By Cal Coast Times staff
A campaign worker for Arroyo Grande Mayor Caren Ray-Russom was found guilty of felony vandalism today for destroying more than $4,000 of city, business, campaign and personal property during the 2018 mayoral campaign.
On Monday morning, Patty Welsh plead no contest to felony charges related to the campaign and a misdemeanor vandalism charge regarding a separate incident. Judge Craig Van Rooyen informed Welsh if she plead no contest he was going to find her guilty.
Judge Rooyen then sentenced Welsh to three years probation and ordered her to attend 50 hours of counseling and pay restitution and fines.
During the mayoral campaign, Welsh worked for the Ray-Russom campaign asking businesses and residents to put up Caren Ray-Russom for mayor signs.
On Oct. 9, Welsh drove around Arroyo Grande tossing Christmas ornaments filled with brown paint at Jim Hill for mayor signs. During her rampage, Welsh also damaged the property of businesses and people who promoted Hill, Ray-Russom’s opponent.
Welsh also plead guilty to misdemeanor vandalism regarding a separate incident in Arroyo Grande.
On May 28, a woman returned to her car which was parked on Pradera Court in front of a side gate to Welsh’s backyard and found her tire had been slashed and a message written on her windshield.
“Thanks for blocking my entrance” the message said.
At a hearing on Feb. 13, Welsh’s attorney Ginger Ortiz asked the court to reduce the felony vandalism charge to a misdemeanor, a request Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle argued against. Judge Van Rooyen then sent a request to probation for their recommendation.
Probation recommended a felony charge for the vandalism related to the campaign, Judge Van Rooyen said.
Prior to the determination, multiple members of the community sent letters to probation detailing allegations of past acts of vandalism, thefts, harassment, and threats.
In 2016, while Welsh was working on the Jim Hill for Mayor campaign, a homeowner spotted Welsh pilfering a city council candidate’s signs. Members of the Hill campaign told Welsh to return the signs, but Welsh refused to comply, and she was removed from the Hill campaign, according to text messages. Welsh then became a vocal opponent of Hill.
In 2017, Welsh accused Hill of Brown Act violations, charges Ray-Russom used to mount an investigation that cost tax payers approximately $100,000.
While the investigators determined Hill had not violated the Brown Act, they found that Hill had shared his government email password with his wife.
In the Nov. 6 election, Ray-Russum won the mayor’s seat with 4,782 votes to Hill’s 4,250 votes