Author

Aaron Ochs

Browsing

Karen Velie and Stew Jenkins

For nearly a month, a lot of discussion has taken place surrounding District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill’s revelation that he suffers from clinical depression. I touched on the subject a short while ago. Evidently, his critics have weighed in too.

Then I was told San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins wrote an editorial, calling on Hill to resign.

In his editorial, Jenkins questions whether or not Hill actually has depression. He writes that Hill’s actions can be attributed to deception, not depression.

As an example of deception, Jenkins points to a message Hill left on the voicemail of one of his supporters, impersonating his political opponent and allegedly accusing his supporter of being a “Communist, Socialist or maybe a Marxist.” Here’s what Jenkins didn’t mention to readers: Hill explained he was joking. But for Jenkins, lying by omission is not deceptive.

Jenkins then pointed to another example of deception: an allegation by local businesswoman Julie Tizzano, claiming he threatened to withhold county funding for the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County because she was involved and supported his political opponent. An experienced attorney like Jenkins should know to not publish unverified allegations as a statement of fact.

But Jenkins has done that before.

Last year, Jenkins represented CalCoastNews co-founder Karen Velie in her failed bid to file a restraining order against me. The order was based primarily on the lie that I was recruited by Supervisor Hill to harass and stalk her.

In court, Jenkins falsely claimed he had evidence that I was a “clear and present” danger not only to Velie, but also her relatives. The evidence simply wasn’t there.

At one point, as I testified under oath on the witness stand, Jenkins accused me of discussing about tossing bleach in Velie’s daughter’s eyes. Making the false allegation without evidence was bizarre enough. After informing the court that terrorists in Afghanistan throw bleach in women’s eyes, Jenkins did something no lawyer accusing someone else of misbehaving would do.

He spit in my face.

I believe it was intentional. Perhaps it was a salivary salvo made on behalf of his deceptive client.

Afterwards, the judge asked him to take a step back from the witness stand as he was already too close to me.

During closing arguments, Jenkins argued my opinions had “no legitimate purpose” and that I should be barred from expressing them. This is ironic because he remains chair of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that rigorously fights for free speech rights.

Specifically, Jenkins argued my opinions of his client’s mental fitness to run a news site and report accurately was not “legitimate.” Now, Jenkins is delving into a similar discussion about Hill’s mental health.

Does he have a legitimate purpose to express his opinion — as hypocritical and misleading as it may be? Yes.

If leaving a strange voicemail with a supporter merits resignation, should spitting in someone’s face merit disbarment? I believe so.

I’ve seen a number of critics who step up to criticize Hill’s behavior, but none of them are as egregious in their hypocrisy as Stew Jenkins, a man who has no business practicing or interpreting law — a man who should check his own behavior before criticizing someone else’s.

Dear Sponsors,

I want to thank you for not only taking the initiative to sponsor a panel on fake news, but also canceling the panel when you realized the event could no longer provide constructive dialogue.

From the onset, it was clear the Cal Poly College Republicans chose to invite panelists like blogger Bill Whittle and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulus to espouse their derogatory views more than weigh in on “fake news.” They were vastly unqualified to broach the subject. There are many nonpartisan media figures that could’ve discussed fake news, but College Republicans couldn’t come up with any.

According to a statement by College Republicans, they thought Yiannopoulus was “a victim of the fake news media.”

If victims of fake news media are considered qualified panelists, then you should consider me as a future panelist.

One of the event’s sponsors was the Cal Poly Department of Journalism. Oddly enough, a former member of the department’s faculty is an editor of a locally owned and operated fake news site CalCoastNews. For some reason, they also run another news site Cal Coast Times.

Bill Loving is the editor of CalCoastNews and has been during his tenure at Cal Poly when he taught media ethics.

When CalCoastNews was sued for defamation, Loving testified during their trial that as the site’s “gatekeeper,” he believed reporting — which they were being sued over — was accurate.

A unanimous jury disagreed and awarded the plaintiff $1.1 million in damages. Neither Loving nor CalCoastNews apologized for reporting deemed erroneous and defamatory by the court of law.

In light of their guilty verdict, the New Times reported their pattern of publishing defamatory was nothing new, having terrorized grieving families, residents, non-profit organizations and local businesses with accusations that were demonstrably false.

I reported on CalCoastNews’ controversial reporting practices for six years. As a result, their co-owner Karen Velie threatened my former employer and her family, me and my family. One of the threats she made was to write a story in order to humiliate my employer, who was running for Congress at the time. I consider that blackmail.

Since then, Velie published a series of articles and claims about me, falsely accusing me of being a “government troll” paid by a county supervisor, threatening one of her contributors with a firearm; impersonating her online; forgery; personally harassing children and grandchildren of CalCoastNews reporters; “cyber harassment” of CalCoastNews reporters; harassing CalCoastNews advertisers; calling on my followers to personally and physically “harm” her; being somehow involved in placing dead cats on her porch and poisoning her beloved family dog; stalking her at her home; falsely accusing my father of stalking her at her home; that “multiple people” have reported my “stalking” and “cyber harassment” to law enforcement; that I discussed tossing bleach into her daughter’s eyes.

In July last year, Velie attempted to file a restraining order on me after I politely asked her questions about the false allegations she wrote about me. She claimed I physically threatened her and her daughters inside the courthouse where I asked her questions; that I reportedly fled the courthouse with the bailiff chasing me. The bailiff couldn’t recall any of that happening.

The judge found no evidence that I stalked or harassed her, though he admonished me based on her tearful and perjured testimony.

As a result of her allegations, my family and I endured significant mental and physical anguish. I have applied for jobs only for potential employers to turn me down either because of her “reporting” on me or personal retaliation by Velie if she learned I was employed by them. When I found work, I had to keep my professional whereabouts anonymous. I’ve also been the recipient of many harassing messages and death threats from her readers. To this day, I continue to receive harassment from her supporters. Because she discussed purchasing a firearm in her restraining order filing to deal with incidents conjured by her wild imagination, I’ve had numerous conversations with law enforcement about her own behavior.

Recently, Velie filed a lawsuit against the same county supervisor she alleged was paying me to “troll” and falsely claimed I was his “business associate.”

Yes, I know a thing or two about fake news.

Yes, I have spoken up about it and will continue to do so with candor and transparency.

If you are interested in bringing back the idea of a fake news panel, please allow me to participate and set the truth free for my sake and everyone else’s. It’s time to bring integrity back to Cal Poly Journalism Dept. by discussing a fake news site their faculty helped enable.

Best regards,

Aaron Ochs

First Amendment “auditor” Nathianial Thomas Plotner

The City of Morro Bay, specifically their Police Department, was under the microscope last week when a self-described “First Amendment auditor” claimed he was assaulted by the city’s police chief.

The auditor, Nathanial Thomas Plotner (or “Nasty Nathanial” on YouTube), went to Morro Bay to perform an “audit,” which consists of testing the tolerance of law enforcement’s observance of the First Amendment by videotaping around the station. In this case, Plotner recorded footage of officer vehicles entering and leaving the station before entering the lobby. Plotner was ultimately stopped by two officers, one of them being Morro Bay police chief Greg Allen, who asked for his identification. When he refused, Allen reached over to Plotner and the camera fell on its side, indicating he was forced onto the ground and detained.

Here’s footage captured by Plotner:

According to the Morro Bay Police Dept., Chief Allen had concerns about prior incidents involving individuals videotaping the back of police stations for more nefarious purposes. The officer beside him, whose identity was not disclosed, claimed videotaping inside the lobby was a violation of the Penal Code and was a misdemeanor. Under California law, there is no Penal Code violation for recording inside a police station lobby unless legally sensitive conversations are taking place inside.

Plotner and the “auditing” community determined the city failed the audit. The community called for the chief and his accompanying officer to be disciplined, fired and worse.

Following the incident were two live streams by Plotner and a fellow YouTube auditor named “Johnny 5-0.” In one of the streams, Plotner and 5-0 followed an unidentified man throughout Morro Bay after encountering him. For nearly an hour, they followed the man, shined a light in his eyes, blared a siren noise through a small megaphone in his ear, occasionally pushing and verbally taunting him. Ironically, the name of the video indicated they were being stalked. As a result of the video, the unidentified man’s alleged address, phone number and employer contact information was published. On YouTube, Plotner’s followers repeatedly and specifically threatened the man with bodily harm and death in various ways.

The facts are unclear, but at one point, Plotner and 5-0 had an encounter with members of the Morro Bay Chamber. As a result, Plotner’s supporters flooded the chamber with harassing and threatening phone calls, voicemails and emails. On YouTube, some of the chamber’s female employees were identified. They too received threats of physical harm, which included threats of sexual assault. The Chamber later issued a statement to their members, indicating there might be an “auditor” protest on February 10. They urged residents and business owners to ignore and not engage with people who threatened “to wreak havoc, cause traffic jams, leave messes, sit in hotel lobbies and not spend one dime” in Morro Bay.

Though no protest actually happened, the “auditor” movement continues to publish videos on Morro Bay. On Sunday night, more self-described “auditors” appeared to visit the Morro Bay police station.

The “auditor” controversy eventually made its way to the local news. KSBY covered the story on February 10, only to have their reporter Alexa Bertola being threatened for what Plotner’s supporters called “fake news.”

On social media, Facebook pages operated by the City of Morro Bay were flooded with negative, derogatory and threatening comments toward residents, business owners, city employees — anyone who dared to express the slightest skepticism over the auditor’s motives. I personally received harassing comments and threats when I observed that many of the commenters lived outside of the area and asked them unbiased questions. Some were gracious enough to answer my questions civilly while others felt I was somehow infringing on their right to express themselves.

To them, I ask: What about residents’ First Amendment rights? Or do they only apply to you?

But there are plenty of reasons to express skepticism of Plotner’s motives.

Plotner has a criminal record. In 2002, Plotner was charged and convicted for making a death threat against a Pismo Beach police officer. Charges included stalking, attempted extortion and making criminal threats after threatening to kill the officer unless the city paid him $1 million. He was sentenced to four years in prison. After he got out of prison, ten years later, Plotner was hit with a felony arrest for suspicion of violating his parole. After his stint in prison, Plotner re-emerged as a “First Amendment auditor,” showing the community how to properly “audit” law enforcement in training videos. Armed with a history of threatening law enforcement, Plotner arrived at the Morro Bay police station wearing all black military-style clothing. There was plenty of reason for law enforcement to be concerned.

The overwhelming amount of graphic and perverse comments from the “auditing” community adds another layer of concern. Comments calmly questioning the constitutionality of the officers’ actions are completely eclipsed by the movement’s clear intent to harm residents, businesses and law enforcement with no prior infringement of First Amendment rights. Instead of constructively working with law enforcement to increase their tolerance of First Amendment expression, the “auditor” movement engages in a conspiratorial witch-hunt that’s unnecessarily enveloped innocent people.

Sadly, this isn’t a new phenomenon.

In 2014, I reported on CalCoastNews’ peddling of a conspiracy theory claiming that Morro Bay business owners were conspiring with the City to stifle business competition — just as I’ve reported on every other conspiracy theory they’ve peddled throughout the years. The tabloid showed no evidence a conspiracy existed, yet businesses and individuals they identified as conspirators were harassed and threatened. The conspiracy extended into law enforcement, who CCN indicated was involved in unjustifiably red-tagging businesses that we later learned never had the proper permits to operate to begin with. That conspiracy was also fueled by a series of YouTube videos. Interestingly enough, some of Plotner’s supporters on YouTube suggested that CCN would be a more acceptable medium for their ire.

We live in interesting times.

There are plenty of reasons to question authority and our local leadership, but at what cost? Maybe Plotner has a point that he was unlawfully detained. Maybe he does, but why does he and his supporters rely on criminal harassment to get that point across? Why do his supporters feel it’s necessary to terrorize an entire community to get their point across?

Is that truly activism?

It’s not. It’s not activism when our local gadfly Kevin P. Rice does it. If anything, it’s cowardice.

Morro Bay is a lot stronger and unified than people give the city credit for. There may be political disagreements, but above all else, residents care for the city they live in. As a Morro Bay resident, I’m proud to stand with law enforcement, even if they make mistakes. Yes, there should be refresher courses on the First Amendment, but it should never be done at an entire city’s expense; it should never be expressed with acts of terror. If Plotner’s supporters and his fellow “auditors” realized that hate is no substitute for debate, we would be further along in the conversation with results that everyone across the board can agree on.

Until they act like grown-ups, wear a suit instead of military camo, and eliminate the death threats, the “auditors” will be ignored. But if they attempt to carry out any of their threats, we will fight back accordingly.

Depression

On Friday, The Tribune revealed that District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill was going to temporarily step aside from his duties as supervisor to manage depression. This comes on the heels of a recent controversy involving Hill privately telling one of his constituents to “f— off.”

Depression is no excuse for behaving badly, and Hill acknowledged that point, but it should be discussed openly.

Some of Hill’s detractors have a point that his demeanor gets in the way of focusing on issues that matter, and it’s certainly become a distraction. Before the latest controversy arose, I was working on a column addressing a completely different topic. I’m distracted, but now this distraction has taken a life of its own and become painfully real.

For the past four years, there has been a flurry of negative coverage about Supervisor Hill from the hard right. A lot of unsubstantiated allegations were thrown around about him, many of which were personal and targeted people close to him. In fact, the atmosphere revolving around these allegations got so toxic that it expanded to people who supported Hill personally and politically. As many of my readers know, I’ve been repeatedly attacked based on the demonstrably false notion that I’m somehow part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to harass and “shut down” his critics as a “business associate.”

For every negative and accusatory article about him, there are people who’ve repeatedly accused him of mental illness. In fact, they’ve laughed at him for what they perceived was mental illness. They ridiculed and shamed him for something that — we now learn — is a lifelong struggle. This online trolling has gone mainstream and become part of an ongoing conversation on the “Dave Congalton Show.” Congalton, who is obsessed with Hill and his foibles, has laughed at Hill for something millions of Americans experience.

Immediately, my critics will read my words and think, “But you’ve accused one of Hill’s most vocal critics of being mentally unstable. Aren’t you part of the problem?” It’s true. I have, and maybe I am part of the problem. This person has authored over a hundred negative articles about Supervisor Hill, at times accusing him of orchestrating shortcomings in her personal life. Never has she once apologized or acknowledged that she might have a problem. As a result of these articles, Hill — and anyone who supported him in spite of those articles — was harassed and threatened repeatedly, sometimes by her. Many of the allegations featured in her articles were unsubstantiated or were demonstrably false. Hill has apologized for behavior that was clearly inexcusable, but Karen Velie still hasn’t apologized for behavior she was successfully sued for and lost. Yet who does she blame for the lawsuit that an unanimous jury found merit for? You guessed it: Adam Hill.

Politicians should have a thick skin. They’re elected officials. They’re supposed to handle criticism, even when it gets personal. But in a county as small as San Luis Obispo County, rumor and innuendo can be incredibly suffocating even for local officials.

People start treating you a little differently, perhaps with some trepidation. It starts with shifty-eyed looks and inconspicuous whispers. Then people start avoiding you. Rejection becomes a big part of life. For a clinically depressed person to feel rejection, it’s horrifying. You can tell a young person getting bullied through high school that it gets better because they have a chance to graduate and effectively distance themselves, but adults living with depression don’t have that option. Politicians and public figures are no exception. But those with depression all feel the same disconcerting feeling: it stays. It lingers and even thrives if left unchecked. Being the target of false accusations can wear anyone down, but those with depression will have a far tougher time coping.

I would know. I’ve suffered from depression, probably for similar reasons. Unlike Hill, it’s not a lifelong condition for me, but it’s certainly been a part of my life. Fortunately, I’ve been able to overcome it enough to talk about it without being ashamed.

People will think Hill’s personal revelation is somehow an excuse or some public relations-savvy pivot, but we can all agree Hill’s candor about the subject is something that a lot of people can relate to. By having that discussion, we can literally save lives and be a part of the solution. But if we lower ourselves to flinging personal insults and innuendo of someone who knows they have a problem and is seeking help, we’re not part of the solution. It’s time we take a course correction, engage in a robust dialogue on depression and encourage others to do the same.

Women's March
Women’s March 2017 protesters are out in full force (Photo by Annie Hock)

Several of my female friends and colleagues were understandably perplexed when a panel of local men discussed sexual harassment in SLO County as part of the #MeToo movement. Though the #MeToo movement largely focuses on female sexual harassment and assault victims, the panel completely excluded women.

For months, The Tribune‘s Andrew Sheeler has written about Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s handling of Title IX sexual assault complaints. Title IX is a federal law that, in part, serves as a mandate for federally funded universities to investigate and sanction individuals guilty of sexual harassment and misconduct. In the last two fiscal years, Cal Poly received at least 140 Title IX sexual misconduct complaints, yet only 13% of those complaints resulted in sanctions. A vast majority of the complaints were not investigated.

SLO police detective Chad Pfarr was quoted by the New Times last October, stating that several women reporting sexual assaults “conjured up” stories after getting blackout drunk. What made the quote so problematic was that Pfarr is the lead investigator of sexual assaults in SLO.

Cal Poly students organized a #MeToo protest on January 16. Just days later, the Women’s March of San Luis Obispo organized their resistance rally with thousands in attendance. While students and residents came out to show support for victims and raise sexual violence awareness, critics of the movement descended onto social media to offer their opinions. On Facebook, residents — both male and female — described protesters as “loonies on parade,” “nut jobs,” unstable, promiscuous and somehow deserving of sexual misconduct. Their posts were mixed together with edited photos of House Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, featuring distorted faces and exaggerated characteristics.

While comments on social media are often disregarded as inconsequential, some have included criminal threats. Last August, San Luis Obispo resident Daniel Phares was arrested for posting criminal threats against female organizers of a vigil against the racially charged violence and anger in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 45-year-old suspect also had a long history of violent posts targeting the political left, including women. The detective overseeing Phares’ criminal investigation was none other than Mr. Pfarr, who told the New Times that most of his posts did not rise to the level of being criminal.

In January, Phares resurfaced in the public discussion. This time, his mugshot appeared as part of a short film presentation by San Luis Obispo resident Dr. C. Hite. Hite appeared before the SLO County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 23 to attack District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill by comparing him to Phares. She criticized the supervisor for telling female organizers of the Women’s March where to promote their event. On Facebook, Hill wrote to organizers about the “Dave Congalton Show,” a show that repeatedly targeted his wife — a definitive far cry from publishing criminal threats against protest organizers.

Last November, I published an article revealing that several unnamed women are alleging that Congalton sexually harassed them. After sharing the article, Congalton’s supporters criticized his accusers for not stepping forward and decried the piece as baseless innuendo. Some of Congalton’s supporters, who criticized my article, are avid supporters of the #MeToo movement; they previously shared news articles featuring unnamed sexual harassment victims — people who don’t step forward because of fears of retaliation. When Congalton repeatedly uses his public platform to attack women, it’s disingenuous for his supporters to presume that retaliation wouldn’t happen. The fact they pick and choose which unnamed victims they want to believe is counterintuitive and counterproductive to the #MeToo movement as a whole.

Sexual harassment and misconduct cases are largely ignored by the local establishment. While the Women’s March and protesters are doing their best to raise awareness and promote policies to protect women, there’s also a counterculture of sexual misconduct denial, exploitation and shaming that must be addressed. That’s certainly not going to happen with an all-male panel, or a male columnist like myself writing about the marginalization of sexual misconduct in SLO County.

We have to do a lot better than that.

Hate Speech

I watched the Jan. 9 SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting. What I saw was one-sided, hyperbolic and capricious partisanship aimed directly at one left-leaning board member.

On the first item of their meeting agenda, the board voted 3-2 to reappoint District 1 Supervisor John Peschong as chair and District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold as vice-chair. The vote came after public comment overwhelmingly opposed District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill for incoming chair.

Despite Peschong prefacing public comment by requesting no personal attacks from speakers, his fervent base went the opposite direction — and Peschong let them.

Starting off public comment was Los Osos resident Julie Tacker. She was one of the public commenters who opposed Hill’s chairmanship. After listening to Hill’s remarks, she asked, “Where is his responsibility in all of this?” The same question can be asked of Tacker, who was one of the earliest backers of an anonymous Facebook page called “Fire Adam Hill.” Page administrators bragged about spending thousands on an advertising campaign that accused Hill of paying his supporters and critics, including myself, to “troll” his critics. They plastered the faces of private citizens and critics on flyers and called for their arrest while notifying their employers and associations they belonged to.

Tacker called on the board to investigate Hill’s alleged misuse of county resources to “harass private citizens,” though she had no problem with one of her colleagues using county resources to harass me under the faulty guise that I “trolled” for Hill. No irony lost there.

One of the public comment speakers was T. Keith Gurnee, former principal of RRM design group, who used the board to appoint a chair out of merit, not habit. But for Gurnee, old habits die hard. Gurnee developed a reputation for penning critical editorials about Hill, at times openly bragging about his obsession with the supervisor and yearning for a confrontation. When that confrontation came and Hill accused him of having a homoerotic obsession, Gurnee wrote several editorials about that particular incident. I found it disingenuous for Gurnee to portray himself as the mild-mannered, garden variety victim of Hill’s behavior, given his own behavior and conflicts of interest. Gurnee’s wave of critical editorials appeared after Hill voted against one of his development projects in South County.

Following Tacker were several citizens who’ve historically issued politically charged public comment against liberals, progressives and their ideals — or what they assume their ideals are. That’s not to say their criticism against Hill’s behavior is unfounded, but the foundation for their dissent is undoubtedly cradled in partisanship. Many of these speakers promote ideologies, opinions and expressions often touted by President Donald Trump. It’s difficult to reconcile their tacit approval for a president who’s erratic behavior has reduced our country’s standing in the world while they express moral indignation over Hill complaining about the “bloviating foolishness” of a conservative political lobbyist.

Some of the commenters are active, vocal members of the North County Tea Party while others support the legislative agenda of Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business (COLAB). So it was a curious sight to behold when San Luis Obispo resident and CalCoastNews contributor Dr. C. Hite — a self-proclaimed liberal — juxtaposed Hill’s remarks about COLAB’s lobbyist to Chinese anti-censorship protests. It’s definitely a stretch to compare a county supervisor’s critical remarks about a deeply partisan, public figure to a foreign government’s draconian censorship measures, but it’s certainly theatrical if not misguided.

From there, public comment speakers criticized the supervisor for “negative behavior,” but that criticism appears disingenuous when the same speakers took aim at “smoking wreckage of his personal life” or his mental state. Many of the speakers held the supervisor to a higher standard than they hold for themselves. While public officials should be setting the gold standard for decorum, there’s nothing to stop private citizens from striving to meet that standard.

There were speakers who opposed Hill because of his behavior toward women. This is a talking point commonly seen on CalCoastNews/Cal Coast Times, a website co-founded by Karen Velie, a conspiracy theorist who believes Hill is part of an elaborate effort to shut down her “investigative reporting.” Though she’s routinely failed to disclose that she’s suing Hill over her unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, Velie has alleged that Hill’s conduct is rooted in sexism.

To demonstrate this sexism, Velie pointed to Hill using the word “Svengali” to describe Peschong in a social media post, insinuating Hill used that term specifically in a misogynistic context. Velie apparently lifted that portion of her article and the screenshot of Hill’s post from COLAB’s Weekly Update newsletter, which was uploaded one day before she published her piece. On top of the pseudonymous comments she continues to leave on The Tribune, Velie’s obsessive and psychotic bias is well-known.

People should be free to criticize the conduct of people they elected to serve as their representatives, but that criticism should be a teaching moment for them and their own uncivil shortcomings. Prioritizing politics over personal accountability leads to one inevitable conclusion: our public process is being infected with poisonous, hyperpartisan trolling.

Dave Congalton reacting to District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill’s election win (Nov. 8, 2016)

SLO Truth’s December-January pledge is going strong — and our detractors can’t handle it. We’re nearing our fundraising goal. Chip in right now to deliver a strong message: “The truth is here to stay.”

So far, in 2018, we haven’t published a single news article or column, but we’ve already learned some of the people we’ve reported on are continuing to attack our readers. Readers they’ve targeted have either “liked” one of our posts or our page on Facebook.

CalCoastNews’ controversial co-founder Karen Velie and radio show host Dave Congalton have publicly accused our readers of participating in trolling activity by “demean[ing] women that don’t bow down” to someone they falsely assume is backing SLO Truth.

But as their mutual friend Julie Tacker once wrote on CalCoastNews, “‘Liking’ a page on Facebook does not make one part of a group; it merely allows their content to enter your Facebook feed.” Similarly, people who Facebook “like” something on our page or comment on our posts aren’t “trolls” or participating in troll-like behavior. That’s not to say our readers are exempt from criticism for their words and actions, but to personally harass people for reading us is harassment.

At one point, Velie was seen cyber-stalking District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill under an anonymous account her relatives previously used. Velie, who is currently suing Hill, has left a series of disturbing and clearly obsessed messages about him on social media. Some of which were directed at other people:

Truth is Adam Hill lives at the Country Club, has a new Volvo, is seen regularly dining out and posts about his frequent travels on Facebook, all while living alone on $90,000 a year before taxes. If he didn’t inherit any money how does he live his opulent lifestyle?

Adam Hill does not want the chairmanship so that he can help the poor, but so he has more power to threaten those in front of him with issues if they do not give him money. So Hill threatens to demean his fellow board members if they do not vote for him as chair, and he wants the public to believe he is asking on behalf of the poor. Just like Hill marches for women while his wife lives in an apartment across town and he dates a string of women. Hill marches for women while he and his trolls demean women who do not bow down to him.

Mr. Hill, you are a bully and a hypocrite.

Source: The Tribune (1/6/18)

[Redacted], this is another chance for you to attack and bully a women on the board. Adam Hill threatens to disgrace Lynn Compton if she doesn’t vote for him and you try to paint her as the bully. Wow! (This was supposed to be a reply to [Redacted].)

Compton hasn’t attacked anyone on social media or come out against Hill as chair. But the partisan male bullies continue to attack women, primarily Compton because a man who said he will vote lockstep with Hill is vying for Compton’s seat. Meanwhile, your allies are doctoring photos and attempting to show women they don’t agree with as brainless hotheads.

And the chair is not ceremonial, the chair controls the meeting and stops the bullies from lashing out at the public or others. John Peschong is quick to stop bullying and refuses to allow Hill to rant at public speakers he does not agree with. Aside from Hill’s frequent tantrums, the meetings are more professional and shorter.

Hill’s latest threats and juvenile online behaviors make it clear he is unfit for the chair position. Another year with Peschong would be the best choice.

In 2015, Velie emailed the employer of the commenter she’s addressing here and accused him of calling her a “clickwhore” on my Facebook page. An exhaustive search on the page determined the accusation was unfounded. Last May, Velie appeared on the “Dave Congalton” show and accused the commenter and others, who previously commented on my page, of participating in my “group” that demeaned women. Velie was permanently banned from the station after her unhinged appearance.

Source: The Tribune (1/5/18)

Congalton would attack the same commenter:

Why don’t you admit the real reason you don’t like Lynn Compton and John Peschong, [Redacted]? They torpedoed your handpicked replacement when you retired on your fat county government pension and brought in an outsider who would clean up the mess you left because you were too busy trashing people on Internet troll web sites, most likely on company time.

Source: The Tribune (1/5/18)

According to 920 KVEC station management, Congalton was personally reprimanded for allowing Velie to slander the commenter on-air.

Last month, Velie went after District 4 Supervisor candidate Jimmy Paulding for “repeating Hill.” In the same post, Velie once again attacked the same commenter:

Jimmy argues for whatever Supervisor Adam Hill votes for. It is clear he did no research into the housing issue, Jimmy just repeated Hill. 

[…]

A vote for Jimmy is a vote for Hill’s agenda. 

[Redacted], you sir are a sexist man. So you have determined Lynn Compton is not well because she does not agree with your views. It is good you are no longer running [redacted] and able to haras [sic] those you hate.

Source: The Tribune (12/30/17)

In fact, Velie’s pseudonymous harassment of our readers and supporters is nothing new.

Here are the facts.

SLO Truth supports women, including those unfairly and maliciously targeted by fake news extremists. Both Velie and Congalton have plagued the airwaves with misogynistic comments about women’s personal lives, romantic and sexual lives; insulted their personal appearance, their intelligence, and attributes that shouldn’t be publicly ostracized by public features in the media industry.

Velie is mistaken. We’re not criticizing her because she is a woman. We’re criticizing her because she lies about community members, harasses and tries to blackmail critics, abuses the legal process by using the courts to silence dissent and weaponizes fake news to influence our local elections. We’re taking a stand against a dangerous, unstable and influential “reporter” who is unfit to print, and any influential figure who condones her practices.

With your support, SLO Truth will strive to bring the best reporting to the Central Coast when others — who brag about “reporting” the news — haven’t.

Chip in today.

 

Have you donated to our December pledge? If you haven’t yet, check out the following post and chip in. Our fundraising deadline has been extended to January 15, 2018!

Local extremists are on the ropes.

Our coverage and their $1.1 million defamation lawsuit loss has put them in a downward spiral. In their time of desperation, they’ve harassed, threatened and written fake news about our readers in a vain attempt to dissuade people from reading us. Their “investigative reporting” has dried up, their readership sharply declined, and their influence on local government has largely dissolved. Their attempts to censor us, our readers and our content has only made us stronger.

We support the free press, but we also support doing free press right.

That is why we’re going in a new direction. SLO Truth is transitioning to become a news and community platform on the Central Coast. We realized that we need to evolve past the occasional op-ed column to compete in an ever-changing media landscape. During a time when news publications are faced with budget cuts, hiring freezes, advertising decline and seemingly endless revenue loss, we need to reinvent the wheel. We believe we have the right formula, given the right people want us shut down by any means.

We broke a number of stories on social media, which locally went viral.

Earlier this year, we broke the story of financial fraud allegations against Los Osos developer Jeff Edwards being involved in an alleged pyramid scheme. We also investigated the allegations and combed through all the legal documentation. As a result of our coverage on Edwards and his partner Julie Tacker, I was repeatedly and falsely reported to law enforcement by Tacker. According to court documents, Tacker specifically stated she wanted our coverage removed from the Internet.

We also provided detailed, blow-by-blow coverage from the CalCoastNews defamation trial, analyzed the evidence presented by both parties, and investigated explosive allegations. Despite personally being stalked and harassed by Velie, I personally asked their controversial co-founder questions about her unlawful transfer of assets from the plaintiff. In retaliation, Velie took me to court over demonstrably false allegations and lost. She, too, also wanted me to stop writing. Velie continues to make false allegations about us in legal documents.

Recently, we broke news that several unnamed women stepped forward with allegations of verbal and sexual harassment against radio show host Dave Congalton. This is part of an ongoing series, and we’re continuing to speak with alleged victims. Congalton has attacked us repeatedly on-air with the intent to undermine us.

If you chip in for our December pledge, it will further guarantee that we go the extra mile and deliver quality journalism, sharp commentary and breaking news to SLO County residents. With your support, we will grow better, stronger and more adept at supporting our writers.

We will not be silenced.

For the past six years, I’ve been covering the local fake news cabal and their relentless harassment of residents, small business owners, community volunteers and local officials. In an era where investigative journalism is constantly under threat, we need the truth to shine through — now more than ever. In SLO County, what’s happened locally is a clear microcosm of what’s happening nationally.

In 2017, we were reminded that journalism is a beacon of balance that keeps democracy alive. Many national media organizations are under constant assault by the government and their ideological supporters. SLO Truth has also faced political assault — not from government, but from organizations catering to SLO County Board of Supervisors’ hard right-leaning board majority.

As we head into the holiday weekend, I wanted to thank everyone who supported SLO Truth. Your support gave me the strength to personally fight false and troubling allegations against me in court and win. The fake news extremists, who ironically have close ties to the ACLU, tried to criminalize my free speech by abusing the legal system. Sadly, I recently learned that my fight against them is far from over. They attacked my employers, my readers and my family. Nevertheless, I persist.

But SLO Truth has grown beyond my personal struggles. Fueled by the power of social media, SLO Truth is now one of the leading online media in SLO County. It will only grow bigger when more voices join us.

Lately I’ve asked reporters and columnists to be a part of SLO Truth. Many have expressed interest, but in order to bring them on board, we need your help. With your financial support, we can start paying contributors and encourage them to bring truth to power.

Last year, your support helped ignite successful online grassroots campaigns to raise awareness of political extremism. Now we’re making the transition into a robust news and commentary platform. We’re phasing out our political organization to focus more on bringing politically diverse views to the forefront. We’ve also shuttered our news counterpart CURRENT in order to improve the brand we’ve already cultivated with SLO Truth.

By supporting us for our December pledge, we’ll be able to compete on a larger scale with the local media and provide a reliable alternative for the Central Coast.

SLO Truth is ready to evolve, but we need your support. Our stretch goal is $10,000 and we’d like to raise that money by December 31. Interested in pitching in? Hit the big red DONATE button below to get started.