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How DGI Got Their Facebook Page Back

Back when I worked in radio, I became a fan of commentator Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story” segments; you could ignore his largely conservative commentary but the “Rest of the Story” segments were simply stories you knew but with pertinent details you did not.

And since we have some members of the Democrats of greater Irvine on a tear over Farrah Khan’s recent vote to appoint a new council member instead of opting for a special election which resulted in verbal attacks on Khan while she was on the dais, let me share details on “The rest of the story” on how the Democrats of Greater Irvine got their Facebook page back.

Both Annie Wright and Jeff LeTourneau, Party vice chairs, announced at a meeting last winter that, with their help, they were able to restore the original Facebook page for the club in which significant funds were spent to get 1.3 million likes and hundreds of members. DGI is a Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) sanctioned political club.

What neither vice chair said was that the page was returned upon threat of litigation against former club board member Michael Fox, the husband of Irvine council member Melissa Fox, over the theft of the club’s Facebook page in 2015 which was created in 2011. The club promote Democratic candidates and Democratic values in Irvine. Melissa Fox is currently a candidate for state assembly in AD-68.

Upon the completion of his term as a club officer, Mr. Fox refused multiple requests from club board members to surrender the page’s password and log-in credentials. Fox was served with a letter from the club’s attorney in December and, in January, deleted the page which he had rebranded as “Irvine Democrats” while also blocking dozens of prominent Democrats from commenting if they disagreed with his wife’s work (if you were against Measure B, you got blocked). After significant negotiation and a minor concession that the club would not use its page to harm his wife’s campaign, Mr. Fox relinquished the page in late February and administrators quickly integrated the make shift page into the original one while unblocking everyone Mr. Fox blocked (a reference to a “digital graveyard in Fox’s backyard” was the joke).

A Facebook page is a digital asset of the club – intellectual property if you will. If Mr. Fox were the club treasurer and refused to turn over the club’s bank accounts, used the funds for personal purposes and them closed the accounts, the police would be involved. The club did not receive an apology from either of the Fox’s for this theft of intellectual property, and, to be honest, it’s not clear how much Mrs. Fox was aware of her husband’s activity.

Here’s a clip from a letter from the lawyer DGI used that was sent to Mr. Fox in December 2018:

“In 2015, your term as an officer came to an end and since then, despite multiple requests from the organization, you have continued to unlawfully retain control of DGI’s Facebook Page. As I’m sure you are aware, upon the expiration of your term of office, you had a legal obligation to surrender any and all organization property. This is the organization’s final demand for the return of such property

While it appears that you changed the name of the group to “Irvine Democrats,” as of the writing of this letter you have not updated the “About” section of the Page, which reads, “Facebook page for The Democrats of Greater Irvine club representing Democrats from Irvine, California.” The Facebook page at issue may be found at: https://www.facebook.com/Irvine-Democrats-112029782240706/.

Based upon a review of recent posts, it appears after you converted the page to “Irvine Democrats” for personal use, you primarily used it to promote your wife, Melissa Fox’s campaigns. Such actions raise additional concerns of campaign finance violations and breach of Democratic Party Rules (county and state) and as DGI is a chartered club, it will seek any possible sanctions with those bodies as well.”

Full disclosure: this is my current business attorney and I funded this effort to restore the club’s page as an in-kind donation to the club.

The letter asked Fox to reply or return the page by year’s end.

Instead, Mr. Fox deleted the page from Facebook, which, as an administrator, only he can retrieve. Mr. Fox had told club officials he would delete the page rather than return it and threatened to have the club’s charter pulled while he was a member of the DPOC’s Executive Board. He was replaced from that position late in 2018 but remains an alternative to the Party’s central Committee.

Members of the club appealed for help from the DPOC and no action was taken by former party chair Fran Sdao. After continued efforts between the Club’s Board and Party officials, Fox agreed to return the page and has been deleted as an administrator.

No sanctions. No reprimand. No censure. Mr. Fox remains an alternate to the DPOC Central Committee. Some people can get away with anything. Mr. Fox should have been admonished for this.  He wasn’t.  Who protects him?

The Facebook page has been back for months and the club’s investment has been preserved.

And John Scott Horner III never commented on this page. 😉

And as Paul Harvey would say, “now you know…the rest of the story.”

 

 

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