T. Keith Gurnee

I took two wonderful months off from writing columns.

For the most part, it’s been peaceful and quiet. I managed to clear my mind, read the news from a safe distance and focused on doing absolutely nothing except relax. I’ve had a rough couple of years, so it was nice to take a break from the daily drama.

Yet somehow, the drama always finds a way to manifest itself without my protestations.

A county resident, who I won’t mention here, wrote me in October, “The judge ordered you to shut up, so I don’t want to see another word out of you.”

This comment was in reference to a case brought against me by CalCoastNews co-founder Karen Velie In August. Velie requested a civil harassment order against me based on the demonstrably false claim that I stalked, harassed and threatened her at the courthouse when I attempted to ask her questions about the defamation case she lost. Velie’s petition was thrown out, but not before the judge ambiguously admonished me for “inappropriate” posts I made about her behavior and reporting from one to two years ago.

The resident who wrote me that comment was not at the hearing or the ruling, but it was his understanding the judge was ordering me to not write at all.

I figured Velie was telling her readers on the side that the judge barred me from exercising my constitutional rights. That notion is downright bizarre and legally unfounded, but not surprising coming from that camp. I was already being blamed for forcing them to move to a new site (Cal Coast Times), which is ridiculous. I’m still being accused of being part of some elaborate conspiracy to shut them down, which I repeatedly and voluntarily refuted under oath. Yet they’re continuing to raise money for their legal defense based on this debunked conspiracy.

If I received only one comment like that, I’d shrug my shoulders and think nothing of it. Strangely enough, I received several comments like that from CCN readers. Some of the comments I received or was mentioned in were threatening.

In September, I came across a comment from a CCN supporter who posted on their website.

“Nobody has done a better job of local investigative reporting than Cal Coast News and its reporters Karen Velie and Josh Friedman,” the commenter wrote. “Unfortunately, exposing the truth has its consequences. CCN has been an invaluable outlet for the freedom of expression of ideas that go against the bias of mainstream media and it will be sorely missed.”

He concluded, “With the Cal Coast Times, we should all be thankful that Karen and Bill Loving won’t be going away anytime soon, except for people like Adam Hill and Aaron Ochs.”

That comment was from the user “TKG,” which is the acronym for T. Keith Gurnee. I found Gurnee’s comments threatening.

I thought about writing him personally and asking him, “What do you mean when you said I would be ‘going away soon’?” Then I decided not to bother. Besides, if I did, he may write a dozen viewpoints about me and ask me out for dinner. Gurnee penned over a several negative viewpoints about District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, which I found more obsessive than objective in nature.

Earlier this week, I came across two editorials he published: one in Cal Coast Times that lamented Hill’s re-election one year later; that was published on Nov. 5. Two days later, on Nov. 7, another viewpoint of his was published in The Tribune. That’s odd, I thought, having two different viewpoints about the same person in two different publications in one week. He’s either industrious, incorrigible or both.

It’s overkill, but not unexpected from Gurnee, who once wrote in a viewpoint published by the New Times earlier this year, “While I have reluctantly accepted Hill’s election, I will be oscillating as well: alternately between the reality of another term of Hill’s Jersey machine politics and the outright joy that I have four more years to write about him!”

Gurnee previously expressed self-awareness of his obsession.

In a CCN viewpoint published the same month, Gurnee referred to himself as “a writer of many articles about [Hill],” adding, “the bloggers seem to share my opinions that you are the wrong person for the wrong job at the wrong time. Yet too few have opted the stand up to you and be counted.”

But when Hill joked about his homoerotic obsession with him on the SLOSense Facebook page, Gurnee felt compelled to write to the Board of Supervisors, insisting he was straight. I’m not kidding. From there, Hill and Gurnee traded barbs that resulted in the retired urban planner accusing the supervisor of “bashing gays” and demanding that he get counseling. In addition to four articles being posted about the exchange (two on CCN and two on CCT) within a matter of hours — on a website that published over 100 negative articles about Hill and is still trying to sue him for criticizing them — Gurnee appeared on “The Dave Congalton” show to complain about Hill for nearly 30 minutes. Indeed, this is the same show that featured over 60 segments about the supervisor over the past four years; with many of those segments revolving around personal attacks against him and his family.

Yes, I believe public figures should be held to a higher standard of civil discourse, but so should everyone else. Whether the target of vindictive scorn is a public official or a private citizen, it’s difficult for me to accept that people are legitimately outraged — or are entitled to being outraged — when the target of their obsession responds in kind. “We’ll attack you personally, your looks and your family, but if you joke about or criticize our obsession with you, all bets are off! How dare you!” 

Not buying it.

Keith, make better use of your creepy, little obsessive typing fingers and buy yourself a fidget spinner. At least it won’t complain if you use it too much.

Aaron Ochs is a columnist, marketing entrepreneur and founder of SLO Truth. Ochs is also involved in his community as founder of Save Morro Bay (www.savemorrobay.com).