Mayor Brett Lee’s Fundraising for the Davis Vanguard Crosses a Line
Betting on a crash – confronting those speculating on our future

Vanguard and City Council Ethical Challenges Persist

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 7.38.01 PMFour (or Five?) Times the Impropriety, Plus Potential Brown Act Violations

By Roberta Millstein and Colin Walsh

On Thursday, the Davisite published an article, “Mayor Brett Lee’s Fundraising for the Davis Vanguard Crosses a Line.”  Since then, the Vanguard has changed the format of its fundraising event to include four of the five members of the Davis City Council.  But this doesn’t make the event better.  The new format makes it worse – at least four times worse.  Plus, with four City Council members in attendance it will be nearly impossible to avoid Brown Act violations. 

First, let’s consider the changes in format and advertising of the Vanguard fundraiser.  The main change, of course, is from one councilmember attending the fundraiser (Brett Lee) to four councilmembers (Lee together with Gloria Partida, Lucas Frerichs, and Dan Carson) attending.  But the Facebook event page was also changed from saying that Lee would “host” the fundraiser to saying that the fundraiser will “feature” the four councilmembers, with Will Arnold (who is pictured in the photo associated with the event; see above) “unable to attend” while “there in spirit.”  It also states that “Each of the speakers will speak briefly and then take questions.”

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 7.37.41 PM

In his “Premium Newsletter” for people who send at least a $10 monthly donation to the Vanguard, David Greenwald said that these changes were made in response to “pushback” on the original announcement.  Presumably, the origin of that “pushback” was the previously mentioned Davisite article, although we’ll never know for sure since Greenwald refuses to mention the Davisite by name. What we do know is that Mayor Lee was not happy with the original advertising of the event; in response to a citizen query, Mayor Lee stated:

I think David did not accurately describe what I agreed to. I agreed to attend a Vanguard fundraiser and be available for questions. I believe some of my colleagues may attend as well.

I have asked him to update what he posted about the event to more accurately describe the event.

(The Davisite obtained this correspondence from the citizen in question as well as from Mayor Lee).

But it is utterly unclear how these changes are supposed to make things better.

The problem with the previous fundraiser format was not with the word “host” or with the fact that only one councilmember would be in attendance.  The problem was, to quote the previous article, that

Elected officials – especially those who may be running for re-election soon – should not be raising money for purported news outlets, as Mayor Lee is planning on doing for the Vanguard… by fundraising for the Vanguard, Mayor Lee raises the spectre of “pay for play” – that by raising money for the Vanguard, Mayor Lee will receive favorable press from the Vanguard in return.

And the article emphasized, citing relevant sources, that “Just as with standard understandings of conflict of interest, the point is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

The four – really five, since Councilmember Arnold is featured in the event announcement – are all still helping to raise money for the Davis Vanguard.  Thus, the spectre of “pay for play” is now raised for our entire Council.  That’s just a bit too cozy.  We need an independent press that is willing to challenge Council decisions; there is a reason why the press is sometimes called “the fourth estate.”  

The Vanguard and each of the councilmembers are complicit in violating this trust.  The new format is five times worse than the previous one.

Now let’s turn to the potential Brown Act violations.  The Brown Act is meant to ensure that all deliberations of matters in front of the City are publicly noticed, with agendas distributed 72 hours in advance.  That means, for example, that the five councilmembers can’t simply meet up somewhere and discuss issues in private (with a few exceptions for issues such as those regarding personnel, although even these must be properly noticed). Four can’t meet either; neither can three.  Only two councilmembers (less than a majority) can meet without public notice.

But there will be four councilmembers at the Vanguard’s fundraiser.  To be clear, their mere presence there is not a violation of the Brown Act.  The Brown Act does allow the Council majority to attend meetings  that are “open and publicized,” free, open to the public, and held by another organization to a discuss “a matter of local interest.”  However, according to the League of California Cities’ guide to the Brown Act:

The Brown Act permits a majority of a legislative body to attend and speak at an open and publicized meeting conducted by another organization. The Brown Act may nevertheless be violated if a majority discusses, deliberates, or takes action on an item during the meeting of the other organization. There is a fine line between what is permitted and what is not; hence, members should exercise caution when participating in these types of events.

So, there are numerous potential problems here. Does merely creating a Facebook event constitute being “open and publicized”? Does it count as “free” if the event has a “suggested donation” of $25, probably collected by a neighbor sitting at a table in a prominent location?  Citizens will feel pressured to donate to the Vanguard to get the advertised access to Council members.  More troubling, how can the majority avoid discussing an item that is, or is soon likely to be, in front of the City?  Who determines whether the “same” item is being discussed or a different item?  (For example, is discussing the proposed “Mace Ranch Innovation Center” the same as discussing the building of business parks outside the current borders of Davis, or is it different?).  Since the event description states that the Council members will answer questions, how will they avoid answering questions on similar topics, especially given that they will have to make split second judgments about which questions were answered already and how many times?

As the League guide says, there is a fine line here, and it would be extremely easy to step over it.  The members of the City Council are flirting with trouble.  Together with the impropriety of supporting a local press outfit in the first place – an outfit that, as noted in the previous article, has numerous ethical problems of its own – it seems that our councilmembers are not acting wisely.

We previously called on Mayor Lee to withdraw his support of this event to avoid ethical improprieties.  Here we reiterate that call, and now similarly call on the rest of the members of the Davis City Council to ask to be removed from the promotion, advertising, and description of this or any other Vanguard fundraising event.

Comments

Ron

The following statements stand out, in the article above:

"Citizens will feel pressured to donate to the Vanguard to get the advertised access to Council members. More troubling, how can the majority avoid discussing an item that is, or is soon likely to be, in front of the City?"

Why would a payment be suggested to gain relatively rare, informal access to council members? How is this even allowed, and why don't council members recognize the problem?

How many people would even attend the event (and donate to the Vanguard), if the council members weren't featured?

Roberta L. Millstein

Good questions, Ron.

Paul Nicholas Boylan

I specialize in Brown Act compliance issues. I advise public agencies and also represent private citizens who sue public agencies that violate the Brown Act. My most recent published appellate decision involved a successful Brown Act enforcement lawsuit (see Preven v. City of L.A. (2019) 32 Cal. App. 5th 925.)

The Brown Act prohibits legislative bodies of government agencies - like a City Council - from meeting and taking action without proper notice to the public. That means the Davis City Council can meet or appear together at an event without violating the Brown Act so long as they do not take any action/make collective decisions that pertain to the public's business.

This is why legislative bodies of public agencies often appear together in public. They can go to parties at the same time, eat dinner together and go on retreats together - all without violating the Brown Act.

The article above seems to imply that the Davis City Council doesn't know any of this - which is not likely. The City has excellent legal counsel and the members of the council surely know how to avoid violating the Brown Act when they appear together at an event. Brown Act violation concerns before any violation has occur is an example of sensationalist journalism reporting on an invented problem that doesn't really exist.

Roberta L. Millstein

"They can go to parties at the same time, eat dinner together and go on retreats together - all without violating the Brown Act." Yep. The article acknowledges that. That was not our concern.

Rather, our concern is that this specific event, with speeches from each councilmember and Q and A from the audience, would make it easy for anyone, even someone who knows the Brown Act, to cross the line. A wise elected official would avoid situations where that line could be easily crossed or appear to be easily crossed.

I very much resent your accusation of sensationalist journalism. I have a genuine concern that I felt it was important to bring to the community's attention.

Paul Nicholas Boylan

Forgive me, but I still don't see this as a viable concern. Please believe me, I would love to sue the City for Brown Act violations. It pays well when you do it right. The prevailing petitioner in a Brown Act enforcement action is entitled to an attorney fee and court cost award - paid by the offending public agency. In the LA case I referenced in my prior comment the settlement for my fee and cost claim will be $95,000 - a welcomed income contribution.

But it just isn't going to happen here. Despite your concerns, it is fairly easy to avoid violating the Brown Act during events like the one you describe in your article. Any Brown Act violation will be imaginary and will not support an enforcement action. Any concern that people who are well-versed - even wise - in Brown Act operation - could "cross the line" into Brown Act violation territory is illusory.

I am not saying you don't have other legitimate concerns about the event. All I am saying is that fear that any of the Davis City Council members who plan on attending the event you describe will "accidentally" violate the Brown Act shouldn't be among them. It just isn't going to happen.

But if It does, give me a call. Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

Rik Keller

Paul Boylan: first let’s establish whether this event would constitute a “meeting” under State law, and then in subsequent discussion we can talk about the implications of that.

Since there will be remarks made by each of the four City Council members as well as as their participation in a joint Q&A session, what is the argument that this is not a meeting? Presumably they will be hearing and responding to questions and statements related to subjects under their jurisdiction.

CA Government Code 54952.2 states
“(a) As used in this chapter, “meeting” means any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and location, including teleconference location as permitted by Section 54953, to hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”

Paul Nicholas Boylan

I feel compelled to respond to you question, Rik. But I am not happy about it because I cannot get paid for the time it takes to respond. The kind of analysis I am about to provide is the product of 30 years practicing in this area of the law and I make my living providing this kind of advice.

However, there is a greater good achieved by providing you - and anyone else reading this - with insight into the Brown Act so that you understand how it operates and will, consequently, be able to better distinguish between actual - and actionable - Brown Act violations and illusory/de minimis violations.

First, GC 54952.2 states that a gathering of members of the legislative body of a local agency is a meeting regulated by the Brown Act if the purpose of that gathering is "to hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body." That is not the purpose of the gathering. Therefore, the gathering is not regulated by the Brown Act.

Second, even if this is not the case, and the gathering is being held for the dominant purpose of hearing, discussing, deliberating, or taking action on items that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the City Council - which it is not - then there is no violation so long as those gathered do not hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.

Finally, you seem to be arguing that, if someone asks a question about something within the subject matter of the jurisdiction the City Counsel, and those present "hear" the question - i.e., the sound of the question enters the ears of the members of the legislative body present - that a matter has been "heard" and, consequently the Brown Act has been violated.

This is a matter of legislative intent - i.e., what did the California Legislature intend the phrase "to hear" to mean? In my view, based on my knowledge of the Brown Act and the Rules of Statutory Construction, the legislature intended the phrase "to hear" to refer to conducting a hearing and not just the act of listening. That is consistent with every other use of the phrase in the Brown Act. The argument that "to hear" as used in the Brown Act means the same as "to listen" is, frankly, ludicrous.

I'll say it again: this particular Brown Act concern appears to be intended to provoke public interest or excitement at the expense of legal and factual accuracy. I mean no offense, but fanning the flames of concern that those attending the gathering will violate the Brown Act is little different from Donald Trump creating public concern by stating that foreign nationals seeking asylum will commit rape, murder and crimes if allowed to enter the United States. Both are so unlikely to happen that the expressed concern is sensationalist - whether or not sensationalism is the intent that motivates the concerns expressed.

David Bakay

I have a question for Paul Boylan: The league of California Cites quote state that they can not discuss (or deliberate) an issue for the city but you state that they can not take action or make decisions. It seems to me that they could easily discuss and or deliberate issues but not make decisions or take action which would still violate the Brown act. Did I miss something here?
Also, I'm glad that you are not concerned about the possibility of this happening but wish that you would not have inflamed the issue by calling it sensational journalism.

Roberta L. Millstein

Paul Boylan, thanks for your reply. Seems like we disagree about the likelihood that a majority of the Council could (probably inadvertently) end up commenting on the same subject, but agree that there are other legitimate concerns about the event. Can you say more about those other concerns? You've obviously thought about these issues a lot so I'd like to hear your opinion.

Paul Nicholas Boylan

David:

I was cutting corners in my argument and analysis in an attempt to simplify what can be - and, as you've seen is - very complex, arcane stuff. When I focused on taking action I did so because that is the ultimate violation that is subject to the "cure and correct" procedure of Brown Act (see Government Code § 54960.1).

If the legislative body of a local agency takes an action during a meeting that violated the Brown Act, an aggrieved member of the public can demand that the agency "cure and correct" the violation - which usually requires the agency to do it all over again without violating the Act. If the agency does not cure and correct the violation, then the aggrieved citizen can file a lawsuit to invalidate the action taken - a very serious consequence.

Other than the "cease and desist" process described in Government Code § 54960., there is essentially no remedy for any violation of the Act other than taking an action (i.e., conducing a hearing, discuss, deliberate). So I left those out until Rik made a comment that required more specificity.

As my response to Rik's comment covers, an agency cannot meet for the purpose of conducing a hearing, discussing, deliberating OR taking an action upon a matter within the Agency's jurisdiction without complying with Government Code §§ 54954.2, Section 54956, and Section 54956.5 (the only parts of the Brown Act that are enforceable). I didn't intend on implying otherwise.

As for my inflaming the issue by opining that the Davisite's article is an example of sensationalist journalism, that flame was burning before I got here.

I represent journalists and newspapers all over California. Once a year I lecture to journalism students at Stanford. I am not pointing this out to impress you, but to establish that I have an activist academic interest in journalism. Part of that is "speaking truth" to journalists and pointing out journalistic practices that concern me when I see them.

Sensationalism is a type of reporting in which events and topics are overhyped to present biased impressions of events. In my opinion, that is what is happening here: the Davisite's expressed concerns about the risk of a Brown Act violation at the Vanguard fundraiser have clearly been overhyped. As I demonstrated in my comments, there is no factual or legal basis for any concern that anyone at the Vanguard event will violate the Brown Act. The bias that motivated the hype is, in my opinion, the competitive relationship between the Vanguard and the Davisite - which apparently has exists for some time.

Roberta L. Millstein

Paul Boylan, what do you mean about a competitive relationship between the Vanguard and the Davisite? I don't see it that way. Can you elaborate?

And really, the disagreement between you and me comes down to the likelihood of the councilmembers making a mistake and having more than two of them discussing the same issue. That's a judgment call, not a legal one -- and certainly not "hype" or "bias."

Rik Keller

In response to Paul Boylan's comments at 6:39PM : you started discussing this issue on here voluntarily and now you are "not happy" about actually having to discuss it? While you say that you are doing this for the "greater good," your discussion seeks to obfuscate more than enlighten and does not provide the depth of discussion or analysis that, for example, the cited material in the article from the California League of Cities and others does.

#1) the relevant Government Code section states: "As used in this chapter, “meeting” means any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and location, including teleconference location as permitted by Section 54953, to hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”

You claim that since "the purpose" of the event is not to do any of the above, it should not be classified as a meeting. First of all, it should be noted that you tried to slip in the words "the purpose" to the definition when those words are not included in the State code. Clearly, if the event does something that meets the criteria, it does not have to be THE sole purpose of the event in order to cross this threshold.

Be that as it may, let's actually look at what the stated purpose of the event is more closely. In the first iteration of the event posting it was titled: "Davis Fundraiser: Meet Mayor Brett Lee" and included a photo of the mayor. The event description stated that the Mayor "will speak....and then take questions." Subsequently, the event was changed to include four City Councilmembers but the language remained almost identical: "The Vanguard Fundraiser will feature: Davis Mayor Brett Lee, Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida and Councilmembers Lucas Frerichs and Dan Carson, who will speak....and then take questions."

Because a photo of the entire City Council is being used to advertise the event and the event description is all about the City Council's attendance and participation, it seems very clear that the City Council presenting statements as Council members and conducting a question-and-answer session is central to the purpose of the event.

2) You try to dodge the issue further when you focus on the phrase "hear". While you describe your opinion of the legislative intent of the phrase as only meaning a formal hearing based on other occurrences in the text in the Brown Act, it should be noted that the exact word "hear" (as opposed to "hearing") only occurs 4 other times in the roughly 19,000 words in the entire Brown Act text, and your interpretation simply is not supported by the context in which the word is used. Indeed, The League of California Cities document uses conjugations of "to hear" in the more informal sense of "listen" as follows [my emphasis]: "The board member may have violated the Brown Act by HEARING about the positions of other board members...", "...a luncheon gathering in a crowded dining room violates the Brown Act if the public does not have an opportunity to attend, HEAR, or participate in the deliberations of members."

Here is further evidence that your interpretation of the word "hear" is off-base [my emphasis]: "As the Attorney General explains: “This definition makes it clear that the body need not take any action in order for a gathering to be defined as a meeting. A gathering is a meeting if a majority of the members of the body MERELY RECEIVE INFORMATION or discuss their views on an issue....A meeting does not have to be formally announced, agendized, or convened in order to be subject to the Act.” <https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/open-meetings-3/facs-brown-act-primer/brown-act-primer-what-is-a-meeting-2/>

Be that as it may, let's actually look at what the other criteria for a "meeting" are that you ignored. One of these is "discuss". You appear to be taking the position with a straight face that a Q&A session would not involving "discussing". This is ludicrous on its face. Perhaps someone more creative than me can think of an example in which one could hold a Q&A session that wasn't a discussion?

3) You also stated that “The City has excellent legal counsel and the members of the council surely know how to avoid violating the Brown Act when they appear together .” However, given the rapid change in the event listing did Council members even have have time to consult with legal counsel? Did they consult with legal counsel? And did they make a collective decision to attend the event together, or was this a series of individual decisions to do so? Would their discussion--whether coordinated or "serially" via an intermediary like David Greenwald of the Vanguard-- of a collective intent to attend this event in itself constitute a Brown Act violation?

4) Finally, while you did not discuss the ethical problems raised by these actions of the Vanguard and Council, related to this it should be noted that the Council should avoid the appearance of possible Brown Act violations in the first place. The Vanguard stated "Because there will be four members of council - to avoid Brown Act issues, each member will discuss separate topics," so clearly the they knows there is a thin line. It should be noted that the Vanguard did not say how the Council will avoid listening to discussion of issues by other Council members.

Your wrap-up using a clunky analogy with the Trump Administration is yet a further attempt by you to muddy the waters and to throw allegations of "sensationalism" at the Davisite. It is clear from the material cited by the Davisite, and the direct mention of and unconvincing solution to Brown Act issues by the Vanguard itself--as well as your steadfast avoidance of discussing the heart of the issue and your attempts to deflect--demonstrate that the concerns expressed in the article are reasonable and justified.

Ron

Regardless of the Brown Act, I'm still more concerned about being encouraged to "contribute" to the Vanguard, for the opportunity to meet informally with council members.

Along with what the possibility that some might construe the event as implied council support for the Vanguard's political agendas.

Rik Keller

If you want the TLDR version of my comments to Paul...

On one issue (the meaning of the word "hear") Paul's interpretation is not supported by a reading of the Brown Act itself, interpretations of it by such sources as the League of California Cities, nor by the CA Attorney General:

"As the Attorney General explains: “This definition makes it clear that the body need not take any action in order for a gathering to be defined as a meeting. A gathering is a meeting if a majority of the members of the body merely receive information or discuss their views on an issue."<https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/open-meetings-3/facs-brown-act-primer/brown-act-primer-what-is-a-meeting-2/ referencing "The Brown Act, Open Meetings For Local Legislative Bodies, Office of the Attorney General, 2003, at p. 8.

In short, this calls into question Paul's credibility regarding Brown Act requirements and his motivations for posting misinformation here.

Paul Nicholas Boylan

All I attempted to do was provide the insight of an attorney who has been practicing this kind of law for 30 years. If you think that your interpretation of the Brown Act and application of the law to the facts is superior to mine, then hey, that's great, and more power to you. I admire your confidence.

However, I conclude that there is no reasonable chance that anyone will violate the Brown Act at the Vanguard event and any continued concern is unreasonable and unjustified. It might have been reasonable prior to my contribution to the conversation, but it certainly isn't reasonable now. Y'all know better now - whether you are capable of admitting it or not.

And, with that, I'm done commenting on this article. It was fun, but I got way too much work to do. Cognito, ergo sum solvit.

Rik Keller

Paul: you are being purposely misleading again. It is not "my" interpretation of the Brown Act; I quoted the CA Attorney General's and the League of California Cities' opinions that directly contradicts yours.

It's too bad that you won't stick around to address the rest of your misleading comments that I highlighted.

Also, since you have touted yourself as providing advice to journalists ("Part of that is "speaking truth" to journalists and pointing out journalistic practices that concern me when I see them"), I was hoping to hear (as in listen, not as in to conduct a hearing) what sort of advice you would provide the Davis Vanguard regarding some of their unethical practices as outlined in a previous Davisite article. Do any of these "concern" you?

"And it [the Davis Vanguard] has failed to follow the Institute for Non-Profit News’s ethical guidelines by failing to be fully transparent about the funding of its news operations, particularly with respect to advertisements from local developers, calling into question its “editorial independence from all revenue sources to ensure news judgments are made in the interest of the communities they serve as journalists.”

Indeed, those very same ethical guidelines for non-profit newsrooms recommend avoiding “accepting donations from government entities, political parties, elected officials or candidates actively seeking public office.”
<https://www.davisite.org/2019/04/mayor-brett-lees-fundraising-for-the-davis-vanguard-crosses-a-line.html>

Colin Walsh

It is strange to me that Mr. Boylan never revealed that HE IS THE VANGUARD'S ATTORNEY even while going to such lengths to defend the Vanguard's event.

Rik Keller

I was wondering if/when Paul Boylan would ever disclose that he is the attorney for David Greenwald and the Davis Vanguard.

It was truly amusing to watch him bluster about providing comments for “public good” while he was actually proving misdirection. and misinformation to try to defend his client.

The icing on the cake was when he said he would truly LOVE to sue the City Council if there were Brown Act violations involving the Vanguard fundraiser, all the while knowing that there is no way he would take actions materially adverse to the interests of his client.

This shameful incident is just another illustration of the Vabguard’s unethical practices regarding lack of disclosure, and further reason that the City Council should distance itself from any involvement with them.

Rik Keller

Ron said “Regardless of the Brown Act, I'm still more concerned about being encouraged to "contribute" to the Vanguard, for the opportunity to meet informally with council members.

Along with what the possibility that some might construe the event as implied council support for the Vanguard's political agendas.”

This is an important point. It is very rare indeed to be able to have a question-and-answer session with the City Council. The Brown Act forbids the Council from substantive responses to citizen comments/questions for non-agendized topics during its formal meetings. Setting aside for a moment the question of how the Council thinks they can do this at this event without running afoul of the law, this private event raises troubling questions about access.

To the extent that the Council wants to try to do a question-and-answer session outside of its formal meetings, it should be free and open to all citizens. It should not require a donation to an organization. It should not put the Council members in the position of providing support for a newsoutlet that covers them, which could lead to the impression that they are angling for favorable coverage.

Paul Nicholas Boylan

Rik:

You seem to be some kind of conspiracy theorist connecting dots that aren't there and imagining smoking guns that don't exist.

I have represented the Vanguard in the past - and we did some very good work enforcing the Public Records Act. However, I am not representing either the Vanguard or Mr. Greenwald here for any purpose, including any of the ones that you have fabricated. I did not comment here on behalf of Mr. Greenwald or the Vanguard. I didn't talk to him about it first and, as far as I know, he still doesn't know I commented here. There is no icing on the cake you imagine because there is no cake at all.

I don't expect you to believe this, but it is true.

I have not once defended the Vanguard event/gathering - whatever it is called - and was ready to discuss other issues pertaining to the event when you decided you know more about the Brown Act than an attorney who has specialized in its interpretation and application for 30 years. I know very little about the Vanguard event other than what I have read here. I really hoped I could shed some light on something I know very for people who were clearly groping in the dark. My sole motive was to clarify what I presumed were inadvertant misunderstandings of the law.

I don't expect you to believe this, but it is true.

Having represented the Vanguard in the past would not place me in any conflict suing the City for Brown Act violations in the future. If the case has any substance I would be happy to do so even if it means suing a former client - although there is no civil liability against a private person in connection to an alleged Brown Act violation.

I don't expect you to believe this, but it is true.

The misdirection you think you see is imaginary. I said your concerns about a Brown Act violation are baseless - and they are. If you don't want to believe me and resort to cobbling together conspiracy theories to challenge the obvious truth, then it has nothing to do with me. You want to hate the Vanguard for reasons I cannot fathom, but you clearly do and want to continue to do so, and are ready to attack anyone who interferes with your narrative. Your personal hatred creates the bias that motivates overhyped warnings of Brown Act violations that simply don't exist and will never materialize.

I don't expect you to believe this, but it is true.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go. I really do have a job and often must work on weekends. I really don't have time for dealing with [personal insult removed, per Davisite comment policy]. You seem to have an emotional connection to this place (combined with a hatred for the Vanguard and/or Mr. Greenwald) that is increasingly making me uneasy. Best of luck.

Colin Walsh

Paul, I don't think anyone has alleged that you have engaged in any specific conflict of interest here, but I hope you can admit that it looks a little strange for you to have spent so much time and energy posting a defense for the Davis Vanguard without ever mentioning that you have frequently served as the Vanguard's attorney.

As you have made sure to tell us, you certainly have considerable credentials in this area, but at least from my perspective, given your close relationship with the Vanguard and the many ways your opinions seem to differ from other worthy authorities I would certainly need a second opinion before accepting your interpretation.

That said, I am still very interested to read what else you have to say about the event. You hinted earlier that you thought there were "other legitimate concerns about the event," Please elaborate.

Rik Keller

Paul: that's a really long-winded response in which, nevertheless, you did not explain why you failed to disclose your past and ongoing relationship with the Davis Vanguard when commenting on this issue.

In addition to serving as an attorney for both David Greenwald and the Vanguard, you have donated substantial amounts of money to the Vanguard. We know that there is the $1,000 donation you made in a December 2017 fundraiser, but what else? Your ties to the Vanguard clearly extend beyond a mere client-attorney relationship and you did not disclose these either.

Given your earlier and present lack of disclosure, your statements now do not seem credible no matter how many times you throw the phrase "conspiracy theory" around or claim that you are now telling the truth.

You still have not addressed why your interpretations of State law directly CA Attorney General statements. Not have you addressed the ethics of your client, the Davis Vanguard, hosting a fundraiser, that has solicited assistance from the very same politicians that it covers in articles and editorials. This is the whole reason why the guidelines for nonprofit news organizations such as those published by INN cited in the article exist: “accepting donations from government entities, political parties, elected officials or candidates actively seeking public office.” Are you not able to comment on the propriety of this?

It is difficult to imagine a situation would exist where you would be able to get around California State Bar guidelines with respect to your duties to the Davis Vanguard as client in order sue the City for Brown Act violations to stop the Davis Vanguard fundraiser from taking place. Perhaps you can explain further where you see a way around these obligations to your client not to adversely affect their interests:

"A member shall not, without the informed written consent of each client:

(1) Accept representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients potentially conflict; or

(2) Accept or continue representation of more than one client in a matter in which the interests of the clients actually conflict; or

(3) Represent a client in a matter and at the same time in a separate matter accept as a client a person or entity whose interest in the first matter is adverse to the client in the first matter."

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