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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.

Stew Jenkins and Kevin Rice
Arroyo Grande mayor Jim Hill’s attorney Stew Jenkins addresses the board with SLO resident Kevin P. Rice giving a thumbs down

Several local residents and outside agitators descended on a South SLO County Sanitation District meeting to support Arroyo Grande’s beleaguered mayor, Jim Hill, condemn everyone who doesn’t support him, and personally attack the law firm investigating him. Oh, the hypocrisy is stunning!

Karen Velie and Stew Jenkins

Clarification: In an earlier version of the post, Stew Jenkins was incorrectly identified as representing Karen Velie in the current defamation case.

Last Saturday, I attended an event organized by the San Luis Obispo chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dubbed “Constitution Day,” the event helped bring the local chapter out of obscurity to educate attendees about the Constitution. In short order, some of the board members were quick to rebuke my presence and make me feel unwelcome. I was interested in volunteering and bringing balance to the ACLU board, but the local chapter was clearly not interested.

Then again, several of the board members are directly involved with CalCoastNews.

The ACLU recognizes that truly defamatory speech is not protected by the First Amendment. Specifically, they recognize libel as an legitimate exception to First Amendment protection. Given that, it’s puzzling and disingenuous to see CalCoastNews being hailed by the local ACLU chapter as a model organization worth fighting for — especially when the website failed to dismiss the lawsuit against them on constitutional grounds.

A few weeks earlier, I received a deposition subpoena from CalCoastNews for a defamation lawsuit that I’m not involved in. According to their lawyer David Vogel, I’m “involved” as a witness. It appears they’re retaliating against me for criticizing them and their defamatory content.

At “Constitution Day,” I introduced myself to attorney Stew Jenkins, who is chair of the ACLU SoCal San Luis Obispo County Chapter and CalCoastNews’ attorney. He refused to shake my hand and called me a “snot.”

Last year, Jenkins sent me a letter (on behalf of CalCoastNews), demanding that I apologize and retract factual statements I made about their current case and their defamatory reporting practices. Jenkins stated that my negative and rhetorical opinions of them would “increase the exposure to liability.”

At the same event, CalCoastNews’ co-publisher Karen Velie was introduced to attendees as the board secretary. According to her short ACLU biography, Velie is described as being a “fearless publisher” and a “tireless advocate for Freedom of the Press.” Velie is also the defendant in the defamation lawsuit. In 2014, the “tireless” free press advocate went after my former employer for my coverage of the lawsuit. She later conspired with my employer to invade my privacy when I wasn’t on company time.

At no point did the local ACLU chapter mention to members or prospective members that an election is taking place to fill open seats on the Board of Directors.

It’s clear the ACLU SoCal San Luis Obispo County Chapter is more interested in promoting CalCoastNews as a pious marketing ploy than protecting the free expression of their critics. This illustrates a perverse mockery of ACLU’s historical brand.