Caren Ray campaigner bounces around courthouse in felony vandalism case

Caren Ray with Patty Welsh standing behind her

A campaigner worker for Arroyo Grande Mayor-elect Caren Ray who is charged with felony Vandalism bounced around the San Luis Obispo courthouse Monday morning, twice switching courtrooms, once because of a judge recusing himself because of his political ties to the defendant.

Patty Welsh appeared Monday morning in the courtroom of Judge Ginger Garrett, who reminded the defendant that she is out on $20,000 bail. After Welsh pleaded not guilty, Welsh’s lawyer Ginger Ortiz asked that the case be moved to a different courtroom with a different judge.

The case was then transferred to the courtroom of Judge Matthew Guerrero, a former South County politician. Guerrero promptly recused himself from the case.

In 2017, Welsh spoke at an Arroyo Grand council meeting and accused Mayor Jim Hill of violating the California Brown Act. Guerrero followed Welsh at public comment and told the council to listen to Welsh and launch an investigation into Hill. A months-long controversy ensued, and an investigation found Hill did not violate the Brown Act.

Following Guerrero’s recusal, Welsh’s vandalism case moved to the courtroom of Judge Craig van Rooyen.

Welsh, who has a history of vandalism and stealing political signs, allegedly damaged more than $4,000 of city, business, campaign and personal property during the recent Arroyo Grande mayoral campaign. On Oct. 9, Welsh allegedly drove around Arroyo Grande tossing Christmas ornaments filled with brown paint at Jim Hill for mayor signs. 

Welsh also allegedly damaged the property of businesses and people who promoted Hill, Ray’s opponent. Additionally, witnesses told officers Welsh had threatened to steal Hill’s signs, court records state.

On Nov. 14, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office requested a warrant for Welsh’s arrest for felony vandalism. She is currently out of jail on $20,000 bail.

Earlier this year, Welsh was charged with misdemeanor vandalism over a separate incident in which a woman who parked her car in front of a side gate to Welsh’s backyard found her tire had been slashed and a message was written on her windshield.

“Thanks for blocking my entrance,” the message said. 

Welsh admitted to officers that she was angry because she had to carry items she was taking to her backyard farther because of the parked car. Welsh took credit for the writing on the windshield, but she denied slashing the tire, a claim officers did not believe, according to a police report.

In court, a request was made to combine Welsh’s misdemeanor and felony vandalism cases. It is unclear if the two cases will be combined.