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What's in a name? Athertonians may clash in court

Original post made on May 15, 2012

Definition of Athertonians: residents of Atherton, California. Simple, right? Think again.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 12:00 AM

Comments (33)

Posted by Response from Athertonians, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 15, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Defense of Free Speech by the Athertonians Email List and Group Moderators

Athertonians is a an electronic (email) message group started in 2004 to facilitate communication by and between residents of Atherton. We send residents email on important or time-sensitive matters and events pertaining to our town neighborhoods and community. We are not affiliated with or controlled by any specific town group or Atherton town staff and have always been clear about that. As a resident-run email list that is privately organized and managed by Atherton residents, we owe the existence of this group to the volunteer efforts of its Moderators.

While this email list is moderated to be non-partisan with respect to town issues, we are aware that the town's political climate is extremely unhealthy. Rather than a town council that listens to and openly addresses concerns raised by residents, the council majority (Widmer, McKeithen and Dobbie) has ignored expressions of concerns from both fellow council members (Carlson, Lewis) and residents and suppressed requests by residents and council for opportunities to vet these concerns. This is particularly acute regarding the rather broad-based unhappiness with the proposed Library Project, which is being pushed through, despite much opposition, by council member McKeithen, who is also an author of the plan.

There have been a number of surprisingly aggressive actions taken recently to attack individual residents, council members and even town committees, related to the Library Project. Unfortunately, the lack of a permanent Town Manager, the revolving door of City Attorneys, and a staff that is comprised of nearly all contract temporary consultants, provides little ballast against inappropriate actions taken by entrenched council members.

With this as the backdrop, Athertonians has begun to embrace an additional mission—which is to serve the important rights of Atherton residents to have a channel of truthful and reliable information, to balance town-supported sources deemed unreliable, and to allow residents to air concerns and points of view that are dismissed by their elected representatives. We reserve the right to not send messages deemed misleading or disrespectful, no matter who they are from. Currently, in what seems like a direct effort to counter Athertonians' efforts to inform Atherton residents about what their leadership is doing, council member McKeithen has now threatened the Athertonians group directly with legal action from the town.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court stands behind our right to Freedom of Speech and our ability to use a name reserved for the denizens of a locale, in our case Athertonians, which is distinct from the name used by the town for its infrequent newsletter, "The Athertonian." As such, we have no hesitation in assuring you that we are not discontinuing our use of a name we have held for over 8 years. Furthermore, we will gladly assist those who are discomforted with the type of information that we provide and remove them from the list.

We value informed civil discourse and its benefits to good governance, which this town is currently not enjoying. When facts and opinions get freely shared, this enables people to discuss such information amongst themselves. Thus, we welcome messages from residents towards that aim and we occasionally send alerts ourselves. If we send out information and members have corrections to suggest, we would happily consider such points and issue corrections. We do not claim either to be infallible or to have no opinions.


Posted by Anne McVeigh, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

The behavior of many pro-park supporters but particularly of our elected representatives Ms. McKeithen,Mr. Doobie fits into the catagory of what I
call "The New Mandarins". This phrase describes people in government who for the sake of a particular goal bypass fair government. They do not follow protocol but go to the papers first, they do not notice parties involved, they bypass people in their own administration who should be notified, misrepresent, over control, beat up the Constitution, and try as hard as they can to limit public input. Unfortunately all of these things have occured with the library project. We need a Vote. Please share my letter with everybody. Thanks, Anne Mc Veigh


Posted by An Athertonian, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I truly hope the town does not waste my tax-payer dollars on a losing legal battle....yet again. They have not and cannot trademark the term "Athertonian" just as they cannot win a suit against me for logging my name here as "An Athertonian."

Has the town considered changing the name of their rarely distributed newsletter?

Really, this should not be news. Time and money should not be wasted like this.


Posted by The Town, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Most times when it is reported that "The Town" seeks to do something, it refers to a majority vote of the five council members. On the tape of the meeting, McKeithen is leading the discussion and pushing for legal action against the Yahoo group.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The residents of any community are referred to as Xs as in Athertonians. Romans are people who live in Rome. Athertonians are the people who live in Atherton.The name Athertonians cannot be claimed by the Town as a proprietary property - it does not belong to the Town.
Stanford University, a VERY smart and wise institution, long ago gave up challenging businesses like the Stanford Cleaners, Stanford Motors, etc..

Grow up Town Council - you do NOT own the name Athertonians. You were elected to represent us, not to sue us or to infringe on our right to call ourselves whomever we want.


Posted by Grow Up, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on May 16, 2012 at 12:35 am

Peter,
Just like the Library in the Park without a Town vote, shutting down Athertonians is not supported by the full town council.

Last Fall, Athertonians emailed a survey to its membership. Of those that responded only 25% favored moving the library to the park. A that point some council members instructed staff to research Athertonians@YahooGroups.

"The Athertonian" is edited by a staff that reports to the council. "Athertonians" is not controlled by the council, and allows both sides to express their opinion on topics.

The council majority is set on the library in the park without a town vote. If it means shutting down a blog...that is only a small step.

How the Atherton Council is handling the library in the park, would be a great report for a government class.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Town Attorney ha stated:

"The only interest the Town can have in the site is based on the
concept of common law trademark and whether or not the use of the term
"Athertonian" confuses visitors to the site that it may be an official
arm of the Town of Atherton."

This overlooks the fact that the blog is named the Athertonians - not the Athertonian.

There is not a court in the land that would rule that Athertonians is a proprietary name that belongs to the Town.


Posted by Charles, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on May 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Sounds like a Geico or Aflac commercial. Who will lead the charge for the city's powers that be -- a gecko or a nutty duck?


Posted by Amazed, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm

"Let's go ahead and get started in shutting it down"! Wow. Mr. Dobbie apparently does not just want them to provide a disclaimer or change their name. He thinks he can do with them what he did with the Town Committee that dared to object to his decree that the Library in the park is good idea; shut it down. He has lost all semblance of representing the people of this Town.


Posted by Fred, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Both sides can be seen as Ather-obtuse-ians. With lots of challenging issues to local schools, roads, pedestrian safety, this all seems to be ruffling of feathers from within cages with golden bars.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Both sides can be seen as Ather-obtuse-ians."

There is nothing obtuse about the citizens of Atherton defending their right to call themselves Athertonians. On the other hand the Town really does have many more important issues with which it should be dealing.


Posted by Legal, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm

On the tape of the April meeting, McKeithen and Dobbie are direct to the city attorney to shut down "Athertonians". Dobbie suggests calling a special meeting if needed.


Posted by Cloudy issue, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm

In the absence of any other information, trying to shut down an internet group called Athertonians is ridiculous. No question about it.

But why is the Athertonian group anonymous? Why does the organizer refuse to come forward? This hasn't been reported, but clouds this issue.

The excuse of the organizer is afraid of being personally attacked rings hollow, since she has expressed her opinions in public and on the website of the environmental website she is the organizer of. Yes, the organizer of the Athertonians is same woman who is head of the environmental committee.

This is just kid stuff all the way around. Yes, Atherton should not try to shut the group down. Atherton should not claim the name violates some sort of trademark. It doesn't. But the reason this has gotten out of hand is because the Athertonian internet group is functioning as an anonymous attack group against some of the council members and their actions.

This does NOT make it legally or morally correct to try to shut the group down. But the group and its organizer are down in the same ditch by their own methodology. It's just the Hatfields and the McCoys playing out, and neither side is innocent.


Posted by The Essence, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 17, 2012 at 5:40 am

The difference is one side is an elected body using Government resources (tax dollars and attorneys) to chill the free speech of a body of its residents. Shameful if not downright unconstitutional.


Posted by shutdown, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 17, 2012 at 7:44 am

I agree with The Essence statement above. Dobbie is using his power as a Council member to intimidate and require opposing views be cut off. He may not like what they say but it is dreadfully wrong to instruct the city attorney to "shut them down". It is a misuse of his office. Kathy McKeithen is of the same ilk and Widmer has joined them in ignoring the wishes of most Atherton residents to be able to vote on the library issue. McKeithen has says the issue is far to complicated for residents to understand.
I am thinking it is time to shut her, Dobbie and Widmer DOWN when they are up for re-election.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

If McKeithen said the library issue is too complicated for the voters she is either being disengenuous or she is a fool. I suspect McKeithen is not a fool. Atherton probably has one of the most educated and financially savvy populaces of anywhere in the bay area. If they can't understand the issue, no one can, including the three council members that favor moving the library. I suspect what she is doing now in regards to this issue could wash her out of office in the next election. It sounds like the majority of the normally apathetic voters in Atherton are decidedly not apathetic about this issue. McKeithen, Widmer and Dobbie ought to tread lightly.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Elected public officials who begin acting like Kings and Queens and instruct their courtiers to silence their subjects would be wise to recall the outcome of the French Revolution and the American Revolution.


Posted by Then and Now, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on May 21, 2012 at 9:24 am

In 2000 McKeithen campaigned on Term Limits, Accountability, and Transparency. She defeated the Parcel Tax twice as a referendum on the council at that time.

In 2008 per Smart Voter she campaigned on:
Web Link
Top Priorities if Elected
Prioritize Residents Concerns first
Lead Improvements in Town's Fiscal management, Accountability & Transparency
Ensure we're all Comfortable, Safe and Proud to live in Atherton

In 2012, as she prepares to run for her fourth term, she advises the city attorney to shut down a blog which allows residents to express their concerns on moving the library to the park.
She also announces a new committee to promote a real estate transfer tax.



In November she will be running for her fourth term. In December she


Posted by bob, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Between this and suing facebook, the city attorney will be busy with two things that should not be on an agenda.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please note, Atherton is NOT threatening to sue Facebook. Atherton is only concerned with Menlo Park's failure to properly fulfill its lead agency responsibility.


Posted by Closed Session, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 22, 2012 at 5:07 am

The council went into closed session to discuss the Facebook isssue. The only reason to allow for it to be on closed session would be the threat of legal action.


Posted by shutdown, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 22, 2012 at 7:55 am

Perhaps we could refresh the topic and stay with the thread.It is not about Facebook or Menlo Park but about Dobbie and McKeithen trying to shut down the Athertonians news blog.
Here is the first post again"

Posted by Response from Athertonians, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on May 15, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Defense of Free Speech by the Athertonians Email List and Group Moderators

Athertonians is a an electronic (email) message group started in 2004 to facilitate communication by and between residents of Atherton. We send residents email on important or time-sensitive matters and events pertaining to our town neighborhoods and community. We are not affiliated with or controlled by any specific town group or Atherton town staff and have always been clear about that. As a resident-run email list that is privately organized and managed by Atherton residents, we owe the existence of this group to the volunteer efforts of its Moderators.

While this email list is moderated to be non-partisan with respect to town issues, we are aware that the town's political climate is extremely unhealthy. Rather than a town council that listens to and openly addresses concerns raised by residents, the council majority (Widmer, McKeithen and Dobbie) has ignored expressions of concerns from both fellow council members (Carlson, Lewis) and residents and suppressed requests by residents and council for opportunities to vet these concerns. This is particularly acute regarding the rather broad-based unhappiness with the proposed Library Project, which is being pushed through, despite much opposition, by council member McKeithen, who is also an author of the plan.

There have been a number of surprisingly aggressive actions taken recently to attack individual residents, council members and even town committees, related to the Library Project. Unfortunately, the lack of a permanent Town Manager, the revolving door of City Attorneys, and a staff that is comprised of nearly all contract temporary consultants, provides little ballast against inappropriate actions taken by entrenched council members.

With this as the backdrop, Athertonians has begun to embrace an additional mission—which is to serve the important rights of Atherton residents to have a channel of truthful and reliable information, to balance town-supported sources deemed unreliable, and to allow residents to air concerns and points of view that are dismissed by their elected representatives. We reserve the right to not send messages deemed misleading or disrespectful, no matter who they are from. Currently, in what seems like a direct effort to counter Athertonians' efforts to inform Atherton residents about what their leadership is doing, council member McKeithen has now threatened the Athertonians group directly with legal action from the town.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court stands behind our right to Freedom of Speech and our ability to use a name reserved for the denizens of a locale, in our case Athertonians, which is distinct from the name used by the town for its infrequent newsletter, "The Athertonian." As such, we have no hesitation in assuring you that we are not discontinuing our use of a name we have held for over 8 years. Furthermore, we will gladly assist those who are discomforted with the type of information that we provide and remove them from the list.

We value informed civil discourse and its benefits to good governance, which this town is currently not enjoying. When facts and opinions get freely shared, this enables people to discuss such information amongst themselves. Thus, we welcome messages from residents towards that aim and we occasionally send alerts ourselves. If we send out information and members have corrections to suggest, we would happily consider such points and issue corrections. We do not claim either to be infallible or to have no opinions.


Posted by Cloudy issue, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Actually this topic is also about the "Athertonians" web group. Some questions:

1. Why is it private and not open to any Atherton resident?

2. Why is Valerie Gardner, the organizer, not willing to publicly identify herself as such?


Posted by Priority, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm

The Blog site looks open to anyone to post information about the events of the town or the agendas and votes of the council. Someone just posted about a traffic circle on Alemeda and Atherton Ave.

The response from the Moderators should answer your question:
"There have been a number of surprisingly aggressive actions taken recently to attack individual residents, council members and even town committees, related to the Library Project."

There is one post from last year of McKeithen's letter to the city manager and city attorney:

From: Kathy McKeithen
To: bill conners
Cc: "jdanielson@ci.atherton.ca.us"
Sent: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 2:15 PM
Subject: Fw: [Athertonians] There is an Atherton Council Meeting tonight (at HPP)!

Bill,
It has now been over a week since I put you and John Danielson on notice that the EPC was illegally operating its Town website and its part "ownership" of the Athertonians e-mail list. As you can see from the e-mail below, they continue t do so and are very political about it.
Seeing that nothing has been done despite by requests (and insistence) I am lettign you know that I intend to go to the Grand Jury next week to investigate these matters.

Kathy McKeithen


Then there is McKeithen's Smart Voter of 2008 web site:

Top Priorities if Elected
Prioritize Residents Concerns first
Lead Improvements in Town's Fiscal management, Accountability & Transparency
Ensure we're all Comfortable, Safe and Proud to live in Atherton


There is another San Mateo web site called "TheFetch". It used to be called WatchDog. No one knows who that is. What difference does it make who moderates the Athertonian blog?

McKeithen campaigned on "Tranparency" and "Resident concerns come first". Shutting down a Blog elimates Transparency and a large number of residents have a priority for either no library in the park or want a vote on the issue.

The council just eliminated the General Plan Committee as another way to limit residents expressing their priorities.

The issue was the priority of the residents to have a vote on the library, now it has become shutting down a blog that helps residents organize and express their opinions. Anyone could post a blog on why the library in the park is a good idea.

Over then next twenty years moderators of the blog will come and go, it could be one person or a group of people.

Soon the town will be debating the merits of a Real Estate Transfer Tax the council wants to pass, having the Athertonian Blog will be a help.





Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Town has quite properly capitulated:

CITY COUNCIL STAFF REPORT
TO: HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL
FROM: ASSISTANT CITY ATTORNEY
DATE: June 14, 2012
SUBJECT: Confusion between the "Athertonians" yahoo users group and the
"Athertonian," the Town's official newsletter
RECOMMENDATION:
Staff recommends that Council decide how they wish to proceed regarding a
response to the Athertonians group.
Staff recommends that Council direct staff to amend the Town's newsletter by
adding descriptors to the title, for example "The Athertonian, the Official Newsletter of
the Town of Atherton."
BACKGROUND:
In response to complaints about confusion between a yahoo users' group calling
themselves the "Athertonians" and the Town's official newsletter the "Athertonian," staff
contacted the Athertonians group with a request to meet. The Athertonians refused,
citing a desire to remain anonymous. Assistant City Attorney promised to guarantee
anonymity, but the Athertonians did not respond. Assistant City Attorney contacted the
group a final time explaining the problem regarding resident confusion and asking the
group to consider two possible measures: 1) adopting a better disclaimer on their website
and 2) adding a name to their group to distinguish it from the name of the Town's
newsletter (e.g., "Athertonians Together").
The Athertonians did not respond, instead they released a strongly-worded
statement to the media criticizing Town leadership, specific Council members, and the
political process in the Town. Staff was asked to prepare a letter of response to the
Athertonians for consideration by Council. Attached is a proposed letter to the
Athertonians.
In addition to a response to the Athertonians, staff discussed the possibility of
changing the name of the Town's newsletter to underscore that it is the official source of
Town of Athertoninformation from the Town, for example: "The Athertonian, the Town of Atherton's
Official Newsletter."
FISCAL IMPACT:
There is no fiscal impact.

The Athertonians Yahoo Users' Group
By email to athertonians-owner@yahoogroups.com
June 14, 2012
Dear Athertonians:
The Town of Atherton first reached out to you to address claims of
confusion between your group and the Town's official newsletter, the
Athertonian. Despite a promise of confidentiality from Town staff, you refused to
discuss the issues raised by the Town. As a final attempt, we proposed two
reasonable mitigation measures that would reduce the potential for confusion: 1) a
more visible disclaimer on the Athertonians website, and 2) a small name
modification. Again you never responded to the Town. Instead, you immediately
released a strongly-worded statement to the media containing a barrage of
inaccurate accusations against Town leadership and unfounded and unprofessional
comments directed towards individual council members. Ironically, you took this
action while claiming to be "non-partisan."
While we welcome open discourse on town issues, free speech does not
include the right to knowingly disseminate false statements about the Council in
an effort to undermine their efforts. To the extent that you intentionally spread
lies about the Council, we will not hesitate to take all possible steps to protect the
work we have done on behalf of and for the benefit of all the residents of
Atherton. Although we may disagree on individual issues, we have been and
remain united in our commitment to open communication and a healthy political
process.
Sincerely,
William Widmer, Mayor


Posted by shutdown, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 17, 2012 at 7:42 am

Peter Carpenter says "The Town has quite properly capitulated" I am not so sure Widmer, McKeithen and the members of the ALSC have capitulated as the letter written above is an agenda item on next Wednesday's Council Meeting. I hope the Council has the common sense not to approve it but here are some answers to the ALSC:


Answers to Various Accusations
via Athertonians by noreply@blogger.com (Athertonians Moderator) on 6/16/12

Accusations by Opponents to the Athertonians Email Group

1. Does Athertonians censor opposing views?

Answer: No we don't. We seek to support open communication between residents. However, after a message from Ginny Niles, a member of the ALBSC, was posted last fall containing highly inaccurate and misleading representations about the Library project, we got complaints about approving propaganda that does a disservice to the residents of the town. We elected at that time to reserve the right to not approve messages deemed misleading or untruthful, no matter who they are from.

2. Does Athertonians refuse membership to certain residents?

Answer: Ordinarily, no. However, we do reserve the right to only approve those residents whose interest in being members are in conformance with our purpose for being, which is open and factual communication between residents. When individuals seek membership for the purpose of attacking us or undermining the functioning of the group, we will refuse their memberships.

3. Is the Athertonians refusing to help reduce the possibility of name confusion?

Answer: No, when notified, Athertonians did modify the Athertonians Logo to add more clarification about who we are and our purpose. We are otherwise unable to modify the Yahoogroups website. Because the only possible confusion is between a infrequently published newsletter called "The Athertonian" and our email list and blog, called "Athertonians" we think the issue as well as incidence of actual confusion is rather minor.

4. Athertonians refused to discuss issues of concern to council members with the Assistant City Attorney regarding changing our name, who promised us confidentiality.

Answer: Yes, that is correct. We have been moderating this list for 8 years, in all of which time, we have had no complaints from residents about any confusion about us. Then, to our surprise, we received a brief flurry of hostile messages from people claiming to be confused about us on Thursday, May 3rd and Friday, May 4th. Shortly after that we received the below letter from the Assistant City Attorney, Ms. Jennifer Larson, who wrote "We continue to receive reports of confusion by residents who erroneously believe your Athertonians yahoo group and blog are in some way connected to the Town of Atherton." Ms. Larson knows very well none of those complaining on Thursday (all of whom were affiliated with the ALBSC) were actually confused. Rather, they seemed to be attempting to build a legal case against this group.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Jennifer Larson
To: "athertonians-owner@yahoogroups.com"
Sent: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:01 AM
Subject: Website confusion

Dear Athertonians Moderators:

We continue to receive reports of confusion by residents who erroneously believe your Athertonians yahoo group and blog are in some way connected to the Town of Atherton. As you are likely aware, the Town's newsletter, which has been in existence longer than your yahoo group and which is available online, is named "The Athertonian." A good example of the potential for confusion is that a simple google search for "Athertonian" produces, within the first few results, "Athertonians: Community Notices for Atherton Residents," which is a link to your yahoo user group. It is not difficult to see how an ordinary person could reasonably believe that your group is affiliated with or representing the Town itself. This confusion is particularly problematic where residents have thought that politically-charged statements sent via your yahoo group are being disseminated by the Town, instead of by private individuals.

While we respect your right to create and maintain such an efficient vehicle for neighborhood communication and discussion, it is in all of our best interests to find a way to resolve this growing confusion.

To that end, we propose that you amend your group name to remove the almost complete overlap between "Athertonians" and our official Town newsletter, the "Athertonian." For example, names such as "Atherton Residents" or "Athertonians Together" create more of a distinction between the two unrelated news sources, and indeed would have the ancillary benefit of clarifying your group's purpose. In addition, we feel the disclaimer currently appearing on your home page is obscured by text and should appear more prominently at the top of the page, and perhaps in bold or colored text.

Please understand that we have no interest in preventing political or other discourse between private individuals: We seek only to protect the concerned residents who have been (or will be) confused by the name of your group. We feel that the two aforementioned small changes could be sufficient to meet that goal.

Please respond at your earliest convenience.

Best,
Jennifer Larson
Assistant City Attorney

5. Did Athertonians unsubscribe some members because they hold different opinions?

Answer: Yes, we unsubscribed ten members but not because they hold different opinions. After Ms. Larson sent us a message threatening possible legal action, we recognized that our group was under legal attack by Councilmember McKeithen and her ALBSC committee (who were the same folks who claimed name "confusion" above) presumably because of our interest in making sure residents get accurate information about their EIR rights and the controversial library project. Since they were attacking us and our very purpose, we felt that they no longer should enjoy the privilege of having membership in our group — which entitles members to have facilitated communication with the town. We then unsubscribed members of the ALBSC and refused a membership request from Mr. McKeithen for obvious reasons. This is something we've never done before to any member. However, given that the ALBSC has access to a reserve of nearly $6 million available for their purposes (plus the small fact that they opted not to use the Athertonians list to provide outreach for any of their library meetings, when doing so might have helped inform more residents of the town), we felt justified in removing them from the list.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 17, 2012 at 8:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I take encouragement from the fact that " staff discussed the possibility of
changing the name of the Town's newsletter to underscore that it is the official source of
Town of Athertoninformation from the Town, for example: "The Athertonian, the Town of Atherton's Official Newsletter."


I also believe that the council totally misunderstands our Constitutionally protected right of free speech if the council believes that "free speech does not include the right to knowingly disseminate false statements about the Council in an effort to undermine their efforts." It was concern exactly for that type of free speech that the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment. One person's false statement is another's truth and it is not for government to decide which version of the truth should be printed and which version banned.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:22 am

Methinks Widmer needs to retake his college civics class as he clearly has a poor understanding of the constitution and the first amendment.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It should also be noted that it is almost impossible to libel or defame a public figure in California.

1 -"A public figure cannot sue for libel or slander unless the defendant made the
defamatory statement with malice."
2 -" California's Free Speech Clause in the California Constitution and the California Supreme Court has held that the State Constitution is broader
and more protective of free speech than the Federal Constitution.

"CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS


SEC. 2. (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or
her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of
this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or
press.
(b) A publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with
or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical
publication, or by a press association or wire service, or any person
who has been so connected or employed, shall not be adjudged in
contempt by a judicial, legislative, or administrative body, or any
other body having the power to issue subpoenas, for refusing to
disclose the source of any information procured while so connected or
employed for publication in a newspaper, magazine or other
periodical publication, or for refusing to disclose any unpublished
information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or
processing of information for communication to the public.
Nor shall a radio or television news reporter or other person
connected with or employed by a radio or television station, or any
person who has been so connected or employed, be so adjudged in
contempt for refusing to disclose the source of any information
procured while so connected or employed for news or news commentary
purposes on radio or television, or for refusing to disclose any
unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving
or processing of information for communication to the public.
As used in this subdivision, "unpublished information" includes
information not disseminated to the public by the person from whom
disclosure is sought, whether or not related information has been
disseminated and includes, but is not limited to, all notes,
outtakes, photographs, tapes or other data of whatever sort not
itself disseminated to the public through a medium of communication,
whether or not published information based upon or related to such
material has been disseminated."


3 - California Civil Code 47. Under subdivision (b) of Civil Code 47, statements
made in the course of a judicial proceeding or any other official proceeding, such
as the meeting of a school board, are absolutely privileged. Statements in these
proceedings cannot constitute defamation, since libel and slander are defined as
"unprivileged" statements (Civil Code 45, 46).


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm

How interesting Peter Carpenter is mentioning the standard for libeling a public official. The new website that contains libelous information about Kathy McKeithen meets this standard. Valerie Gardner, Charles Marsala and perhaps an Atherton police officer are about to get sued over this. Then "Athertonians may clash in court" will really come true.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 17, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The cited comments will never meet the standard required in California for libel of a public official.

You will look long and hard for a successful libel suit by a California public official.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Not really. Former SF Mayor Joseph Alioto successfully sued for libel under this standard. The standard for a public official is that the libelous statements were made with a knowing or reckless disregard for the truth. Some of the statements in that website clearly meet that standard. I agree most are opinion and do not. Interesting that you are defending a website that consists of anonymous attacks.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I don't think Mr. Carpenter is defending the website. He is defending free speech.

The speech you agree with needs no protection. It's the speech you disagree with that requires it.


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