Earlier this week, we were forwarded an MP4 filed named Anonymous Voicemail(1) left for an advertiser in the Irvine Community News & Views to educate the advertiser about the perceived nature of the publication (it starts with a low volume and then gets louder, so stay with it).
The voice message lectures that the publication they are advertising in is “a slate mailer that publishes political hit pieces.” The Irvine Community News & Views did start as a slate mailer; it no longer is one and in America, anyone with a printing press and newsprint can publish a newspaper. The Irvine Community News & Views accepts advertising, has a fantastically helpful calendar of events section, and local sports stories which makes it look exactly like every newspaper I have ever seen. It does publish articles critical of the Republican Irvine City Council majority.
The caller is believed to be Irvine City Council member Christina Shea. Here’s the file and we invite you to listen for yourself. Compare that file and patterns of speech with these YouTube videos of her on the dais on the Irvine City Council: and here at the 6:36 mark: It sure sounds like her to me.
We contacted Shea this afternoon, first to confirm that she has indeed filed to run for re-election to the city council. She confirmed she’s completed form 510 that’s a formality for another run for office. Then we put the call on speaker and played the audio file from our computer for Shea, who could hear just fine a second earlier, and asked her to confirm if the voice was hers.
“I can’t really hear it very well because I am at the gym,” she said neither confirming nor denying that the audio file was her. So we asked if she called any of the Irvine Community News & Views advertisers about the publication.”
“I did call one of them a few months ago to tell them they were advertising in a publication that is registered as a slate mailer with the state of California,” Shea said.
We informed her that the Irvine Community News & Views is no longer a slate mailer and then we asked her why this publication is not allowed to be distributed at Irvine City Hall where the city’s free speech ordinance passed in the 1990s allows publications like OC Weekly to be made available. City Manager Sean Joyce has written Frank Lunding, the publisher and editor of the Irvine Community News & Views that due to the political nature of the publication, it won’t be allowed in the lobby at City Hall. If that’s the case, why is OC Weekly allowed? There’s significant political coverage in that publication. The difference of course is the target of the political criticism.
So it appears the Republican Council majority likes to talk a good game about freedom (First Amendment anyone), except when it comes to criticism of their actions and the direction they are taking the city. OC Weekly’s hit pieces on Larry Agran and Beth Krom are openly shared by Shea, Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway and Mayor Steven Choi in addition to a number of right wing city commissioners as gospel, but a publication that offers a couple articles critical of the City Council majority isn’t allowed? Either allow the Irvine Community News & Views in city hall or take everything out.
But to take the extra effort to make phone calls to advertisers, Shea may be crossing a different line from unethical to civil liability. Shea may be guilty of tortious interference with contracts. From Cornell University Law, this description: At common law, a defendant is liable to pay damages in tort for actions intended to interfere with the plaintiff’s contractual relations with a third party.
In an intentional interference claim, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the elements of the claim rather than on the defendant to prove that its acts were justified. To prevail on the claim, plaintiff must prove four elements: (1) that a valid contract existed, (2) that defendant had knowledge of the contract, (3) that defendant acted intentionally and improperly, and (4) that plaintiff was injured by the defendant’s actions.
Shea admitted to us she called an advertiser, but she was squishy about the MP4 file being her voice. I’m pretty certain that under deposition, Shea would have to plead the Fifth Amendment (her constitutional right against self-incrimination) about whether or not the voice on the answering machine is hers.
Now she’s certain the Irvine Community News & Views isn’t a real newspaper, but she has no problem having Anthony Taylor, her hand-picked lawyer, regurgitate “poll results” from an overtly political poll by Dick Ackerman’s “Irvine Cares” site as the truth.
The bigger issue is the further erosion of the City of Irvine’s leadership when it comes to civil liberties by denying the Irvine Community News & Views its rightful place in city hall. Not everyone in Irvine is delighted with the direction the city is headed. It’s too bad our Republican council members are so sensitive to criticism.