Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mike "The Gatto" Gatto Under Fire For Threatening Mayor Sam Blog

Assemblyman Mike "The Gatto" Gatto (D-Silverlake) is satirically parodied to an infamous movie character
renowned for using threats to achieve his desired objectives and thereby silence his critics.

If Mike "The Gato" Gatto, newly elected to the 43rd Assembly District, thought that sending a threatening 'cease and desist' letter to Michael Higby, the operator of Los Angeles' beloved Mayor Sam's Sister City blog, would silence his critics, he is mistaken.

If anything, "The Gatto's" actions have intensified the scrutiny into the reasons why Mayor Sam saw fit to place "The Gatto" under the spotlight of scrutiny that the mainstream media has no time for, often because the voting public cares more about American Idol and Dancing With The Stars.

Founded by Higby in 2005 as an anonymous talking shop where the antics of Los Angeles' elected officials are subjected to scrutiny and often harsh criticism, Mayor Sam is not only an institution but an inspiration to other blogs; just take a look at the 'Links' section to the right side of this post for a list of political commentary blogs that didn't exist before Higby created Mayor Sam. It's a list that is by no means exhaustive, and if any readers wish to add their blogs, please comment with your URL.

If there were some way to track the thousands of daily 'hits' on Mayor Sam, there is little doubt that it would show that virtually every elected official in Los Angeles has one of their staffers check Mayor Sam on a daily basis to see if they've been mentioned, or to find out if their colleagues have been mentioned.

Mayor Sam is the quintessential embodiment of the First Amendment, and in trying to silence Mayor Sam with the threat of costly litigation "The Gatto" has not only shown an immaturity raising doubts as to his suitability for public office, but also perhaps revealing a degree of vanity and sense of self-importance that is belied by his apparent intolerance for criticism.

The old adage "Shot himself in the foot" comes to mind as reports are now surfacing as to whether "The Gatto" actually lives within the Assembly District that he serves. On Thursday, October 28, 2010, The Jennerjahn Report displayed a letter purportedly addressed to the District Attorney's Office calling for an investigation into "The Gatto's" actual place of residence.  This is the same type of allegation that gave rise charges filed against former Assemblyman Richard Alarcon, who is currently a Los Angeles City Councilmember. We remind you that all persons accused of committing crimes are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, either by a jury of their peers or as a result of a plea bargain.

Furthermore, today's Jennerjahn Report questioned a $14,775.50 payment "The Gatto" received in 2002 from Los Angeles City Councilmember Nick Pacheco while "The Gatto" was also serving as a full-time aide to Congressman Brad Sherman.

Equally, the Los Angeles Daily News gave details of "The Gatto's" threatened lawsuit against Mayor Sam, and in the process inevitably regurgitated the accusations of misconduct complained of as "defamatory" by "The Gatto" through his lawyer Steven Joaquin Reyes, of the Kaufman Legal Group.

Reports of "The Gatto's" threat of legal action also attracted comment from AM870 KRLA Talk-Show Host Kevin James, who devoted a considerable portion of his nightly radio show to a critical analysis of the basis of "The Gatto's" threatened lawsuit, as well as a potential defense based on California's anti "SLAPP" laws - laws that impose heavy penalties on those who engage in Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

Although it is fair to say that "The Gatto" has succeeded in silencing Mayor Sam, as Higby has removed all references to "The Gatto" while he considers his legal options, the public might well view the actions of "The Gatto" as bullying, thuggish and wholly inappropriate for an elected official who had hitherto challenged voters to "hold his feet to the fire."

The message to "The Gatto" is a simple one, if you cannot tolerate criticism and valid expressions of free speech, you have no place in public service.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is Assemblyman Mike Gatto Unfit For Public Service?

Newly elected 43rd District Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silverlake) has apparently threatened to sue Los Angeles political blog "Mayor Sam's Sister City" in an attempt to put a halt to criticism and comment about his suitability for holding public office.

The Mayor Sam Blog has been threatened
with a lawsuit by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silverlake)
According to the Glendale News-Press, "an attorney for the lawmaker sent a cease-and-desist letter" to the Mayor Sam Blog "claiming the material was defamatory."

Many might consider Gatto to be a "typical career politician" having previously worked as Political Director and District Director for United States Congressman Brad Sherman and serving in the administrations of three different Los Angeles Mayors, as President of the El Pueblo (Los Angeles Historical Monument Authority) Commission.

Gatto was sworn into office in June 2010, after a bitter race against  a "grass roots" candidate.  But rather than display the maturity and perhaps gravitas one might expect from a State Assemblyman, Gatto has apparently shown a remarkable insecurity over, and intolerance for, any criticism. 

The Mayor Sam Blog has long been a thorn in the side of many elected officials, but none have ever resorted to what looks like "Bully Boy" tactics to silence free speech. Micheal Higby, who operates the Mayor Sam Blog, told the Glendale News-Press that he had received a letter threatening legal action from Gatto's lawyers and had responded by removing "all content related to Mike Gatto as we strategize internally," and "studies his legal options." Higby said. 

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, long the target of Mayor Sam's "snarky, rough-and-tumble" tone, has never complained or expressed any concern, according to Higby. "In fact, they frequently send us information."Higby said. All of which makes one wonder why Gatto, who seeks re-election to a full 4 year term to the State Assembly on November 2, 2010, is so anxious to silence any criticism.

Gatto's actions might seem out of proportion to the questions raised over his suitability for public office, especially in the light of his campaign pledge to voters to "Hold my feet to the fire." Trying to silence criticism rather than defend it, or even ignore it, is troubling and may make people wonder if Gatto has anything to hide?

Higby and the Mayor Sam Blog are not the only targets of Gatto's use of legal action to silence criticism. The Glendale New-Press also reported that Gatto's legal representatives obtained a "stay away" order preventing Peter Musurlian, a Burbank city employee who independently reports and shoots video stories, from being less than 10 yards away from an aide to Assemblyman Mike Gatto after a judge sided with her claims of harassment.

Gatto aide Christine Aghakhani testified that Musurlian, had "threatened" her during a July 24 town hall event at the Glendale Central Public Library. Some of Musurlian's experiences in attempting to report on Gatto can be seen in this video posted on YouTube:

Criticism, comment, aggressive reporting, even insults, are part and parcel of politics, and Gatto's resort to legal action may be seen by many as wholly inappropriate, troubling, and undemocratic.

Los Angeles City Attorney Candidate, David Berger, posted this comment about Gatto's tactics on his FaceBook page:

"This is a free country and the right to free speech is sacrosanct. I may, and often do dislike opinions expressed about me on Mayor Sam, but I will defend to the death, the right of others to criticize me, even insult me. I've been called a "racist," "puppet," "thug," even a "cockney," but I've never once thought of resorting to legal action - especially about the "cockney" thing, because I have nothing to hide."

There's a "comment" section at the end of this post, just as there is on the Mayor Sam Blog, and just as there are on most news sources these days. Mr. Gatto might be better served by responding to criticism, rather than trying to stifle it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Doubts Dog Diaz's "Story"

While Los Angeles  plaintiff's attorney Gloria Allred may have her own problems over her handling of the illegal alien housekeeper case, the rumors continue to spread about the truth about why Nicky Diaz waited a year and 3 months to tell her story.
The Los Angeles Slimes reported on rumors that Meg Whitman's illegal alien former housekeeper Nicky Diaz has a deal to be set up for life as a housekeeper at a villa in the luxury Mexican resort, Puerto Vallarta. The 4,000 square foot villa has a separate 'guest cottage' that can be used as staff accommodations and is said to be owned by a major democrat donor, increasing speculation that the Jerry Brown campaign was involved in the timing of the breaking of "housekeeper-gate" scandal.

Talk show host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Allred last week and sowed the seeds of further doubts, noting that Gloria had "done it again," referring to Allred's last "stunt" during a gubernatorial election when she represented stunt actor Rhonda Miller who claimed that Arnold Schwarzenagger had been a 'groper' many years ago.

As Allred's Groper-gate case was dismissed by the courts after the damage had been done to Schwarzenegger's campaign, many now believe that Diaz's claim of "abuse" and underpayment of wages at $23/hr, will prove equally meritless. "It's deja vu all over again," reported the LA Slimes.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Has Gloria Allred Violated California Rules of Professional Conduct?

Attorney Gloria Allred, left.  (Credit: Irfan Khan, LA Times, September 29, 2010)
She's controversial, she's outspoken, and she's a Democrat. But in her unabashed efforts to help Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown's flagging campaign by publicizing her representation of an illegal immigrant once employed by Brown's opponent, GOP candidate Meg Witman, has Gloria Allred gone too far?

Has Allred crossed the line between acceptable representation of her client and unacceptable violation of California Rules of Professional Conduct, in particular Rule 5-120 governing Trial Publicity?

Rule 5-120, paraphrased, states that:
An attorney shall not make an out of court statement that he or she knows or reasonably should know will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing any trial in the matter.
Click here for the full and exact text of Rule 5-120.

Allred claims to represent Nicky Santillan Diaz, an illegal alien who worked for Meg Whitman as a housekeeper from 2000 until June of 2009, when Diaz confronted Whitman with her undisclosed illegal alien status, and demanded 'help' in becoming legal. Diaz was promptly fired and according to Allred, now claims to have been wrongfully terminated, mistreated and unpaid for hours worked in excess of her 15 hours a week as well as uncompensated for the use of her vehicle in the course of her employment.

Yet the apparent thrust of Allred's seemingly endless media statements seems to be to help fellow democrat Jerry Brown by simply vilifing Whitman. Allred has gone so far as to call Whitman a 'liar' when it comes to having knowledge of the illegal alien status of her housekeeper. Allred has also accused Whitman of hypocrisy over her stance on illegal immigration. Some might believe that Allred has taken the matter far beyond a claim for wrongful dismissal and underpayment, and has abused her position as an attorney to become a campaigner for Jerry Brown.

Attorneys in California are subject to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, and the State Bar of California will investigate, prosecute and discipline attorneys who violate those rules. According to that portion of the State Bar's website on Lawyer Regulation:

"Protecting California's consumers is one of the primary missions of the State Bar of California.  This function is principally carried out through the Attorney Discipline System maintained by the Bar, which takes complaints against attorneys from citizens and other sources, investigates those complaints, and prosecutes attorneys against whom allegations of unethical conduct appear to be justified."

Persons who believe an attorney has gone beyond competent representation and is behaving unacceptably, can register their complaints through the State Bar's Attorney Complaint Hotline (800) 943-9053.