A defamation lawsuit against the Palo Alto Weekly and parent company Embarcadero Media by an unsuccessful 2018 candidate for Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education has been rejected by the California Court of Appeal.
The Sixth Appellate Court's three-judge panel, which issued its decision on Jan. 5, upheld a July 2020 decision by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni granting Embarcadero Media's motion to dismiss the case. Both decisions found Christopher Boyd did not present any admissible evidence to support his claims that the Weekly's reporting was false or that the paper acted with actual malice, the legal standard for a public figure to prevail in a defamation case.
Representing himself, Boyd filed his lawsuit in November 2019, a year after the election in which he finished in last place with 370 votes. The suit claimed defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of mental and personal injury through "unlawful profiling" by the paper of certain candidates. The paper had published articles and an editorial that called into question Boyd's claims that an educational foundation he said he spearheaded was a legally established California and tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity.
As a candidate for school board, Boyd came under investigation by the paper after research conducted in preparation for an interview found no incorporation, tax or other records for Insted, the organization Boyd said he directed. Insted's website described it as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity operating an experimental after-school program using Stanford University post-doctoral students to teach courses in chemistry, robotics and astrophysics to elementary and middle school students.
But there was no evidence that Insted existed as a legal entity, according to court documents.
There also were no public records showing that the Institute of Education Management, an entity that Boyd claimed was the umbrella organization or fiscal sponsor for Insted, existed as a legal entity, Publisher Bill Johnson said in his court declaration.
Boyd subsequently provided the paper with a tax identification number for the Institute of Environmental Management, a third entity with an entirely different mission based on biofuels technology and reduction of solid waste, the paper noted.
The paper found state tax and business filings for the environmental organization and reporter Elena Kadvany contacted the group's listed CEO, who "disclaimed any association" with Boyd and wrote in an email he "was never authorized to represent himself as having worked for or (having been) affiliated or involved with the Institute for Environmental Management."
Johnson notified Boyd that the issue of possible misrepresentation was relevant to his candidacy on the school board. Unless Boyd was able to answer the questions posed by the paper, it would withdraw its invitation to him for the newspaper's school board candidate forum that fall. Boyd didn't respond.
The appeal court found that the paper had done its due diligence in its pre-publication investigations. It also affirmed the rulings of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, which found Embarcadero and the Weekly had acted within the scope of a protected activity — news reporting on an election candidate.
— Sue Dremann
East Palo Alto taps Portola Valley official as new city manager
The next city manager of East Palo Alto is coming home.
Melvin Gaines, an East Palo Alto native who has served as assistant town manager of Portola Valley for the last two years, has been tapped to become East Palo Alto's next city manager.
The offer of employment is contingent upon the East Palo Alto City Council's approval of an employment agreement, which will be considered at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Gaines was selected after an extensive recruitment and selection process involving community members, local city managers, city staff, and the City Council.
Gaines has more than a decade of managerial and executive experience with Bay Area governments and agencies. Before his tenure with Portola Valley, he was principal management analyst in the Mountain View city manager's office. From 2011 to 2016, Gaines was employed by East Palo Alto, serving in management roles in the city manager's office, police department, and community and economic development department.
"I am honored to be appointed as the city manager of East Palo Alto, my hometown," Gaines said. "I am truly grateful to the City Council and the community for placing their trust in me. I've spent the past 22 years working, learning innovative approaches, and supporting efforts to improve East Palo Alto and the lives of our neighbors. I look forward to continuing this work in my role as city manager. I am fully committed to working collaboratively with the City Council, staff, and residents to help East Palo Alto thrive."
—Bay City News Service