Lane claims he and other users are still being blocked and cannot leave comments on Kalasho’s Facebook page
By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
October 5, 2018 (El Cajon) -- The peaceful strains of Kumbaya between San Diego activist Mark Lane and El Cajon Councilman Ben Kalasho could be over.
East County Magazine has exclusively learned that Lane’s attorney, Cory M. Briggs, is planning to inform Southern California U.S. District Federal Court Judge Jeffrey T. Miller that Kalasho is continuing to block Lane and others from his Facebook page in spite of a settlement agreement signed last week between Lane and Kalasho that he would stop the practice.
In late July, Lane filed a lawsuit alleging that Kalasho illegally deleted his Facebook posts, based on a late May ruling by a New York Federal Court federal lawsuit barring President Donald J. Trump from deleting public posts and comments to his social media sites. Lane’s enmity towards Kalasho began last year in October when several contestants and others filed suit against him with allegations of sexual harassment and fraud in connection with Kalasho’s annual beauty pageant and his 2016 El Cajon City Council election campaign.
Since then, Lane has used the public comment portion of the city’s council meetings to express his ire towards Kalasho.
In an interview with ECM, Lane said that on the day after Kalasho was served with the lawsuit at the September 11th session of the City Council, without an attorney, Kalasho personally approached Lane’s attorney with an offer to settle the lawsuit.
Lane said that Kalasho attempted to explain to him that he was unable to add him to Kalasho’s Facebook page. “He sent a message to my lawyer making some kind of excuse…how that his `friends’ [quota] was full and that’s why he couldn’t add me and that it was a misunderstanding. He said that he wasn’t actually blocking people at which he asked my lawyer to drop the case,” Lane says.
Lane stated that he communicated with his attorney about how Facebook actually works. “I never asked him to be a friend,” he said of Kalasho “I explained to him that it didn’t matter if I was his `friend’ or not, or whether you are full up with 5000 friends or not. People can still follow you and still see a comment, unless you block them out from doing that,” Lane explained. “I couldn’t even see his pages. I was completely blocked.”
“So, I told him that it wasn’t true or that he is flat out lying,” Lane said.
Lane’s attorney fired back an e-mail to Kalasho saying that the lawsuit was not going to be dismissed. Shortly after that, Kalasho sent an e-mail back to Lane’s attorney saying that he wanted to offer a settlement – that he wanted a confidential settlement and an offer to pay Lane’s lawyer’s fees. The offer was then sent to Lane, who rejected it. “I gave him a list of terms that I would agree to, the lawyer sent them back to Ben. Within half an hour, he responded back that he would agree to the terms,” Lane said.
As part of the agreement, Kalasho continued to deny Lane’s allegations, but did agree to “protect the rights of the Plaintiff and any other members of the public to engage in free expression and to petition government officials.” Kalasho also agreed to permanently refrain from all manner of restricting Lane and all other members of the public from “viewing, commenting on, or otherwise accessing any social media account that pertains in any way to the public’s business or to him as a public official within the preceding 24 months.”
The only exception, in part, would be any comments containing a “concrete threat of physical violence, that predominantly contains profanities, or that was not posted “by a natural person (e.g. by a bot.”).
Kalasho also agreed to pay $1500 to Lane’s law firm, Briggs Law Corporation, as a partial reimbursement of Lane’s legal expenses.
On Thursday of last week, Judge Miller approved the agreement, with the proviso that the court would have jurisdiction to assure that the provisions of the agreement were being followed.
Kalasho delivered a $1500 cashier’s check or money order to attorney’s Cory Briggs’ San Diego office. “The legal fees were higher,” Lane says. The attorney accepted the settlement amount and forgave the rest of Lane’s fees. “I could have gone after him for more money, but my lawsuit wasn’t about that,” he said, but added, “He got off easy, and he is still not abiding the agreement.”
In a San Diego Union-Tribune article published last week about the settlement, Lane is quoted saying, “It’s a win for free speech and for First Amendment rights.” He added, “Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, ‘Are you just being a troublemaker?’ (regarding the suit) and I said ‘No, It’s about the First Amendment.’ I think every person has to be held accountable to following the rules. If you have to force them to follow the rules, then you have to force them to follow the rules.”
Meanwhile, as Kalasho and Lane were working out the details of the settlement, members of the El Cajon City Council, City Manager Graham Mitchell, and City Attorney Morgan Foley were in a holding pattern on making a decision in a closed session last week on whether the city would be in a position to have to pay for Kalasho’s legal fees or if Kalasho would pay them. Kalasho recused himself from last week’s private discussion and was observed leaving the Council’s private chambers as the legal agenda item was being discussed. He did not return for the adjournment of the meeting.
That was one week ago.
Lane informed East County Magazine this Thursday evening that he had received numerous reports that Kalasho is continuing to block Lane and other users from accessing or commenting on his Facebook page.
Whether or not Lane may file a new lawsuit against Kalasho is still up in limbo. “As of now I don’t know if I will. We will follow protocol and file a complaint with the court that he is not abiding by the terms of the settlement.”
Kalasho could be held in contempt of court if he violates the stipulations which could open yet another can of worms for the embattled city councilman.
East County Magazine did not contact Kalasho out of respect to his previous requests not to be contacted for comments on news stories.
A request for a comment about this article has been made to Morgan Foley.
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