Radio show host Dave Congalton’s hostility has transcended the airwaves as several residents are coming forward with harassment allegations.
This week, residents accused the host of 920 KVEC’s “Hometown Radio” of personally retaliating against them on Facebook after they commented on a post published by District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill.
On Nov. 11, Hill published a Facebook post criticizing Congalton and CalCoastNews co-founder Karen Velie. In the post, Hill blamed Congalton and Velie for emotional trauma they placed on his family as a result of their coverage. The post was the latest in what appears to be ongoing salvo between Hill and the controversial website. The supervisor landed himself in hot water after he criticized CalCoastNews contributor and frequest Hill critic Keith Gurnee in online comments. Hill mocked Gurnee’s obsession with him, which he claimed bordered on a “bad [homosexual] crush.” Gurnee and CalCoastNews accused the supervisor of homophobia. Gurnee later appeared on Congalton’s show to criticize the supervisor for his comments.
Hill’s Facebook post went viral. Most of the online comments in response to his post were in support of the supervisor. Some of the commenters claimed — and spoke to me on the condition of anonymity — that Congalton sent them what they described was “harassing” and threatening private messages. I reviewed some of the messages to confirm their authenticity, but accusers expressed fear of retaliation and asked me not to share. I can confirm Congalton targeted some private citizens with Facebook private messages. I was left with the impression that he was trying to dissuade residents from criticizing him and supporting Hill.
The unnamed accusers were concerned the retaliation would lead to being mentioned on the show. One accuser claimed her employer was recently contacted by Congalton after she commented underneath Hill’s post; as a result, she left her job.
“My family lives in constant fear and dread because of Congalton,” one unnamed source told me.
This type of behavior is nothing new for Congalton. Indeed, it’s part of a pattern of behavior that’s been documented for several years.
In 2013, Congalton and Velie attempted to justify using a domestic violence subject as a primary source for allegations against his victim, which were published exclusively on CalCoastNews. Congalton — who proudly sponsors Stand Strong, a non-profit organization that provides resources for domestic violence victims — invited Velie onto his show to discuss allegations from the ex-boyfriend of Hill’s wife that she stole and used donated gift cards meant for the homeless. Velie stated that she used her ex-boyfriend as a source because “he only hit her once.”
In 2014, Velie accused former New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach of having multiple sexual relations with male staffers in an online comment she posted on CalCoastNews. Congalton reiterated the unsubstantiated allegations on his radio show. Following threats of a defamation lawsuit by Schwellenbach, Congalton was forced to issue a rare correction on his show. After making the correction, Congalton yelled at Schwellenbach, telling her, “Go after the bad guys!”
In October that year, Congalton asked the campaign manager for then-Arroyo Grande mayoral candidate Jim Hill to write a list of names of anyone who “did not stand up” on behalf of the Arroyo Grande Police Officer Association. He then asked him to call into his show and broadcast their names over the air.
In February last year, I reported that two top-level employees working for the corporate offices of El Dorado Broadcasting, the previous owners of KVEC, were concerned about Congalton’s “toxic brand” and reportedly discussed pressing the station to drop him. Velie published an article about my post, called me a “troll” and erroneously claimed I was spreading a rumor about his “impending firing.” As a result of her false and defamatory article, I received death threats from Congalton’s supporters and my readers began receiving private messages from Congalton.
In a comment he published underneath Velie’s article, Congalton wrote, “Several of the people who have “Liked” that page are my friends. I ask them why they support [SLO Truth’s predecessor Cal Coast Fraud] and [Aaron Ochs]. Most of them are clueless about the content and don’t really go there, but they’re supporters of Adam Hill and he apparently invited them to Like the page.”
Later in 2016, Congalton attacked Arroyo Grande councilwoman Kristen Barneich in a nearly hour-long segment after she backed out of appearing on the show. Congalton invited Velie and CalCoastNews contributor Julie Tacker to make a series of allegations about her while trading jokes about her intelligence and personal appearance. A source close to Barneich told me the councilwoman was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the host’s “misogynistic rants.”
In May this year, Congalton was disciplined by station management after he invited Velie onto his show and targeted me, a columnist and private citizen, over claims that I was part of a group that called her and her daughters sexist slurs. Both listed the names of some of my readers, who they claimed “liked” and participated in demeaning attacks against her. Velie was permanently banned by station management as a result of that appearance.
If you’re the recipient of harassment and threats by Dave Congalton, send the correspondence you received to KVEC General Manager Kathy Signorelli at firstname.lastname@example.org. SLO Truth encourages victims to come forward on the record.