For two years, I secretly wrote and published a book about CalCoastNews called “Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized a Community and Those Who Dared to Fight It.”
The California Second District Appellate Court unanimously declined to reverse the $1.1 million verdict against online blog CalCoastNews. On Jan. 29, the court ruled 3-0 to decline the website’s invitation to reverse a ruling from 2017 in which a unanimous jury awarded licensed hazardous waste transporter Charles Tenborg damages for libel.
With wildfires raging around us in California, San Luis Obispo County is doing relatively well.
I mean, that’s what we’re led to believe.
The San Luis Obispo Chapter of American Civil Liberties Union’s chair made an interesting appearance in the District 4 Supervisor race.
To say the District 4 race is contentious is an understatement.
District 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton is facing 32-year-old challenger Jimmy Paulding in a heated election. Both candidates have hurled allegations about each other that the local media has taken aim at. Recently, the two traded barbs over campaign mailers they sent out about each other. While Paulding held Compton to account over her views on offshore oil drilling, Compton chided an “entitled” Paulding and his father. In her mailer, Compton ridiculed the fact that Paulding’s father transferred title of his father’s house to his son. Out of all the things a candidate to be accused of, having the love and affection from a parent isn’t exactly controversial.
But that isn’t the first time Paulding’s family was attacked in this election.
There is a recurring theme with SLO County politics: Attack your opponent, and demand civil discourse later. Let’s hope readers see through that.
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.
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.
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.
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.