the Atascadero City Council. Sources close to Velie claimed Miller refused to let the article go to print because there were “numerous factual inaccuracies.” Miller opted to run a Christmas story instead (“Jesus: Then and Now,” December 21, 2006). Velie quit New Times shortly after Miller’s story was printed. She subsequently complained to close friend Dave Congalton about New Times’ gradual shift away from investigative journalism. Appearing unfazed, Miller later wrote on Congalton’s blog, “New Times is doing what it’s always done: covering stories that go uncovered in the mainstream media, and, yes, doing hard-hitting investigative and enterprise reporting.”

Recognizing that Velie was an unarguably galvanizing figure at New Times, Publisher Bob Rucker spoke to Velie and convinced her to stay. But when he found that Velie aired her grievances to Congalton — who, in turn, wrote a blog complaining about New Times — Rucker fired her. Since her departure from New Times, Velie has appeared regularly on “The Dave Congalton Show” on 92.0 KVEC since January 14, 2008.

After Velie left New Times to join Dan Blackburn, also a former NT staffer, at CalCoastNews, NT Shredder  openly expressed concern about her in a May 13, 2009 op-ed about allegations swirling around the relationship between former SLO County Administrative Officer David Edge and Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox. Calling Velie a “no-holds-barred, no-corrections-issued” reporter, Shredder was skeptical over CalCoastNews’ “publish-first, brag-later approach,” warning that such an approach “could get [them] sued, but that’s [Velie’s] risk to take.”

One year later, former Cal Poly dean of the College of Engineering Mohammad Noori attempted to sue Velie for defamation after she wrote an article about his dismissal from Cal Poly. She reported that Noori was “increasingly unpopular” on campus with a history of incompetence, which stemmed from his employment at North Carolina State University from 1999 to 2004. On December 20, then CalCoast Contributing Editor Dave Congalton hastily published a plea for donations to support her. He wrote, “A process server is on a countywide hunt for Karen [Velie] to serve her with the official papers.” He asked for people to contribute to what he called the “Karen Velie Legal Defense Fund.” Instead of finances being diverted to Velie directly, all donations were sent to CalCoastNews’ PayPal account. It was revealed later, in a May 21, 2011 article by Lisa Rizzo, that Velie was not served with the lawsuit “although she has received letters from Noori’s San Marino based legal team.” CCN didn’t mention any reimbursement for their donations.

The relationship between Velie and the seemingly prophetic New Times took a nosedive in May 2010 when Congalton published a fiery op-ed, which ostracized Velie’s former employer for retaliating against her. New Times co-publisher Alex Zuniga reportedly sent an e-mail to CalCoastNews, requesting that they remove a copyrighted photo of Arroyo Grande High School, which was taken by a New Times photographer. CalCoastNews eventually removed the photo after trying to justify their use of the photo as being legal. Congalton shot back at New Times after the incident in his op-ed, claiming that “there has been a flurry of nasty emails coming our way from certain writers and editors at New Times” and Velie was fired from her previous publication because she is a woman. Congalton’s accusations against New Times were never documented.

Aside from the occasional spats with other media sources, Velie was riding on the success of her extensive coverage of Kelly Gearhart’s exploits, which ultimately became her first major exclusive for CalCoastNews. The articles mirrored Velie’s writing style from New Times, but the details were more specific. Still, there was scant evidence to back up claims made by Gearhart’s common-law stepmother Marion Warner, whose personal account of the legally beleaguered developer was prevalent in the first part of Velie’s investigation. The series of articles portrayed Gearhart as a long-time criminal who took money from investors who invested in local real estate projects, and personally enriched himself.

The second part mostly abandoned citing any references to Velie’s allegations. The third article pieced together a timeline of Gearhart’s involvement with the Salinan Indian Tribal Council, but no documents were made available by Velie for readers to track Gearhart. The fourth and final part focused heavily on the Gearhart family, their personal tragedies and shortcomings, and how Kelly Gearhart’s past misfortune influenced him in the present.

Since the story broke, many of Gearhart’s victims emerged to praise Velie for her story — and federal officials took notice. On August 13, 2012, Gearhart pleaded not guilty to 16 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Gearhart and the former president of Hurst Financial James Miller are accused of defrauding more than 1,200 investors of more than $100 million as part of an alleged ponzi scheme. Gearhart has denied all of Velie’s allegations, but court records show that the federal investigation on Gearhart includes content first uncovered by Velie. But court records show that sources, who contributed to Velie’s feature on Gearhart, had more of an effect on the federal investigation than her actual reporting.

When her reporting is questioned, Velie repeatedly touts her success with the Gearhart coverage as a way to further establish her personal credibility.

Since the Gearhart stories were published, Velie’s journalism methodology changed. Instead of referring and linking to source documentation, Velie started relying heavily on hearsay and allegations made by anonymous sources. The more she relied on anonymous sources and tips, the more salacious the accusations became. Velie often pursued her targets with leading questions that assumed accusations made about them were factual. Because the questions included a preconstructed narrative, people who were e-mailed often declined to comment — but their decline to comment was perceived by Velie as a sign of guilt or willful ignorance.

Appearing sometimes robotic and unusually vitriolic when defending herself, Velie has harassed and berated people she has targeted in her articles. A Pismo Beach resident wrote to Velie in mid-2012 pleading with her to stop levying accusations about her on local blogs and Facebook. According to the resident, Velie’s accusations resulted in her family being stalked and her name being broadcasted around the local blogs. Velie dismissed the resident’s e-mails as “paranoia” and denied making any accusations about the resident.

She’s made calls to her targets — namely public officials — and threatened them with a “good article” if they did not answer her questions.

Bias was not as evident when Velie looked into District Administrator and engineer of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District John Wallace’s potential conflict of interest.

Velie has been mired with criticism of her braggadocio, which has become one of her trademarks. Since joining CalCoastNews, Velie became more defiant as she published articles with more anonymous sources. On Congalton’s radio show, Velie often refers to speaking to “many” or “numerous” people who support her accusations and “facts,” but often never says who those people are. On Congalton, Velie abandons journalistic safeguards such as the words “allegedly,” “supposedly” and “reportedly” to describe the accusations, which suddenly transform into unquestionable matters of fact. Velie often has trouble distinguishing between objective journalism and subjective persecution. She demonstrates this when she appears on Congalton’s show.

Investing in corruption, especially sex scandals involving public officials, has netted sharp increases in donations, say sources close to Velie. Though she focuses on credible information that objectively draws pause from readers, Velie has exaggerated or fabricated critical details to squeeze more outrage from her most ardent supporters and potential donors.

Velie accused South County Sanitation Distrist administrator and engineer John Wallace of conflict of interest. She claims that her coverage was validated by a 46-page San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury report that confirmed Wallace was in conflict of interest. The June 2, 2011 report stated, “The Grand Jury finds the district in a state of denial regarding the conflict of interest and, as a result, the district has taken no effective steps to mitigate the conflict […] The Grand Jury concludes that, as a result, the board and the district are exposed to a number of financial, legal and public trust issues.” District attorney Michael Seitz dismissed the report, saying that the Grand Jury didn’t understand how the district did their business.

The report was challenged by district board members, including Arroyo Grande mayor Tony Ferrara, who Velie has repeatedly called one of Wallace’s “staunch supporters.” Velie appeared on Congalton several times to accuse Ferrara of benefiting financially from Wallace’s alleged misdeeds. Velie has offered no documentation to substantiate her claims. Ferrera is not part of any current investigation. Later, County Auditor-Controller Gere Sibbach wrote in his October 21, 2011 that there were “reasonable controls” in place to prevent conflict of interest. Sibbach offered suggestions for improvement.

Shortly after Sibbach’s report was released, Velie moved onto another big story. “Sex and the Los Osos Sewer” focused on the relationship between Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and former Los Osos Community Services District board member Maria Kelly. Velie used the car accident involving Ogren and Kelly’s children as a trigger to investigate “allegations of a possible conflict of interest.” The source of the allegations was not disclosed. At this point, Velie started relying heavily on anonymous sources. One of those anonymous sources was Shaun Kelly, Maria Kelly’s ex-husband who contacted The ROCK only a few months before. Velie did not disclose that the couple were, at the time, engaged in a bitter divorce. Velie did not reach out to Kelly for the story. Once Maria Kelly divulged that information on a local blog one day later, Velie started to publicly berate and harass her.

Velie made several critical errors. Contrary to her claims, Maria Kelly was actively residing in the home she was attempting to sell in Los Osos. Since 2005, Kelly’s children were enrolled in San Luis Obispo schools as part of a duel immersion program, which is part of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District (SLCUSD). Velie gratuitously mentioned that Kelly and Ogren’s children “allegedly” smoke and drank at the County Public Works Director’s “party house.” The allegations, which originated from Kelly’s ex-husband, were never proven or vetted.

By July 2011, Velie doubled down on the drug accusations by unveiling divorce records, which showed only Mr. Kelly’s accusations. Velie did not publish any drug or alcohol test results and did not investigate any further to verify the accusations made by Kelly’s ex-husband. After the County Administrator investigated and cleared Ogren of conflict of interest in October 4, 2011, Velie abruptly abandoned any follow-up of Mr. Kelly’s allegations and focused instead on Mrs. Kelly’s voting record when she served on the CSD. Velie looked at votes Mrs. Kelly made which, she claimed, benefited Mr. Ogren while they were in a relationship. Shortly after Velie published her musings, the LOCSD declined to conduct an investigation into Mrs. Kelly’s alleged conflict of interest, stating that the allegations had no merit.

Velie reopened her “extensive investigation” on March 19, 2012 when she reported on a lawsuit filed by an attorney representing a minor who was injured in the June 16, 2011 car accident. According to Velie, the lawsuit against Mr. Ogren claimed that the Public Works Director “lent his teenage son his SUV to chauffeur underage friends, knowing his son regularly drank alcohol and did drugs.” Again, Velie did not look into the validity of the allegations made and simply ran the claims, which remain untested to this day. As of February, The ROCK could not find any active lawsuit filed against Mr. Ogren.

CalCoastNews later, on January 12, revealed that Mr. Kelly was the source of the allegations when they published news of his May 27, 2012 arrest for indecent exposure at the Cal Poly campus library. A relative of Kelly’s, who posted a comment under CalCoastNews’ article, strongly implied that Mr. Kelly suffers from mental illness. Sources close to Kelly told The ROCK that Ogren and Kelly’s children have suffered “severe emotional distress” as a result of the unfounded allegations, which Velie never retracted — given that the allegations were made by someone with a clear motive to disparage Mrs. Kelly and with possible mental capacity issues.

Former Paso Robles police chief Lisa Solomon was the subject of Velie’s next scandal. “Police chief accused of sexually assaulting her officers” was published January 26, 2012. The article published a series of allegations reportedly by police department personnel who feared retaliation. The article went viral and received coverage on KSBY the same day the article was published. The article helped resurrect Velie’s credibility, which was tattered by her coverage of the Ogren-Kelly scandal. Multiple police officers came forward with allegations that rocked the city of Paso Robles. Pressure from city officials and the public forced Solomon to resign on March 20, 2012. Solomon settled with the city for $250,000. Paso Robles city officials spent at least $330,000 for their investigation into Solomon’s alleged misconduct. Formed by citizens that were angered by the Solomon scandal and growing taxpayer costs, the grassroots organization Change Paso Robles Now was formed.

Like the Gearhart scandal, Velie was contacted by several sources who were credible and were able to provide documentation when she didn’t; she opted instead to construct a narrative woven together by unverified anecdotes.

It was clear that her North County coverage was stronger than her coverage in other areas. Sources close to Velie say that CalCoastNews has a “large support network” that assists Velie in her North Count reporting.

Over the past two years, Velie has covered homelessness in San Luis Obispo County, a hotly debated issue locally. Velie has aggressively targeted the City of San Luis Obispo and Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) for policies she personally feels are adversely impacting the homeless community. Velie took on the cause after recruiting Lisa Rizzo to CalCoastNews staff. Rizzo is the wife of attorney Saro Rizzo, one of two attorneys representing homeless plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the city. Velie has not disclosed her reporter’s relationship with one of the lead attorneys in the case.

Velie struck a chord with homeless advocates with her coverage, but that came to a screeching halt on June 12, 2012 when she published an article about a homeless man named Randall Reed who claimed that he was “barred” from taking part of homeless services at Prado Day Center after a 4 pm “curfew.” Velie did not mention that Prado Day Center operates during day hours from 8:30 am-4:30 pm for all the homeless who reside there. Those receiving services are then sent to Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter, which operates exclusively in the evenings. According to CAPSLO officials, homeless who are fully “barred” from services are those who are not sober or have violent tendencies. Sources with ties to CAPSLO’s  claimed that Reed was a substance abuser. Velie did not disclose that information. Velie did not mention that a curfew only exists to encourage homeless to visit Maxine Lewis, which offers 50 beds, free meals, showers, phone and message services, and access to case management. Velie continues to discuss and write about the curfew without disclosing Prado Day Center’s hours. CAPSLO adamantly denies barring any qualified individuals from partaking in services for political or personal reasons.

The misinformation was presented by Reed, who claimed in the article that he had he joined the Navy Seals in 1980 for eight years and earned several medals, such as the Navy Cross and Purple Heart. Velie “paraphrased” his claims as fact — and later discussed it on Congalton’s radio show — without thoroughly vetting his supposed military background. The ROCK learned that several veterans and concerned readers contacted Velie, stating that Reed falsified his records. At the time, we checked with several veteran databases and centers and independently confirmed that Reed never served in the military. Knowing that she was presenting false information, Velie left the story untouched for a week before issuing a rare correction about Reed. Every mention of Reed’s medals was scrubbed from the article on June 19.

District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, who served as the founding chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council and the chair of the capital campaign for the new homeless services center on Higuera Street, took exception to Velie’s article on Reed. According to CalCoastNews’ article on July 16, 2012, the news site claimed Hill “has been using his elected position to bully advertisers and supporters in a campaign to cripple the website.” Without unveiling any of the e-mails that were allegedly sent by Hill, CalCoastNews accused Hill of threatening “persons who are affiliated with the news site, warning them that if they continued to promote or contribute content to the site, they would lose jobs and reputations.” Velie claimed as recently as February 7 on Congalton’s show that Hill personally threatened “to go after” her if she didn’t stop writing about homeless issues. Hill has vehemently denied the accusations.

The ROCK contacted several of CalCoastNews’ former and current advertisers who told us that they were never personally bullied or threatened by the supervisor. With respect to their business, we decided to not identify them. Some of them were even surprised that Velie would publish the article on Hill, given that they terminated their agreements with the news site over their tendency to exaggerate and sometimes falsify information — and that was before Hill contacted them. Some rejected the notion that they were bullied or threatened by Hill. E-mail exchanges between Hill and advertisers included strongly worded condemnations of CalCoastNews’ reporting, but were not intimidating or threatening, as Velie has repeatedly claimed.

Since the article on Hill was published in July 2012, Velie has written several articles on Hill, which are layered with accusations that could not be independently verified. In an article written on January 4, CalCoastNews accused Hill of “spreading claims on Topix, vocally and through reports to agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that CalCoastNews reporters were fabricating stories while asking over the radio airways for money to write false stories.” The ROCK analyzed comments made by anonymous posters on Topix, but none of the commenters identified themselves as Adam Hill. Another article, which was published on January 16, speculated incorrectly that Hill referred to the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) as the “local fringe.” CalCoastNews referred to when Hill and COLAB were publicly feuding in 2011. Hill apologized for his 2011 comments. Both articles were speculative and contained no objective reporting.

Velie’s articles are reminiscent of Stephen Glass, a former journalist at The New Republic, who fabricated several articles for the publication in 1998. From 1995 to 1998, Glass repeatedly fabricated quotations, sources and events under the guise of news. Like Velie, Glass was the subject of scathing rebuttals from his subjects for publishing falsehoods and inaccuracies. Like Velie, Glass wrote material that was considered generally accurate, but there was no way of verifying information because he cited anonymous sources. CalCoastNews operates primarily on an anonymous tip-based system, which Velie often uses as a way to invoke reporters’ privilege. Reporters’ privilege is “protection under constitutional or statutory law, from being compelled to testify about confidential information or sources” (Black Law’s Dictionary, Ninth Ed. 2004). This has been Velie’s well-worn escape hatch from accountability.

In their Code of Ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) states several relevant guidelines: (1) “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible; (2) Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing; (3) Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability; (4) Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.” These are standards that professional journalists strive to achieve, but there is ample evidence to show that Velie falls well below those standards. Uncovering corruption cannot be achieved by corrupting journalism in the name of truth. 


CalCoastNews and The ROCK: A Brief History

We’ve examined CalCoastNews closely over the years before we were subjected to their scrutiny. And after. This is not our first encounter with CalCoast and not our first articles about them.

On October 15, 2010, Dave Congalton, host of an AM radio show on KVEC and then a CalCoast Contributing Editor, anonymously published an article about The ROCK’s Managing Editor Aaron Ochs titled, “County demands blogger remove personal information.” At the time, Ochs disclosed three addresses of top-level County officials who he identified as failing to be transparent with providing information and records to Los Osos residents regarding the County-led wastewater project. The disclosure was part of an article published on Razor Online on October 13.

CalCoastNews has expressed contempt for government officials who have failed to be transparent and adhere to the California Public Records Act. Ochs related to the frustration, but added an extra layer of urgency, given that residents were looking at paying for a sewer that cost $200 million and they were entitled to having any reasonable requests fulfilled by District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson and Public Works staff. To make his point, Ochs encouraged concerned residents to civilly “go ahead, ring their doorbells. Knock on their doors. Give them a call. Let them know you want a conversation. Let them know you want your questions answered,” since some County officials made it virtually impossible for residents to have an open dialogue by phone and e-mail.

Ochs clearly recognized the controversy of his decision and was ready to remove the personal information as soon as the County perceived it to be an issue for them. County Counsel Warren Jensen issued a notice to Ochs to have the personal information removed as soon as possible pursuant to California Government Code 6254.21(c)(3). Under the law, public officials have the right to ask to have their personal information removed from a specified source. Ochs received the notice on the date the article was published and subsequently removed all sensitive information.

However, Jensen sent the notice to Congalton with the vague hope that the radio host — who happened to be in communication with Ochs at that time on another matter — would forward it along. The e-mail exchange took place the day before the article was published. Congalton declined to forward the e-mail to Ochs from Counsel Jensen and withheld the notice with the intent to publish it. He wrote to Jensen, “I don’t know this guy. I don’t wish to know this guy.” On the same day, Ochs wrote to Congalton after he received an e-mail from someone who discussed the “Ring Paavo’s Doorbell” article. Congalton threatened “calling [Ochs] on it” prior to hosting a discussion on his radio show with Los Osos activist Piper Reilly. The article was not discussed once on the show.

Congalton violated County Counsel’s confidentiality clause by publishing the notice in advance of Ochs receiving a copy. The article on CalCoastNews was published around one in the morning on Friday, October 15, several hours before Ochs received the notice from Jensen. Neither Congalton nor CalCoastNews asked Ochs for comment.

Ochs e-mailed and called Karen Velie to have the article removed. She declined, insisting the article was accurate.

So we’ve experienced CalCoastNews’ attack journalism before.

Despite the animosity between The ROCK and CalCoastNews, we expressed interest in potentially joining the news site as part of an aggregate site. The proposal, which was hatched by Dan Blackburn in mid-2011, included several sites joining the aggregate including The ROCK, Calhoun’s Cannon, SLO Coast Journal and Rogue Voice. The site was tentatively titled “The News Buoy,” copyrighted by Blackburn. ROCK editor Ed Ochs and Managing Editor Aaron Ochs met with Blackburn, Velie and other interested parties to discuss the details. Despite being ambushed by Congalton and Velie, we were interested in the aggregate, which would focus primarily on investigative journalism — something we all agreed was an endangered entity in San Luis Obispo County.

During negotiations, CalCoastNews unveiled a new exposé into the Los Osos sewer. “Sex and the Los Osos Sewer” was published on June 17, 2011. The article focused on a potential conflict of interest between Public Works Director Paavo Ogren — who was the subject of Ochs’ “Ring Paavo’s Doorbell” — and then Los Osos Community Services Director Maria Kelly. The article used the car accident involving Ogren and Kelly’s children as a way to solidify suspicions in Los Osos that the two were in a relationship. The series of articles about Kelly and Ogren’s relationship turned into unsubstantiated allegations about their children’s alcohol and drug use. Ogren and Kelly were eventually cleared of any conflict of interest and CCN declined to follow up on their investigation into their allegations about the children’s drug use.

The ROCK strongly opposed the contents of the article since it contained wild and harmful speculation about the couple’s personal lives and their children. Ironically, in light of his castigation of Aaron Ochs for “Ring Paavo’s Doorbell,” Congalton offered to broadcast his show from her supposedly vacant Los Osos home and subsequently posted her home address, which was quietly removed by moderators a short time later. We politely withdrew from the aggregate partnership because we had concerns about Velie’s journalism and the liabilities that come with it. Blackburn tried persuading us to rejoin the partnership after we declined several times, and it came to a permanent and discordant conclusion. To further illustrate our discontent, Aaron Ochs published an article on The ROCK’s opinion blog Razor Online. “CalCoastNews’ Teenage Hostages” was published June 20, just three days after Velie’s “Sex and the Los Osos Sewer” was published. Ochs took aim at CalCoast, writing, “It is beneath ourselves — as human beings — to condone an article that holds two teenagers hostage for the political sins, transgressions and shortcomings of their parents.”

Blackburn responded angrily to the article and announced to other potential partners that The ROCK withdrew from the aggregate partnership.

A previous history between The ROCK, Congalton and CalCoastNews exists, and we felt it was best to fully disclose it here now. Our interest in writing about CalCoast is to document how important it is to get the facts right and  get the whole story, and not create the story to fit a narrative held together by accusations. We believe it’s important to illustrate what happens when things go haywire and the shield of journalism is hijacked by rogue operators to libel, harass and intimidate those who resist, and, ultimately, to make a buck. That said, we’ve had long-standing concerns with CalCoastNews and how their stories are conceived, assembled and presented — and why.

— The Editors

V is for Vendetta: Inside the CalCoastNews, Congalton Chaos Machine

ccnCalCoastNews, the North County website known for its full-tilt hit pieces on anyone caught in their digital web, recently took a turn for the worse in their desperate attempts to flame favorite targets County Supervisor Adam Hill, CAPSLO Homeless Services Director Dee Torres, and CAPSLO, the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, which operates the city’s homeless shelters, Prado and Maxine Lewis.

In three of their most recent bizarre concoctions, the Feb. 4 “Alleged homeless advocates accused of stealing from the poor,” Feb. 7 “CAPSLO soaking up nonprofit fund pool” and Feb 13 “Homeless money guardian unlicensed,” authors Karen Velie, Dan Blackburn and co-writer Josh Friedman accuse CAPSLO of social security fraud and, through unnamed sources, embezzlement, among a smorgasbord of claims. They fail to offer any proof of any their charges, which is nothing new for CalCoast, and they stand by their loose cannons, even though they offer no smoking gun, not even a leaky water pistol.

In the total of the three disjointed pieces only three people are actually quoted — and only with bare one-line quotes. One of those lines is from CAPSLO Chief Operating Officer Jim Famalette responding for CAPSLO CEO Biz Steinberg to questions from Karen Velie, that her accusations against Homeless Services Director Torres were “baseless innuendo not worthy of a response.” (CalCoast wrote that his comment was in response to “allegations against a CAPSLO manager.”) Famalette’s five words were pulled from a more lengthy, severely critical Feb. 1 letter from Famalette to Velie, from which she didn’t quote more or link with the story.

No wonder. At the close of Famalette’s letter to Velie he writes: “I hope you put your effort and energy into trying to champion more public support for the homeless cause in our community and really accomplish something positive!”

Minus the woefully few fragmented quotes, the stories are wholly the fabrication of the authors based on their clearly limited comprehension of how CAPSLO works. CalCoast stories, which seem to appear whenever Velie believes she has discovered a new piece to her broken puzzle, serve mainly as fishing expeditions for seriously credible information obviously lacking in her stories that would make them more than uncorrected high-school homework mixed with generous chunks of guesswork, in a weak sauce of pure venom.

Torres responded with a full, reasoned denial of Velie’s charges under the “Alleged homeless advocates” story on CalCoast’s blog (See TORRES RESPONDS ON CALCOAST below). If her direct responses modified their attack in their subsequent stories it wasn’t obvious. The authors chose to ignore it, and it was quickly buried under a torrent of negative blogs. Something plausible and rational didn’t fit their false narrative and so they blocked it out, while Torres was demeaned by CalCoast’s regular pack of anonymous bloggers for being foolish enough to appear on their blog and stand up for herself, her staff and clients.

Torres wrote, in part: “CAPSLO will thoroughly investigate any specific claim brought to their attention! To date no one, including the “reporters” listed in this story have done this. I and my organization work transparently and if anyone has specific questions, etc. – feel free to contact me directly at dtorres@capslo org. I am proud of my staff, programs, and clients and will always be happy to stand up for all of them!

“There is absolutely nothing true to this story. Poor (homeless)( Cliff (Anderson) has been victimized by this site as countless others have been. …  Once again a shred of evidence has not been provided, just fake (bloggers’) names with fake claims. … I and my staff have nothing to hide. My staff and I do not take money from our clients. Our services are FREE to them. Any money they save is ALWAYS for them, to better their lives. These are the facts.”

Facts are plainly annoying and dispensable to Velie, and collateral damage is acceptable to her hardcore fans who believe that anyone on CalCoast’s enemies list earned their way, and the means justifies the end because there’s no other way to get at corrupt public officials. Many of those trampled by Velie and CalCoast in their frantic binges share the same litany of complaints about the methods and motives that fuel their extreme “gotcha!” journalism:

  • They substitute accusations for facts and allegations for evidence
  • Grind axes and settle scores for unnamed sources who won’t go on the record
  • Smear with broad and unsubstantiated claims and anonymous-sourced allegations of felonies
  • Offer a hodgepodge of half-digested, distorted facts and false analysis to support their skewed storyline
  • Resort to hearsay, innuendo, insult, gossip, spin and distortion to stitch together a dishonest account, pretending to report without ever reporting
  • Cherry-pick information from documents without making those documents available on their site
  • Provide little or no context and a heavily slanted narrative that never changes even in the face of being clearly debunked
  • Refuse to admit serious mistakes, retract or correct false stories in order to perpetuate a myth of credibility
  • Refuse to act transparently and disclose their connections to attorneys and sources with a financial interest in their stories
  • Refuse to explain unethical and potentially illegal conduct in knowingly creating and publishing false information
  • Harass and intimidate those who do not respond to their demands for information

Standing up to Velie, Blackburn and Congalton can be costly, as some have found out the hard way. They believe that damaged lives are a fair price for others to pay for Velie’s wrong-headed wild goose chases, to which she feels curiously entitled. Apologies for character assassination are not offered to victims, their families or employers. Guessing wrong is not a crime. Public officials who don’t respond to accusatory questions face sloppily contrived attacks to coerce them to produce nonexistent proof of accusations in order to make them true. Anyone who doesn’t comply is guilty of something. And anyone who criticizes CalCoast becomes a potential target in what appears to be an endless, vicious cycle of vengeance and retaliation.

Public officials understand the scrutiny of legitimate news sources and the role of government “watchdogs,” although they don’t always appreciate it, but they are dismayed by attacks from a website with a track record of publishing anything and everything, in any form, seemingly unchecked by anyone above them and unvetted for truth and accuracy. CalCoast makes so many false allegations and unsubstantiated accusations it’s hard to take them seriously, but those public officials and public/private agencies that don’t take them seriously are basically crucified for not doing so. Now, present and former public officials are fighting back against Velie, in particular, for publishing false and defamatory material. (See VICTIMS DECRY below).

Velie has also claimed she doesn’t go after people, only what they do. Her rationale: It isn’t personal; she is just doing her job as an investigative reporter, which she claims to be because she says so, and no license is required to do the probing that investigative journalists do for a living, to say it isn’t so. Yet there is more than sufficient evidence to support the claims against her by those that have been targeted, not because they committed any provable wrongdoing, but because they got in her way. There is also plenty of evidence to support the widely held contention that CalCoast dishonestly stitches together fractured fact, rant, innuendo and accusation to spin a story that should never have been published. No one would before they started their own website.

Why does CalCoast operate this way? Because taking the shortcut is easier than the long, honest, boring, responsible way, and stirring up outrage in SLO County isn’t all that difficult. Scaring up advertising and donations from information-challenged, anti-government conspiracy theorists is how they hope to make it all pay in the end. The pressure they feel to make CalCoast work as a business, rather than as the public service they pretend it is, can be found in one of Velie’s pet gripes about Adam Hill: he contacted some of their advertisers. At the end of “Homeless money guardian unlicensed” the authors offer this commercial message:

“In a related situation, Torres’ boyfriend, Supervisor Adam Hill, has been using his elected position to bully advertisers and supporters of CalCoastNews in a campaign to cripple the website. Hill’s war against CCN began several years ago after he learned CCN was investigating allegations of misdeeds by CAPSLO’s homeless services, administered by his girlfriend. In several instances, Hill’s own emails obtained by CCN have led to cancellations of contracts with businesses advertising on the news website. Hill sent emails to advertisers claiming that CCN reporters have committed crimes. That was followed by a flurry of emails from Hill to county residents asking that they not support CCN advertisers.”

Again, CalCoast offers no evidence to support that Hill went to the lengths they describe to point out CalCoast’s deficiencies to advertisers — there is evidence that Hill is on good terms with CalCoast advertisers — but the point is that CalCoast is running a business built on rage, not reason, and burning people and trying to make a living from it is a simply a terrible business model. But it’s all about monetizing what they do, and they don’t like it one bit when the glare of scandal shines on them, their methods and motives, or when the tables are turned and now it’s their income that’s threatened. What threatens their income has nothing to do with Adam Hill, Dee Torres or CAPSLO. CalCoast’s biggest threat comes from within, from their own bad idea and trying to force it to work.

San Luis Obispo County was once called the most corrupt county in the State, and based on the scandals that keep popping up in county and city governments with unnerving frequency, with public trust in government at an all-time low, some residents believe “the most corrupt” moniker still rings true today. And perhaps it does. How will we ever know?

Along with the vanishing newspaper has come the grim reality of the one newspaper town, the one TV station town, where local media remains the only way to keep politicians honest and public officials responsive to the community. Where media fails to hold politicians to their promises and keep public officials honest — or worse, works at their beck and call – corruption is inevitable: when no one’s watching, dishonest politicians and public officials tend to get too comfortable.

When the limited local media is tethered to the county, when real, independent, in-depth reporting has been all but abandoned, without the checks and balances provided by a responsible media, abuse of power becomes easier and more likely. It is into just such a vacuum, during the historic decline of print publications everywhere and the rise of blogs, in the void left by those who quit doing their job for one reason or another, that CalCoastNews surfaced online in 2008.

Because the Tribune and New Times dropped an important part of their mission — investigative journalism, hard political analysis — CalCoast and Congalton have been able to run their attacks under that fallen banner, and some people respond to it. After all, the county needs real investigative journalism and political analysis, and CalCoast offered a glimmer of that hope in the beginning. Since their heyday of the Karen Guth, Kelly Gearheart and Wilcox/Edge scandals, that hope has vanished. Even if they haven’t already arrived at the bottom of their lows yet, and there are still more false bottoms yet for them to fall through, even if they keep pretending to play out the game, the bottom is clearly in sight. It is the best kept open secret in town that CalCoast is the North Korea of local media wannabes, and they have already established that they will not change course or go quietly. They can’t be wrong.

CalCoast’s chest-pounding wouldn’t be so troublesome if it was just on a website, but they found an eager partner in longtime KVEC talk-radio host Dave Congalton, a SLO fixture who regularly showcases Velie whenever a “hot” new story is posted online. Congalton was formerly a CalCoast Contributing Editor. He is no longer listed on their masthead, but his close connection to Velie obviously remains very much intact. When she is challenged on the air he is quick to defend and protect her against all callers, making a mockery of his advertised slogan of fair play and equal time for different sides. While providing the hyperbolic Velie a platform helps spread Cal Coast’s feverish message through the county and draws the kind of attention Congalton covets, her baggage has also brought unwanted scrutiny to how he uses his show to wield his petty wrath and rattle his cage for attention, and to the sometimes disdainful way he treats callers who disagree with him or Velie. Along the way, thanks to his association with CalCoast, Congalton has made a few new listeners; at the same time, thanks to his association with CalCoast he has lost many more by defending open-ended accusations and allegations without proof, kicking ethics to the curb, settling scores on the air and burning bridges for so little in return.

So now SLO has a double problem. The cracked investigative team of Velie and Blackburn, who claim to be in the business of busting crime and corruption, aided and abetted by Congalton, have attempted to fill the vacuum with their hard-punching yarns. But they need their yarns to sell, to pay off like slot machines, in order for them to succeed in their chosen business, which is to keep doing what they’re doing do — and that’s where they went terribly wrong. That makes them pump up the sex and scandal in every story, plump them up with steroids to make them more appealing for market, for the fatter the bird, the more money it will bring. These tabloid tattlers have to sell or they fail completely, and they have to sell fast because it’s that new brand of fresh out-of-the-oven disposable “hot” journalism and it only lasts a little while, becoming less and less true over time. That’s not the product real journalism produces and not how real journalism pays, by the yarn. The second part of the problem is that the county is still searching for the real investigative journalism it so badly needs. The missing media still hasn’t been found.


Victims of False Reporting Decry CalCoastNews, Congalton Abuses

Exposing corruption in government is a good idea – where it actually exists, but using the tools of corruption to expose corruption where it doesn’t exist has thrown a spotlight on the mounting innocent casualties caught up in the desperate scorched-earth campaign waged by Karen Velie, Dan Blackburn and Dave Congalton.

Since the launch of CalCoast’s website in 2007, Velie and Blackburn have had their hits and misses in their well-known attack campaigns against public figures and public officials marked for wrongdoing. Though they don’t publicly admit to their mistakes – Velie admits to having been sued for libel several times – or they blame the source when they do lay a giant rotten egg, CalCoast’s misses far out-number and outweigh their hits, and when they do miss they leave a lengthy digital trail of false allegations, unsubstantiated accusations and damaged reputations. The glue that seems to hold all their stories together: vengeance. Those questioned who conform to their slanted narrative and those who refuse to respond to their demands both become potential targets.

In their reckless pursuit of public officials to expose, without weighing the consequences to reputations ruined when they’re wrong, CalCoast has exposed itself as a vendetta factory, cranking out frontier justice as self-appointed judge, jury and executioner without offering any hard evidence or even a belated get-well-soon card for guessing wrong.

Now local public officials, some who have been or still are targets of the wrath of Velie and Congalton and have the scars to prove it, are fed up with CalCoast’s false reporting. Despite the threat of retaliation that keeps people from speaking out publicly, some are willing to come forward because they believe the rest of the story, the truth, needs to be told. And they are almost as critical of radio talk-show host Dave Congalton, former Cal CoastNews Contributing Editor, who promotes Velie for any ratings bump that controversy stirs while using the bully pulpit of his show to mistreat guests and callers, and lash out and denigrate those who challenge Velie or provoke his ire.

Here are some unedited comments made to The ROCK:

JIM FAMALETTE, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, CAPSLO
“On January 30th, Biz [Steinberg], our CEO, received an e-mail listing allegations and questions from a reporter at Cal Coast. For the sake of openness, I am attaching a copy of that e-mail. Biz was participating in a National Conference on Head Start in San Diego at the time and requested that I handle the response. She notified the reporter that I would be getting back to her.

“I reviewed the questions and responded to the reporter on February 1st;.. My response is also attached for your view. I understand we have been a frequent target of Cal Coast over the years and there has never been a claim substantiated. I should note my tenure with the agency is about 15 months. Please note in my letter, I specifically offered to investigate any claim they presented to us. Instead of course, they chose to run their blog article on Monday, February 4th, without attempting to seek any facts.

“Unfortunately, some of this material started to be presented to City, County and State officials. We understand in some cases, by Cal Coast themselves. At that point, Ms. Steinberg crafted a statement which was sent to all of those public entities. I have also attached that statement as well. As you know, the City Council denounced their charges and asked for specific facts again. The blog has shown itself not to be very objective, and in fact, it would appear has some personal reasons to continue to disparage Ms. Torres, our homeless director.

“We understand that the blog is possibly influenced by a former employee, who has been out of our agency for several years. We are also aware, that the blog has in the past, represented comments from another homeless advocate, who is seeking to try and receive public funds.

“The actual information presented on the homeless clients is very selective and not truly focused on the “whole story”. We are careful not to discuss these clients personal information in the public, because quite frankly, it is unethical. I can assure you we keep accurate case management files and remain open to investigate any specific claims which are presented to us.

“Earlier this year, the Cal Coast News tried to challenge our policies, procedures and rules for operating the Maxine Lewis Shelter and Prado Day Center. We provided information to both City and County staff who concurred with our handling of the operations.

“In our opinion further public debate is not necessary, in fact, it just makes the blog known to more than the few people who follow it.

“It is extremely frustrating for a dedicated group of people who spend their days working to help the less fortunate in our community, to have to waste our time and effort defending ourselves from those who ultimately have their own interests at heart.”

DAN CARPENTER, SLO CITY COUNCIL
“Cal Coast News continues to report unsubstantiated allegations regarding CAPSLO and the misuse of client funds. If anyone has factual information regarding misappropriated funds I would encourage them to contact myself and/or the proper authorities immediately. Until then, I would urge this online media source to refrain from reporting accusations about an organization that provides many valuable services to our homeless population.”

“I’ve participated in Dave Congalton’s show many times over the years as both a guest and a caller. It’s Dave’s show and he gets to make the rules including when to be dismissive and end the calls with his listeners. I’m well aware of that when I participate. It was most frustrating not being able to finish my comments directed at Ms. Viele (Cal Coast News) as it would have provided the listeners with a better understanding of my overall concerns with the situation. The overwhelming response from the community has been dismay with the lack of respect afforded me as a caller. Dave has since invited me to come on the show to present my point of view which I’ve respectfully declined. Based on his actions, it remains questionable whether I’ll participate as a guest or caller again in the future.

“There were a couple of points that I would have made on the Congalton show had I not been cut off.  I think they are relevant and had they been exposed, it might have explained my position better:

“It’s important to recognize that CAPSLO in independently audited twice every year. Those audits are made available to the City Council and general public. How many audits do the naysayers want? 3? 4? 5?, and at who’s expense? I was and continue to be satisfied with the validity of what is presented in these audits. Also, Ms. Viele (Cal Coast News) has launched unsubstantiated allegations at the City of SLO and its supporting organizations for many years now. How long does she get to cry wolf?”

TONY FERRARA, MAYOR OF ARROYO GRANDE
“I’ve known Dave Congalton for many years. He established himself as a promoter of local organizations, charities, and community events, through interactive radio. His show has helped many in the community raise funds and become more visible. Today, however, his show has verged well beyond the boundaries of “hometown radio.” His affiliation with Karen Velie and Cal Coast News is the root cause of this. Dave says “it is important to shine the light on local government.” I agree! But that is not what Velie does. As a guest on Dave’s show, Velie doesn’t hesitate to spew forth venomous criticism of every organization and person she’s comes in contact with. In most instances, she doesn’t verify the credibility of her sources and relies on incomplete or inaccurate information to bend her story in the direction she wants it go. I have personally observed her do this on several occasions, as have many others who have been victimized by her false reporting. CCN could emerge as a more credible website without people like Velie who feel compelled to spin gossip instead of accurately reporting news. As for Dave, he knows how I feel about this. I still believe he can recover from the barrage of criticism he’s receiving for legitimizing Karen Velie and Cal Coast News. He can accomplish this by holding her accountable for her gross inaccuracies, and for the damage she has done to the reputations and character of the people she’s falsely accused. If Dave wants to examine local government, then he should do it directly with the agencies and people involved in the issues of the day. Let them come on the show and answer questions. Karen Velie is and will continue to be looked upon as someone who places the credibility of Dave’s show and KVEC Afternoon Radio in jeopardy.”


SLO City Councilman Dan Carpenter Learns How Not to Call Into “The Dave Congalton Show”

When SLO City Councilman Dan Carpenter called in to the show on Feb. 7 to refute Karen Velie’s account of a conversation they had regarding her loose allegations against CAPSLO, Velie interrupted him to argue her version and Congalton rudely piled on. Here are excerpts from that debate. So much for fair play and equal time:

Velie: “You said it (action on the CAPSLO allegations) had to come from law enforcement, and you also told me in that same conversation, you said that stuff on the (sewer) spill, even though there were emails and pictures to prove that spill, it didn’t matter because no one had been arrested yet and you didn’t think they were going to be, and you didn’t think this (CalCoast story about CAPSLO) was going to go anywhere.”

“Karen, that’s an absolute lie. That is not what I said,” Carpenter responded on the air. “I told you, when you have enough evidence and you give it to me, I will follow through with it, but I’m not going to sit by and let allegations and accusations go by without any proof. I cannot do anything with it. It’s possible what you’re saying is true, but I cannot do anything without any proof…

Congalton: “Well let me ask…”

Carpenter: “Let me finish…”

Congalton: “Okay… all right.”

Carpenter: “I talk to many homeless people on the street. I work very closely with the overflow shelter and many of them are in case management. I have their confidence that if they had something that was not right in their case management program they would bring it to me knowing I would do something about it. That’s how close a relationship I have with many of them. But Karen, that’s an absolute lie. I had told you on the phone, any evidence you have I would be happy to take it to the authorities…”

After further verbal ping-pong with Velie and Congalton, Carpenter tried to explain why it was necessary for the city to provide annual funding on time: “We cannot simply hold up funding for an organization that provides many services to our homeless individuals just because there’s allegations out there. It’s not fair to them. What is going to happen to our homeless individuals if we cut off the funding? It’s just not fair when you only have accusations. I need more proof.”

Velie pressed Carpenter to call Social Security and ask them to determine if it was fraud or not, and he replied: “I’m not making allegations. I’m not asking on hearsay… Karen, you’re making the accusations, you make the phone call. I’m not going to follow up on all accusations… I can get accusations from anybody… You follow up, provide the evidence, and I will take actions.”

Congalton: “OK, Dan, I going to do you the biggest favor of your political career, I’m going to stop you right now and thank you for calling in. Thank you.”

Congalton to Velie: “I did him a big favor by hanging up on him. I saved his political career…” He chimed in again moments later: “To be diplomatic, I think that… no, I’m not going to say anything. No, no. Just, I thought it was an unfortunate response by Dan Carpenter. He probably would have been better off not calling in.”

“Yes,” agreed Velie. “Yes.”

Congalton later invited Carpenter back to the show to air his point of view, but Carpenter declined. Congalton then tweeted: “Dan Carpenter calling in about Karen’s allegations about CAPSLO: “Show me the proof and I’ll start an investigation.” WHAT?!!!!”

Congalton is the author of the self-published book “The Talk Radio Guest Book: How to Be the Perfect Talk Radio Guest.” Written by the perfect talk-radio host.


CAPSLO’S Dee Torres Responds to CalCoast’s Accusations… on CalCoast’s Blog

On February 5 CAPSLO Homeless Services Director Dee Torres blogged under CalCoast’s story “Alleged homeless advocates accused of stealing” to respond directly and openly to the website’s charges. Her comments, which thoroughly debunked the false story and were ignored by its authors, have long since been buried under bloggers comments. We republish them here in the interest of truth and accuracy:

02/05/2013 at 9:47 pm
I’ll begin by saying that I started to respond to each and every false accusation in this story but there are so many I will sum up my comments as follows:

FACT – Cliff Anderson has not been consistently in CAPSLO services for four years. He has been in and out of our services for many years.

FACT – In 2010 Cliff Anderson was housed in one of our permanent housing units for a little over 7 months. This was the only time any CAPSLO staff person collected any money from Mr. Anderson.  Our housing units are operated under strict guidelines and oversight which is funded mainly by HUD.  All clients who live in the permanent housing units are required to pay 30% of their income towards rent, which is in turn forwarded to the master landlord. The other portion of their rent is paid from the federal HUD grants.  Often times we are forced to turn to fundraising dollars which come from our community to cover differences between combined contributions from the government and client.  The case management services which are provided to these clients are always free of charge to them, as well as all of our other services.

FACT – Mr. Anderson has never paid anything to CAPSLO case managers for any of the services he has received (except for those months that he paid rent for the apartment he was living in).  All of the services provided to our clients are free of charge to them, unless their living in one of the apartment units and paying 30% of their income towards their rent.

FACT – CAPSLO is not Cliff’s payee. Family Ties receives his checks directly from the Social Security Administration and disperses money to him each week.  The money he receives is his to do with as he pleases. Again CAPSLO staff does not receive one single cent of his or any other homeless clients’ money.

FACT – CAPSLO program staff is not now and never have been a representative payee for any homeless client in any of our services. In regards to Mr. Anderson, Family Ties is his representative payee and as such it receives his money directly from Social Security and in turn issues him checks.  Lisa was misquoted in the article and stated to me that her answers were taken out of context.  Family Ties is the payee for Cliff Anderson- there’s no disputing this. In fact the article itself states it, “SSI records for Anderson list Family Ties as the recipient for his money.”

FACT- Case Management never retains any portion of a client’s money.  In fact, many case managed clients do not participate in any structured savings plan at all. While we do our best to provide clients with all of the core services possible in order for them to set aside as much of their income toward housing, many don’t.  We require clients to save a portion of their income if they are asking to be placed on a priority bed status at the MLM Shelter.  Priority bed status means that a client is guaranteed a bed each night until he/she is housed.  We require that a client aside a portion of his/her monthly income so that when housing is located there is money for rent and required deposits. Our goal is to enable clients to eventually be able to find and afford housing.

FACT – CAPSLO clients who have chosen to participate in our case management program and as such be placed on a priority bed status, have been depositing a portion of their income with Family Ties since January 1997 and to date no client has ever brought an accusation of mismanaging of funds to either entity.  To date there have been no complaints filed with either CAPSLO or Family Ties.  Both agencies are audited routinely and many systems are in place to ensure funds are saved and allocated appropriately.

FACT- CAPSLO will thoroughly investigate any specific claim brought to its attention!

FACT – CAPSLO will thoroughly investigate any specific claim brought to their attention! To date no one, including the “reporters” listed in this story have done this. I and my organization work transparently and if anyone has specific questions, etc. – feel free to contact me directly at dtorres@capslo.org. I am proud of my staff, programs, and clients and will always be happy to stand up for all of them!

Dee Torres says:
02/05/2013 at 10:29 pm
Absolutely not “gardenslo” I invite you to use a real name and contact me as there is absolutely nothing true to this story. Poor Cliff has been victimized by this site as countless others have been… Once again a shred of evidence has not been provided, just fake names with fake claims. dtorres@capslo.org – goodnight.

02/05/2013 at 10:20 pm
As stated above I and my staff have nothing to hide. I will provide all facts to Dave (Congalton) and look forward to being invited on his show. dtorres@capslo.org

Dee Torres says:
02/06/2013 at 6:52 am
Thanks for the advice “south”, I have nothing to hide. I’m not saying I’m perfect, none of us are but my staff and I do not take money from our clients. Our services are FREE to them. Any money they save is ALWAYS for them, to better their lives. These are the facts.

02/06/2013 at 7:55 am
Cindy, I appreciate honest questions and will do my best to answer. We began using Family Ties 16 years ago. Often times homeless people can’t open bank accounts of their own or they’re too costly, because of past issues, lack of adequate ID, etc… Family Ties helps people who can’t open their own account and want to save money. As we know it’s not safe to carry all the cash you own on you know matter what your situation, the homeless are particularly vulnerable. My staff are not payees or money managers, we are fortunate to have an organization like Family Ties to help people in this situation and they do a stellar job. During this 16 year partnership not one credible claim has ever been made against either organization. Receipts are given for each and every transaction. These are the facts.
As for the “fake names” I was referring to the posters not the homeless who are quoted in the story.

Regarding TV, a movie is played every evening. We do not have cable but every evening clients discuss and agree on a movie which is played in the main room. I will say that balancing the individual preferences of 50 people each day is challenging, many people hate the noise and wish we’d never turn it on.

As for the air conditioning at Prado, we were very fortunate to receive a grant from PG&E, to use on structural things to make the site more energy efficient. Linking this very specific grant to the warming station shows again that no credible reporting was done. We could not use that money for the warming station or any other program, if we wanted to.

The cost of the air conditioning system I believe was actually more than $25,000, why these things are so expensive are not for me to comment on, as this is not my area of expertise. I can say that the system is set up to cool the entire site, not just the offices, and it’s important. Luckily our weather is generally nice but on those few days every year when the heat is extreme, having 100 or so bodies trying to function in a cramped setting with no air conditioning, becomes dangerous at worst and extremely uncomfortable at best.
Why don’t we open our warming station more? The warming station activates during “extreme weather”, severe rain storms which are predicted to last 2 or more days and/or extreme cold 32 degrees or below. The other component is having available staff and volunteers.

Lastly, as I said I appreciate honest questions and will always try my best to answer swiftly and honestly. If you or anyone else would like a tour of either or both sites feel free to contact me directly dtorres@capslo.org., Taking a tour or volunteering at one of our sites are the best ways to actually learn about our programs, as you are not getting accurate information on this site.

02/06/2013 at 9:02 am
Hey Scarlet,
I can’t begin to speak about corruption or misdeeds done by others in our county or anywhere else for that matter. All media outlets report on these things. I can only speak for myself and my programs. There is no stealing, all of our programs are free to our clients, etc… I honestly have said all I can and CCN has provided no evidence of stealing because there is none. End of story. I understand that this posting can go on endlessly but I’ve got to get to work and can’t continue repeating myself. Again, anyone interested in learning actual facts about my transparent programs has a standing invitation for a tour or I can be contacted at dtorres@capslo.org

Booty Ju Ju says
02/06/2013 at 9:17 am
Jeebus. If people have been defrauded and money stolen – file a criminal complaint. How complicated is that?

Dee Torres replies:
02/06/2013 at 9:32 am
AGREED.

Los Osos Sewer ‘Train Wreck’ on Track for Late July

Proof of pollution or not, the Los Osos sewer is coming to the embattled little Central Coast town by the bay this summer.

The announcement by 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson in the Tribune on March 20th overshadowed that afternoon’s update of the Los Osos Wastewater Project for the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and public. At the update the supervisors approved a contract with Carollo Engineers of Walnut Creek for about $943,000 to design the project’s wastewater treatment plant, and another contract for $898,000 with Far Western Anthropological Research Group of Davis for archaeological services.

Supervisor Gibson, sewer project whip on the board, whose district includes Los Osos, told the Tribune he is “confident” construction will begin on time despite a petition by the Los Osos Sustainability Group, comprised of knowledgeable Los Osos residents, asking the California Coastal Commission to revoke the County’s permit for the project based on the use or false or misleading false information to obtain the permit.

Gibson, known for his supreme confidence and less than supreme predicting skills, believes his confidence is well founded this time. Dan Carl, Central Coast Supervisor for the Coastal Commission, told the Tribune, in the Tribune’s words, that “the request (to revoke the permit) could cause delays in the project because it will take staff time away from verifying that the county has met its permit conditions.” Carl is satisfied that the County has met its permit conditions. The Tribune has worked closely with government agencies to promote the project, and Carl’s public message can be taken as a strong signal of the Commission’s predisposition against the LOSG’s revocation request.

As a result, the likelihood of the revocation is viewed as a “moon shot” by most observers, with little chance of succeeding since the petitioners must prove intent to deceive, or willful negligence by the County, and a majority of the Coastal Commission, a ‘sister’ state agency to the County, must agree. Based on the information on hand, Gibson feels secure speaking publicly that the revocation request will not disrupt the County’s timetable.

Barring a surprise 11th-hour reprieve that halts the start of construction, only one question remains for the 5,000 homeowners saddled with paying the cost of the $189 million project: Will the long, drawn-out Los Osos sewer debate finally come to an end when the tractors roll and digging starts in earnest at the end of July, if in fact it does?

Based on the reaction of sticker-shocked Los Osos homeowners speaking at public comment during the project update, the answer is clearly no. Most of the speakers were disappointed at the brevity of the County’s presentation, and dismayed at the failure of Public Works staff to address the many outstanding issues related to the costly project. Not the least of these inadequately addressed issues is the fate of a select group of 5,000 homeowners in an officially-declared “disadvantaged community” faced with having to pay an average sewer bill of $250 a month for 30 to 40 years.

The meeting was tightly controlled by Chairman Jim Patterson who interrupted each speaker who ventured even a second over the allotted three minutes of public comment. His over-bearing response to speakers exceeding the three-minute limit, which resulted in him erroneously cutting off two Los Osos speakers in the board’s morning session, did not prevent speakers from lambasting the County over the project for a wide variety of reasons. (See REACTION CAPSULES below.)

Several Los Osos residents were sharply critical of the quality of the update and the County’s performance in general in shaping the project, the largest in County history, and explaining its murky benefits to ratepayers. Linde Owen called Carollo Engineers and associates “crooks,” and Ben DiFatta said the Carollo contract had “the smell of suspicion of a lot of corruption.”

Responding to those comments Gibson said: “Miss Owen’s characterization of our staff as ‘crooks’ and Mr. DiFatta’s reference to the ‘smell of corruption’ are both outrageous and deeply offensive. I believe they skirt the edge of being libelous. and I believe they are worthy of an apology to the individuals involved.”

After Patterson threatened to remove two stunned elderly Los Osos residents he accused of calling out in chambers, Gibson added, “That again continues a pattern of behavior that’s unfortunate.”

Asked if they had an apology to offer, DiFatta told The ROCK: “Gibson should apologize to Los Osos for proposing the most expensive sewer in the country per capita. Gibson should apologize to the several thousand property owners and 7,000-9,000 people that will have to move out of their homes because of his insistence to build an antiquated, over-priced, unaffordable gravity collection system. Gibson should apologize to the businesses that have and or will go out of business due to people not having discretionary funds to spend on food, entertainment, furniture, medicine, gasoline, auto purchases, sports activities for their children, etc. throughout this County. Many things he and his sewer staff have done throughout this ordeal are suspicious, especially when his gravity proposal is $50 to $100 million more than other alternatives.”

“I have no reason to apologize,” Owen told The ROCK. “If anything, Public Works Director Ogren and Supervisor Gibson should apologize to Los Osos for putting the community through six years of hell and giving us the most expensive project per capita in state and U.S. history – which they promised they would remedy.”

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Los Osos BOS Public Comment Capsules
Excerpts from public comment by Los Osos residents at the March 20th Board of Supervisors meeting update on the wastewater project:

Elaine Watson, speaking on behalf of the Los Osos Sustainability Group, explaining why they filed for revocation of the Coastal permit for the sewer: “Having exhausted all recourse available to us we were left with no other options. There’s hardly any issue in this revocation that we didn’t bring to you first and many times. And gentleman, I want to remind you that we’re citizens trying to remedy a train wreck… Has anyone here (the Board of Supervisors and staff) read the revocation request yet…? Judging by no response I’m assuming that you haven’t…”

Julie Tacker: “What I wanted to see in an update (and didn’t) was some progress on a second 218, an explanation for our Habitat Conservation Plan, the firing of one consultant, and the new RFP that’s out, and we are hiring another. I wanted an update on the grant that’s proposed for our LCP [Local Coastal Permit], a groundwater management plan. I wanted Coastal conditions laid out in front of me. I want you to know not one of the 180-some conditions that the project must meet has been approved by the Coastal Commission. Regional Water Control Board has their conditions, USDA has conditions, State Revolving Fund has conditions, the purchase of the Giacomazzi site – you have to record a public lot on top of the purchase. You do have to go through an eminent domain process. The roads-and-drainage “show” that came to Los Osos has damage outside the approved footprint for the Coastal Development Permit. A recycled water management plan, a Habitat Management Plan, progress with the ISJ, the Tri-W restoration – what does that mean? The pump house was moved to the library. It’s above ground, Mr. Gibson. You told LOCAC it was a below-ground facility. I want to hear about your trip to Washington and the bags of money you brought back. There’s monitoring programs, there’s decommissioning of septic tanks, there’s sign plans, lighting plans, ag easements, protection of the ag land, conservation. At the beginning of your due diligence it started a one-year clock, that clock was met a week ago.”

Bo Cooper: “At the last project update it was said, “Nobody should have to leave their home to pay for a sewer.” Later on a TAC draft report said, “The Prohibition Zone residents who will be paying for the project are predominantly middle and lower-income people. For some, any increase in their monthly cash outflow will be disastrous.” But then that last part was taken out for political reasons because they wanted to have the sewer… Paavo’s letter to the State Water Board in November 2011 (read): “According to the Wastewater User Chart Survey Report published by the State Water Board, the monthly cost to Los Osos property owners would be the highest in the state for similar population served and nearly five times the state average.” It’s just out of control. That same letter talked about affordability benchmarks – the EPA is 2% (of annual median household income), the USDA and Dept. of Public Health benchmark is 1.5%. So if it’s $217 (a month average sewer bill) — but it will really be about $250 – 2% is $130,000 (median household income), at 2% of $250, which is more likely, a household has to have a median household income of $150,000. At 1.5% which is USDA, which half our money comes from, 1.5% of $217, you have to have an income of $174,000, and last but not least, 1.5% of $250, you have to have a median household income of $200,000 – almost nobody has that. It’s completely unaffordable.”

Jeff Edwards: “I object to sole-souring the contract before you to Carollo Engineers. They don’t need the $25 million design/build contract – they have every other contract is this County for engineering services. You may remember your master water plan, I mean study, that you recently considered – I think you changed the name to a study because it was of such poor quality – they did that. They’re actually the go-to engineering firm for your public works director. In fact, their total (on the Los Osos sewer project) with this contract is up to about $3 million. That goes with their other building partners, and they all come from the same community of Walnut Creek up north. We know HDR got a contract for $7.6 million, CDM $5 million, so the numbers for engineering just keep going up. The reasons given to you (the Board) for sole-sourcing this to them by your Public Works department are disingenuous. The only reason they gave it to them was because they wanted to, not because of familiarity or timing… Last Thursday, the Regional Water Quality Board met in San Luis Obispo, and apparently it’s (the treatment plant) a recycled water facility. What you neglected to give the Regional Board staff is the Recycled Water Management Plan. Their staff was quite surprised. It’s been out since late last year – they don’t have a copy, or at least didn’t until we gave them one. The Regional Board wants to hear from you. In fact, Mr. Gibson, they want to hear from him on May 3rd what’s going on… I’d like to close by asking, why did we take $18 million of grant money and reduce our low-interest rate Clean Water/State Revolving Fund loan? Instead of taking it out of the more expensive USDA loan, we’ve taken it out of the cheaper money. It defies logic.”

Linde Owen: “The presentation is definitely lacking. I could have brought the other 24 items that are still not being addressed in a project update. This (update) was basically to tell us about the new sole-sourcing (to Carollo)… Your Recommendation No. 3 (on the staff report) is to waive board approval of expenditures so that this group of crooks, I’m going to call them right now, will not have to get your permission to spend over $25,000 on any item, so here we go. We’re just opening up the doors to take our money, take all the money you want and have a good time with this project. Let’s see if we can’t make it even more expensive…  Carollo Engineering, the “Love Boat” I call them, want $942, 669 to design a sewer plant that was “shovel ready,” Mr. Gibson. Were you misinformed? Did Mr. Ogren not tell you that it wasn’t shovel ready – or did you just go along with him and go to Washington to see if you could get some of that money? It isn’t shovel ready and we all knew that, but now we’re going to pay another million to keep upgrading something that’s basically copy-paste.”

Ben DiFatta: “This project lacks common sense. It’s way over your heads, and you’re now going to spend another $2 million for studies that have already been done. Didn’t we already pay for this once or twice? Why do these things have to be done again? Can’t you modify the old studies?… The same old cronies, the sole-source, no-bid contract (to Carollo) has the smell of suspicion of a lot of corruption here going on. Why didn’t you have the bidders choose their teams and then bid all the costs, instead of always going to the board for more money?”

Gewynn Taylor: “…Now again you are going outside to get Carollo Engineering involved in a project. When they were doing the Basin Plan for the County they got the water distribution from the Los Osos water basin coming from Morro Bay! How in the world can you trust an engineering firm that can’t even get it straight where Los Osos gets its water? This is ridiculous. Not only that but the nitrate well-testing has been requested by the Regional Water Board again, and not just requested, they are advising this board to approve the nitrate testing and do it now, not at the time that this sewer plant has been installed and is producing water. (Regional Board staff) was directed on Match 15th to get to you and let you know what they are asking. This board has not put out the information that is required or is necessary for the development of this project. If you take the word of your Public Works staff alone, you are setting yourself up for a lot of disruption and a lot of problems…”

For her public comment, Dr. C. Hite presented a three-minute film tribute to Los Osos citizens who have spoken out against the County’s project for six years, and been the object of scorn, verbal abuse, and Brown Act violations by the Board of Supervisors. Dr. Hite’s short film depicted the citizens as heroes.

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Austin Alliance Moves to Halt MWH's Billion-Dollar Plant Project

By ED OCHS

Like the Whac-A-Mole arcade game, it’s almost impossible to keep megacontractor MWH Americas Inc. from popping up in towns and cities across America and repeating the same pattern of abusive business practices that have placed them under the microscope in Cape Coral, Fla., New Orleans, Los Osos and Morro Bay, California, and elsewhere. In Texas, environmentally and fiscally-conscious Austinites banding together seem to have gained the upper hand on the profiteers. But can they hold on?

By ED OCHS

MWH is up to its old tricks again, building something that isn’t necessary for a billion dollars that ratepayers don’t have.

Having laid waste to homeowners in Cape Coral, Florida, flim-flammed the city of New Orleans, and threatening to do both in Los Osos and sister city Morro Bay on California’s Central Coast, MWH has targeted Austin, Texas, where the city has contracted the Broomfield, Colo.-based global infrastructure firm to build a $500 million-plus water treatment plant that has boondoggle written all over it.

Water Treatment Plant No. 4 was first approved in 1984 and postponed until 2002 when, according to Save Our Springs Alliance’s web site SaveWaterSaveMoney.org, “peak day (water) demand increases in the ’90s suggested an upcoming need for increased treatment capacity. However, our record peak occurred in August 2001, and has been flat to declining ever since.” The city’s calculations indicate additional capacity will not be needed until 2025.

The $500 million plant has been under construction since 2009, and was supposed to start operation in 2014. To date, $115 million had already been spent on project development and construction costs, with between $300-$400 million in planned future expenditures now facing a hold.

The Austin project not only follows the pattern of MWH’s dubious bidding and billing activities in Cape Coral, Florida, it is headed by the same Cape Coral project manager, Larry Laws. MWH’s practices in the halted Cape Coral project are presently under review by the city of Cape Coral and independent auditor Kessler International. The Austin project was designed by Carollo Engineers, the same large consultant firm that misrepresented and omitted critical information essential to San Luis Obispo County’s dangerously-flawed, runaway $200 million Los Osos gravity-collection sewer project — servicing a small community of only 16,000 residents. Carollo has also been involved in Morro Bay, and is a key cog in MWH’s inbred contractor network.

According to Save Our Springs Alliance fact-checkers, “Austin’s WTP4 will cost taxpayers over $1 billion including interest… City cost estimates put WTP4 at $1.2 billion, counting interest and debt financing charges…

“Significant hidden cost overruns are already running the price tag beyond this estimate. Specifically, the City’s official $508 million (without interest) cost estimate excludes over $60 million spent on the project before 2008. To hide the fact that the plant is already over budget, the City also lopped off a $30 million transmission main that has always been a critical component of the plant. This tunnel will need to be built within a few years – but it disappeared from the budget without explanation as the costs for other components busted the $508 million budget.”  

A coalition of Austin groups opposed to the MWH project wants the city council to hire New York-based Kessler, author of the Kessler forensic audit of MWH practices in Cape Coral, to perform a similar audit for the Austin project. Austin’s city auditor’s office is also reviewing the Cape Coral situation.

In a preliminary move towards a change in direction, the Austin City Council voted 5-2 on July 29 to gather information “to evaluate the costs and savings of postponing further construction on WTP4 for five years and for 10 years,” according to Save Our Springs Alliance, which supports “postponing spending hundreds of millions of dollars for WTP4 in favor of keeping Austin water rates affordable now while we study our options for meeting our future water needs.”  

The alliance recently won a crucial Austin city council race, tipping council balance of power in favor of shelving the project, but entrenched, deep-pocket MWH supporters are turning up the heat to keep the project rolling.

“We’ve built about 15% of the project, with about $350 million yet to be spent,” Bill Bunch of Save Our Springs Alliance (http://www.SaveOurSprings.org) told The Rock. “We have plenty of treatment capacity to absorb all the growth we are likely to see through at least 2025, so we really have no need of any kind for the plant.”

According to Save Our Springs, “Even with grossly inflated costs of stopping construction and preserving the work that has been done, Austin ratepayers stand to save over $300 million by stopping construction at this time while preserving the value of the work done to date… Piling on debt during a recession is not very smart – unless you are a contractor on the project or city bond agent working on commission.

“The Water Utility misled bond buyers last year and the year before on how much water they would sell, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. The Water Utility’s only answer to our bond problems: jack up water rates twice as much as what they said we would need, while still rushing forward building a plant that diminished water sales now tell us we do not need.

“…Borrowing less money would improve our bond rating, not lower it. We can’t sell the water we have the capacity to treat now; completing the plant won’t add a single dollar to our revenues while expanding our debt dramatically and increasing operating costs. Fiscal prudence requires responding to changed conditions – yet our Water Utility continues ignoring the simple fact that their own water projections now show we won’t need additional treatment capacity until 2025 or later.”

“The real decision point lies before us,” according to Save Our Springs. “But for the first time in a long time, we have City leadership and a potential council majority recognizing that building WTP4 is a dead end rather than a road to securing a safe, reliable and affordable water supply for Austin’s future.”

Opined Austin City Councilman William Spelman in an Aug. 10 Austin-American Statesman commentary (http://www.statesman.com/opinion) entitled “Decide water plant on its merits”:

“Over the last 50 years, more Austinites moved into apartments, condos and houses with small yards. Since the utility decided to build WTP4, demand has dropped further in response to rate hikes (the utility projects a 66% increase over five years), a sputtering economy and one of the worst droughts in state history,” wrote Spelman.

“Sooner or later, we’ll need WTP4. We’re building it now so it can come on line in 2014 — five years or more before we need it. That might sound prudent to some, but we’re giving up a lot to build that plant now,” he penned. “But with demand down and revenues uncertain, we don’t have the money to build WTP4, fix leaky pipes and old plants, and build out the reclamation system. Any of those approaches could have met our water needs for the future, but WTP4 costs a lot more.”

“It’s time to call a time out, get the facts and evaluate our options for providing a safe and affordable water supply for our growing city,” wrote Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, in an August 14 Statesman opinion piece (http://www.statesman.com/opinion).

“Rushing ahead with a project that is only 15% complete, that won’t be needed for 15 years or more, and that continues to be justified with misleading information and unfounded scare tactics benefits no one but the contractors,” he wrote.

“Postponing the treatment plant would allow our community to develop a real plan for meeting our future water needs, one that would likely unite rather than divide our city. Or we can continue throwing good money after bad and praying that it does not get worse.”

Save Our Springs Alliance (http://www.sosalliance.org) supports “postponing spending hundreds of millions of dollars for WTP4 in favor of keeping Austin water rates affordable now while we study our options for meeting our future water needs,” according to its web site. Alliance groups include Austin Sierra Club, Environment Texas and Clean Water Action, as well as Austin Neighborhoods Council, PODER, National Wildlife Federation, Hill Country Alliance and others.

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Ripley Seeks USDA Review of Cost/Seismic Safety Design Policies for Los Osos Project

By ED OCHS

In a detailed letter/report to the USDA, 30-year water/wastewater professional Dana Ripley calls on the federal agency to review San Luis Obispo County’s campaign of “misrepresentations” and “omissions” on STEP versus gravity collection systems, and utilize new data from recent earthquakes and severe liquefaction in Japan and New Zealand that should immediately change the course of the waylaid Los Osos Wastewater Project.

 

By ED OCHS

As the debate rages in Washington over deep cuts in federal programs, Dana Ripley has a good idea how the federal government can curb wasteful spending and instantly save ratepayers at least $50 million in the disadvantaged Central Coast community of Los Osos — scrap San Luis Obispo County’s costly and dangerous $200-million, gravity-collection city-sewer system, scheduled to break ground outside town next year, and adopt a safer, lower-cost alternative while there’s still time.

“Since this project represents the largest public works project in the history of San Luis Obispo County, and represents the single largest USDA loan by RUS (Rural Utilities Services), I believe that the increased scrutiny here is justified,” Ripley wrote in a June 29 letter to Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator, Rural Utilities Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Washington.

The USDA is lending the County $86 million towards construction of the gravity collection system segment of the sewer, backed by $25,000 liens on 5,000 homes in Los Osos’ “Prohibition Zone” to pay for the $200 million project. Ripley wants the USDA to review project details in the loan approval, particularly what he calls “misrepresentations” and “omissions” in the County’s EIR, and for the USDA to consider new information from the recent Japan and New Zealand earthquakes relevant to Los Osos’ high-risk liquefaction zone.

“It is abundantly clear that the liquefaction potential is a well-documented, high-risk geologic hazard in Los Osos as confirmed by the applicant’s (San Luis Obispo County) consistent liquefaction mapping and declaration in the 2008 project environmental report that the liquefaction impact is ‘considerable and, therefore significant.’

Ripley wants the USDA to take advantage of the three-year, $17 million 3-D earthquake impact modeling study now required prior to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s relicensing of the Diablo Canyon plant, which is within eight miles of Los Osos’ liquefaction zone. Ripley is not seeking a delay in the project timeline, although he emphasizes that it is imperative to act now to address liquefaction to protect life and property, utility and sewer lines, and the drinkable water supply, should the sewer break apart.

“While I do not suggest here that the Los Osos sewer project should be delayed until completion of the Diablo Canyon 3-D seismic study, I do suggest that known seismic hazards need an increased level of scrutiny and attention given to what has recently transpired in Japan and New Zealand,” he writes. “This new information would be relevant to the Los Osos wastewater project in addition to the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant…”

The seismic hazards at Diablo Canyon have drawn the cameras and the attention of bandwagoning County and State politicians, while the seismic hazards of building a gravity sewer in a high-risk liquefaction zone almost next door has drawn only silence. “For the residents of Los Osos,” wrote Ripley, “the risk of severe liquefaction is likely substantially greater than risk of radiation exposure from Diablo Canyon, even though the community is within eight miles of the nuclear facility.

“This study will assess safeguards necessary to protect public health and safety in the event of a severe seismic event anywhere along the central California coastline… and will likely provide new information added to the existing body of knowledge related to seismic hazards along the California central coast as well as seismic hazards specifically within the Los Osos Valley.”

Ripley is the author of the 2006 “Ripley Plan” for wastewater collection, treatment and water re-use for Los Osos, and a consultant to STEP system builder W.M. Lyles Co., rejected as a bidder by the County in 2009 just prior to the promised design-build cost-competition Lyles undoubtedly would have won, much to the embarrassment of the County and its significantly more expensive predetermined gravity technology, and favored builder, Broomfield, Colo.-based MWH Americas.

New Information

Ripley believes the County has erred by deferring disclosure of liquefaction mitigation measures until after the current redesign by Cambridge, Mass.-headquartered CDM. Important new information in the form of research, reports, images and video of Christchurch, New Zealand’s extensive liquefaction damage to sewer lines, is readily available on the web. “Thousands of Christchurch homes do not have operable sewers and must resort to use of chemical toilets for the foreseeable future,” wrote Ripley.

“Information was provided on the relative performance of PVC and HDPE pipe systems in severe liquefaction events (in Christchurch). The difference between ‘likely thousand of breaks and lesser flaws’ [in PVC pipes] versus ‘not a single instance of damage’ [in HDPE pipes] is largely attributable to the differing material properties of PVC pipe and HDPE pipe… Due to the flexibility of HDPE pipe material, HDPE is inappropriate for gravity collection systems where constant pipe slopes and invert elevations are critical to performance.

“As confirmed by the Christchurch experience, the use of pressure HDPE pipe would fully mitigate the liquefaction risk for the Los Osos sewer collection system,” he wrote. “The additional costs for this mitigation would be zero according to the PER (preliminary environmental report), since costs between the PVC and HDPE alternatives are essentially the same.

“‘The Ripley Plan,’ which includes HDPE pressure collection as a fundamental component represents a cost savings of at least $50 million — on-lot costs included — relative to the gravity system proposed by the applicant…,” he wrote. “The cost savings would be substantially greater if the applicant’s proposed gravity system incorporates ‘hard-fix’ mitigation measures to reduce the liquefaction hazard risks.

“A shutdown of the Los Osos sewer system caused by liquefaction would mean either evacuation or chemical toilets for much of the community very similar to what has transpired this year in Christchurch.”

“The decision here is whether to mitigate or not mitigate the liquefaction hazard,” Ripley told The Rock. “There is no middle ground on whether to mitigate or to not mitigate; I see it as ‘black and white’ since there are no shades of gray on this… The proposed soft fixes are not mitigation of any substance, so hard fixes are the only real means to mitigate. Hard fixes for the gravity collection might include various soil modification schemes for 45 miles of pipeline and 800 manholes which would be cost-prohibitive and likely not perform well anyway in a significant liquefaction event.

“Liquefaction impacts from New Zealand and Japan have jolted geotechnical professionals worldwide, and seismic and liquefaction standards need a re-look for all construction projects moving forward. Add to this fact that the applicant’s liquefaction mitigation measures are limited to soft fixes, which on a $200 million project should be unacceptable knowing what geotechnical and engineering professionals know today since the 2011 quakes.

“The ob
vious solution is to put in a system that can withstand the ground movement and uplift conditions to be expected in liquefiable soils in areas of high seismic activity.”

Click here to read Ripley’s complete letter to the USDA.

Related links:
Ripley Letter to USDA 6-29-11
Christchurch Wastewater System Status 5-26-11
“Blakeslee’s Seismic Contradiction” (The Razor)
“The Liquefaction of Los Osos” (The Rock)

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