Encinitas Mayor accused of blocking opponents on Facebook

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Catherine Blakespeare accused of violating a settlement agreement earlier this year to pay $5,000 and formally apologize to those blocked.

ENCINITAS, Calif. — Encinitas Mayor and State Senate candidate Catherine Blakespear faces yet another lawsuit for blocking members of the public from her on Facebook and other social media platforms.

The lawsuit, filed by five members of the public which include a city council candidate, an ex-firefighter, and County Assessor candidate, Jordan Marks, says Blakespear refuses to abide by a May 2022 settlement agreement that required her to issue a formal apology and pay $5,000 for blocking people critical of her on social media. 

The five plaintiffs say they are among the many of others who Blakespear shut out of her social media pages, pages that they say the North County politician uses to promote her run for state senate as well as post her accomplishments and city events.

In recent years, politicians throughout the state have grappled with how to monitor their public social media accounts.

In 2019, a federal appellate court in Virginia ruled public officials’ Facebook and social media profiles are part of a “public forum,” rendering them unable to block people from expressing their opinions.

Beginning in 2021, Blakespeare blocked several individuals from logging on to her campaign’s Facebook page after they posted comments critical of her and her political ideology.

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In one instance, plaintiff J. Garvin Walsh posted the following comment in response to a post that Blakespear had published about the January 6 riot. Wrote Walsh, “I’m guessing there are now millions who voted for Biden who regret doing so. Kinda like some of the people who voted for you in
2020.” 

Not long after Walsh found himself unable to access Blakespear’s account.

Walsh, according to the lawsuit, was just one of more than 30 other people who Blakespear barred from viewing her Facebook page.

“Blocking and deleting Plaintiffs and others prevented them from participating in, discussing, or commenting on matters of public interest that Blakespear communicated about via her Facebook page; it prevented them from viewing Blakespear’s Facebook page, or viewing comments made by others, and it prevented them from commenting on or sharing her Facebook page in the future,” reads the lawsuit.

Those who were blocked sued Blakespear and in May of this year, the two sides reached an agreement that required a public apology and for the Encinitas mayor to pay $5,000. 

Yet plaintiffs, in the case, say Blakespear has not lived up to her side of the bargain. 

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In terms of the $5,000 payment, the lawsuit alleges that Blakespear tried to pay the amount through a now-defunct campaign committee. 

“The name ‘Catherine Blakespear’ means the person of Catherine Blakespear,” reads the complaint. “It does not mean an entity. It does not mean her campaign located in Sacramento. Catherine Blakespear means
Catherine Blakespear.”

The plaintiffs in the case also say Blakespear failed to issue a public apology and instead blamed them for bullying her for political points.

Reads the lawsuit, “Blakespear was asked three times to simply honor the settlement agreement that she signed—pay the $5,000 and issue the apology. However, remarkably, Blakespear refused. It would have been easy for Blakespear to avoid this lawsuit, but she refused to comply with the Agreement that she signed. Therefore, Blakespear caused this lawsuit. This lawsuit is a direct result of Blakespear’s failure to comply with the Agreement that she freely entered into.”

However, Blakespear’s campaign manager, Kevin Sabellico says the new lawsuit is the same as the old ones and is only another political pot shot at the Encinitas Mayor and state senate candidate.

“I said it in May, I said it in July, and I’ll say it again now that it’s October: this is just another in a long line of predictable, politically-motivated, right-wing attacks on Mayor Blakespear designed to distract voters… “

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Sabellico added, “There continues to be no merit or validity to these claims. The Mayor’s actions and those of her campaign have always been and will always be in accordance with the California State Senate’s published social media policy, and even though this policy is non-binding on candidates, the mayor holds her campaign to the highest of ethical standards — and she always will.”

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