Mayor Garcia Allegedly Hid Critical Comments On His Facebook Pages Says Non-Profit (That Urges No-Kill Animal Shelter Practices) In Complaint Letter Citing Alleged Examples, Seeks L.A. County District Attorney Investigation Into Whether Garcia Tried To Put Unconstitutional (First Amendment) Restrictions On Public Comments Critical Of His Policies
|(Aug. 10, 2018, 7:30 p.m.) -- Mayor Robert Garcia allegedly hid critical public comments made to his Facebook Mayoral page and his "public figure" page according to a nine page complaint letter (with screen saves) plus over 100 pages of attachments, sent to the L.A. County District Attorney's office in requesting an investigation into whether Garcia "attempted to place unconstitutional restrictions on members of the public as to their First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition their government for a redress of grievances."
The Aug. 6 complaint letter -- visible here (9 pages without attachments) and visible here (115 pages with attachments) was submitted by the "No Kill Advocacy Center," an Oakland-based non-profit that supports "No Kill Equation" animal shelter practices. It alleges that "Mayor Garcia appears to have hidden social media posts by people who express opinions that differ from his Administration's positions on issues affecting municipal services; specifically, the need to reform the Long Beach Animal Care Services animal shelter. If that is the case, we believe the Mayor is engaging in viewpoint discrimination in violation of both the First Amendment and federal law, 42 U.S. Code Sec. 1983."
The complaint letter acknowledges that the allegedly hidden comments still remain visible to the commenting party and to his/her Facebook "Friends"...but argues that this "is more damaging to a person's right to free speech than simply blocking them or deleting their comments because the person is not always aware of the infringement of his or her free speech. When an individual's comment has been hidden, he or she is not notified that it has been hidden..."
The "No Kill Advocacy Center's" Director, Nathan Winograd, is a Stanford Law School graduate and a former criminal prosecutor and attorney...and the legal issues raised by the complaint letter -- alleging violation of the public's 1st Amendment and statutory rights on social network pages operated by a government official -- could apply in other contexts beyond animal shelter issues.
[Scroll down for further.]
In what may be a particularly galling legal citation for Mayor Garcia [a persistent critic of President Trump], Mr. Winograd cites a recent court ruling in a case brought against President Trump for blocking the plaintiffs (a group of Twitter users) from commenting on Trump's Twitter account. In that case, the trial court judge concluded that public officials may not block users from commenting on their social media accounts because doing so "based on their [the commenters'] political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment." (Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Donald J. Trump .)
[LBREPORT.com comment: The trial court judge concluded that the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account is "a presidential account as opposed to a personal account", and blocking people from it violates their rights to participate in a "designated public forum". Judge Naomi Buchwald said the case required the court to consider "whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, 'block' a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no."]
In the complaint letter, Mr. Winograd writes in pertinent part:
Factual Basis for Complaint
LBREPORT.com requested comment/response to the complaint letter from Mayor Garcia's Chief of Staff and Garcia personally (via his personal email address); we received an automated response from Chief of Staff Mark Taylor indicating that for a period of time his response to emails may be delayed; the Mayor hasn't responded as of 6:25 p.m.
Since April 2012, "No Kill Long Beach" (former name "Stayin' Alive Long Beach") has urged LB city officials to implement the No Kill Equation. The group was impressed by Mayor Garcia's stated commitment to animals and endorsed his election in 2014, but has since turned sharply critical of his record as Mayor.
On its Facebook page, No Kill Long Beach comments on the "No Kill Advocacy Center" complaint letter's allegations in pertinent part:
[No Kill Long Beach Facebook text] When a public official HIDES the comments of the public, that is a clear attempt to deprive people of the ability engage in a right GUARANTEED to them by our Constitution -- the right to free speech. This wrongs the people who have trust in their government and betrays the animals, and the fact that it was done before an election is even more egregious.
No Kill Long Beach Founder/Director Patricia Turner, Ph.D said in an August 10 email to LBREPORT.com that the "No Kill Advocacy Center's" complaint letter indicates that critical comments from people with ties to rescue groups other than No Kill Long Beach were also allegedly hidden by Garcia.
Mayor Garcia and shelter management have cited fewer euthanasias over a period of several years and more adoptions, but No Kill Long Beach says the City-run shelter's adoption rate remains below what other cities accomplish. As separately reported by LBREPORT.com, the FY19 city management proposed/Mayor recommended budget (released July 31) includes an additional Animal Shelter employee tasked to promote adoptions.
[Aug 10 8:30 p.m., Aug. 10: Text added (in addition to previously quoted complaint letter text) noting that comments allegedly hidden remain visible to the commenting party and his/her Facebook "Friends."
Aug. 13, 6:28 p.m., 115 page filing with attachments uploaded and added to text.]
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