*The following is an editorial provided to Friends for Fullerton’s Future by Former CA Assemblyman and Fullerton resident Chris Norby.*
“City Allows Outdoor Dining in Defiance of State Health Order” blares the front page headline of the Fullerton Observer. The article bemoans the lack of police response in chasing off outdoor diners and closing local restaurants whose only crime is feeding people. Strange sentiments from a “progressive publication”?
California state government is a democracy whose powers are divided among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The “Regional Stay-At-Home Order” referred to by the Observer is the arbitrary edict of one man –Gavin Newsom– that has not been passed by the legislature. The Fullerton Police Department should not enforce it. It should not shut down hundreds of local businesses and throw thousands out of work.
Emergency powers granted the Governor are of limited scope, when there’s no time for legislative action. This pandemic has been with us now for 10 months, yet none of his 58 emergency edicts have been approved by the legislature, which has had plenty of time to act. On December 8, L.A. County Superior Court Judge ruled against that county’s outdoor dining ban, as there was no “risk-benefit analysis” showing any connection with Covid-19 spread. Newsom himself doesn’t think so either, as his crowded unmasked dinner at the French Laundry showed.
There are many places in the world where the police enforce one-man rule. Does the Observer really want Fullerton to be one of them?
–Chris Norby / Fullerton
*This is being published without comment with the only change being to add a link to the mentioned Observer story for reference*
Jesse La Tour over at the Fullerton Observer saw our post and went and asked Ahmad Zahra for a response to the pending charges against him for battery and vandalism. Check out his response:
When asked for a statement from the Observer, Zahra wrote via e-mail, “I deny each and every allegation and am innocent of the charges. I am confident that the truth will come out and expect to be fully exonerated.”
Notice how he doesn’t bother to actually explain anything or offer any defense. This is a typical strategy for politicians who expect you to forget about something while they wheel and deal to make the charges against them disappear down the memoryhole.
The problem here is that this isn’t a he-said/she-said problem – this is an actual arrest by a Fullerton Police Officer and charges filed by the District Attorney.
For Zahra to be innocent of the charges it means that the arresting officer, one Officer Brayley, falsified a police report and the District Attorney filed false charges.
Zahra’s implied allegations are very serious from a sitting Fullerton City Council member and deserve to be investigated. Do we have rogue officers arresting innocent people in Fullerton? Is our District Attorney filing charges which contradict the truth?
We deserve to know.
In the words of Fullerton City Council member Ahmad Zahra himself, as captured by The Fullerton Rag:
“I want you to know that YOUR City, YOUR Chief and YOUR Police Department are committed to accountability, and transparency, and the highest safety standards.”
Let’s see some accountability. Let’s see some transparency. Let’s make sure our officers aren’t arresting innocent people and smearing members of our city. We call on Fullerton PD to release the body camera footage immediately.
In a twist worthy of Pravda, the Fullerton Observer has gone all-in with being an arm of the state. Sharon Kennedy retained a computer expert to help the city in their lawsuit against us, a rival news organization here in the City of Fullerton. That “expert” has now written a declaration for the city in their lawsuit against us evil “hackers”.
Sharon Kennedy’s own contracted “expert” is now working in cahoots with the city. In a terrible look for local journalism Kennedy has literally retained somebody to help the government attack the First Amendment. From his declaration (emphasis added):
“I was retained by the newspaper, Fullerton Observer, to analyze the expert declaration of Matthew Strebe submitted by the City of Fullerton and provide an independent opinion on whether a connection could be made between the City of Fullerton’s Dropbox account and the Defendants associated with Friends for Fullerton’s Future Blog, including named defendants Joshua Ferguson and David Curlee. I reviewed the Declaration of Matthew Strebe, summarizing his forensic analysis of the incident involving the City of Fullerton’s private records.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press came to our aid, as have multiple other outlets. Meanwhile the Observer is the only, I repeat THE ONLY, media outlet to openly support the City in attempting to limit the first amendment to whatever the government wants it to say.
It’s not often you get to see a journalistic outlet try and tank a rival at the behest of government – well, not often outside of Mother #Russia anyways. Yet, here we have the Fullerton Observer helping attack us with “expert” testimony while simultaneously claiming on every article their desire to “Protect local journalism”.
Thankfully while Fullerton Pravda…. I mean the Observer was carrying City Hall’s water we went ahead and found our own expert who concluded the following [Linked HERE]:
“The evidence presented by the City in no way supports any allegation of “unauthorized access” or “exceeding access” of any computer system. The evidence shows that the City itself placed this information on the internet without access control allowing anyone full permission to download the content. The access logs, even if authenticated, do not substantiate, in the absence of other corroborating evidence, that all Tor, VPN, and foreign traffic belongs to the Defendants. Nor is Mr. Ferguson’s use of PureVPN a sufficient or even suggestive data point to implicate guilt.”
This case just keeps getting crazier by the day. I knew Sharon Kennedy and her Observer had issues with this blog but I never expected her to literally contract somebody who then attacks us in court at behest of the city’s ludicrous and defamatory allegations.
I’ve been pretty quiet since the City of Fullerton decided to sue me, David Curlee and this blog. We were under a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) so knowing what I could and could not post was up for legal debate. Yet at the same time the TRO was active, the City Attorney, Kim Barlow, was out in the open calling us hackers and thieves to our friends, neighbors and the world at large. Yay illegal prior restraints in violation of the 1st Amendment.
The basic issue here is that City Hall screwed up and then decided to smear and scapegoat us to cover their own bureaucratic hindquarters.
To this end they hired some experts to bloviate about BS in an attempt to confuse people and obscure the truth about what is actually being alleged against us and City Council bought it hook, line and sinker.
The ink on the City’s Press Release hit-piece was barely dry before The Fullerton Observer uncritically reprinted it and in an effort to attempt cover the story they brought in their own “expert” who copy and pasted the City’s nonsense in order to paint us as hackers and villains with malicious intentions and evil schemes.
But now I’ll tell you what is actually being alleged; The City is alleging that we went to it’s website and clicked links.
All of their preening about VPNs/TOR, link hashes, network security – All Of It – is a smokescreen. Despite the nonsense about needing to delay the lawsuit to secure the city’s network, the city never alleges that the their network was ever breached or hacked.
The real meat and substance of their argument and allegations is that we “exceeded authorized access” and are therefore “thieves” and “hackers” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act.
We allegedly “exceeded access” because they say we went to a link on the city’s own website, a link they themselves claim that they told us about, and allegedly clicked on files and folders they put there for the whole world to see plain as day. The argument is that we should have known better and shouldn’t have clicked on the files they put on the internet at the website they told us about. That is literally their allegations. That’s it.
We’re apparently supposed to have known what a $1Million+/year worth of government employees & lawyers didn’t know – that some files the city put online shouldn’t have been accessible from the city’s own website.
To bypass the obvious First Amendment issues in this lawsuit and to obtain their TRO the city made the claim that we accessed files that contain privileged medical records of police and their families, etc.
This is why they claim to have needed the prior restraint against us publishing data – to mitigate financial risks to the city. But there is no evidence this blog has published any such information made in the city’s grand accusations. Information, mind you, that the City themselves claim to have put on the internet for the entire world to access. By their logic we shouldn’t be allowed to do as journalists what they themselves have already admitted to doing as incompetents.
The City is trying to unring a bell here and blaming those who allegedly heard it instead of admitting they caused the commotion when they bonked their own heads.
Even if what the city alleges is true, that we allegedly went to the city’s own website and clicked links, the liability and financial risks to the city are of their own doing by their own admissions. It is not the responsibility of journalists or even the public to safeguard the city’s corruption and secrecy after the city itself has put it on display for the entire world.
To call the allegation that we went to their website and clicked links “hacking” and “stealing” is absurd. To demand myself, David Curlee, my former co-worker, this blog at large and unnamed Does 1-50 turn over our entire digital lives (phones, computers, hard drives, flash drives, CDs/DVDs, etc) to the city to cure this alleged link clicking is ludicrous on top of the absurd. And frankly it’s insulting and malicious.
Fullerton is rotten to the core when it actively buries misconduct by employees and officers but attacks bloggers & journalists for revealing truths. That our council would vote 5-0 to pursue this lawsuit and then vote 4-1 to continue it says a lot about our supposed leadership.
Thankfully the TRO was stayed by the Appellate Court and we are free to resume publishing. This is going to continue at least until 21 November and we’ll keep you posted as to the status of this ridiculous lawsuit.
Meanwhile I’m now out of a job thanks to this lawsuit while bills and attorney fees stack up. A good friend and all around great guy, Erik Wehn, set up a GoFundMe account and I’ll incur his wrath if I don’t mention it [HERE] so there it is and thank you to all of the people who have supported myself and this blog financially, emotionally and spiritually in these trying times. Sincerely thank you.
I’m glad to see that Woodward and Bernstein over at the Fullerton Observer have decided to deviate from their usual city council puffery in order to run a two–part summary of the Mueller Report. Lord knows not enough people are covering THAT story in the media. It sure shows the local journalist chops at work in the local media to… rehash what the entire global media establishment won’t shut up about.
Normally I wouldn’t take time out of my day to poke fun at the Observer but I need to point something out for the sake of clarity. If you search for the Observer on Google or go to their About Us page they ask for money from people in order to… wait for it:
When we were being threatened by City Hall where was the Observer? They’ve been silent on the whole issue because of course they have been. They likely won’t report on anything critical of the city we’ve published without us identifying our sources but no source info is needed for that Cease and Desist letter and yet still radio silence.
Sadly, as has been the case for far too long, if the Observer isn’t crying about the liberal cause-de-jour they’re spending their column space blowing smoke up the skirts of city bureaucrats and avoiding any issue that might shed light on how things actually function in our local government. It may be a bad look to call one’s staff “journalists” if you function more as a local government PR firm.
Maybe after the city follows up on their anti-First Amendment threats against this blog, and one of our contributors, the Observer will have raised enough money to “protect local journalism” in order to actually write about the issue. But don’t hold your breath.