Ken Mackie continues to be an adversary of Fresno Unified School Board President Brooke Ashjian. The Merced-based attorney represents a group called Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding (FWEB). Or at least Mackie represented a group called that until Wednesday night (August 9).
As their name implies, the watchdog group, through Mackie, have been vocal critics of Ashjian’s business practices. They question whether he influenced any construction-contract votes during his tenure on the school board. Mackie first spoke to the school board questioning a contract in March 2016.
But a group linked to Ashjian is now making a claim on the name. A Sacramento attorney says that the name Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding is now under trademark and Mackie is no longer able to say he represents them.
“This letter is to notify you that my client has acquired a common law trademark in the name “Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding,” the cease and desist letter from Terry J. Martin of the firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP reads. “We demand that you immediately cease using the name.” The name of the client is not identified in the letter.
This does not neccesarily mean that this Ashjian opposition group must cease activities. They just might have to go by a different name.
The implications of this action bother Mackie. “They could wind up sending information about Mr. Ashjian to Mr. Ashjian, so that’s obviously a concern,” Mackie says. He is also concerned that potential donations would be diverted to an unintended source. He tells GV Wire he will consider fighting the trademark on behalf of his client.
Mackie tells GV Wire that he is unaware of anyone taking the steps to register FWEB as a trademark. However, there is a move in process to incorporate a group with that name as a non-profit.
According to the registration filed with the California Secretary of State’s office, the business address is 4237 W. Swift Ave. in Fresno. That is the same address of Seal Rite Paving & Grading, of which Ashjian serves as CEO. The Agent of Service of Process is Martin (it is not uncommon for an attorney to be listed in this capacity). However, Ashjian’s own name does not appear in the cease and desist letter nor the registration documents.
“It kind of begs the point that this other non-profit group traces back to his business address. Assuming it is him, why is he trying to usurp the name? Is it a way to try to shut me down? If so, it’s not going to work,” Mackie tells GV Wire.
While Ashjian was not available for comment for this story, his spokesman Alex Tavilan did speak. “Mr. Mackie is misrepresenting the Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding. The cease and desist letter speaks for itself,” Tavilan said. “Mackie needs to re-evaluate the strategy of pestering a board member.”
There remains an air of mystery regarding who the original FWEB group is. Mackie has cited attorney-client privilege from revealing who is behind the group to either Ashjian or the media. Any guess who is behind the group is just speculation. “All I can say is it is one or more individuals,” Mackie said.
As to why the registration address came back to Seal Rite? Tavilan did not have direct knowledge of this, but did concede it is possible. “We want to know who Mackie’s clients are. Who’s paying him and why?” Tavilan asks.
Mackie also filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission last October, alleging Ashjian failed to report numerous sources of income and has voted in violation of conflict of interest statues. FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga says the case is still open.
Appearing at the Fresno Unified School Board meeting on Wednesday, Mackie was one of 15 members of public to chime in on Ashjian’s recent LGBT comments made in the Fresno Bee. As Mackie stepped to the podium, a bespectacled man in a sports coat handed him a letter.
“This is for you,” said the man, who turned out to be Tavilan.
Mackie briefly delayed his presentation while he studied what has handed to him. “Forgive the pause. I was just handed a letter insisting I cease and desist using the name Fresno Watchdogs for Ethical Bidding. I will not be able to address that,” he said before addressing the board.
Twenty-five seconds after Mackie started, Ashjian interrupted Mackie after the first utterance of FWEB. “Mr. Mackie, you do not represent that group. We have…you have a cease and desist letter,” Ashjian said. After a brief back and forth, Mackie continued his thoughts on Ashjian and the LGBT comments.
Mackie says he will evaluate his options on challenging any trademark.
Though it currently cannot be verified that Ashjian filed the articles of incorporation himself, documentation identifying the officers and directors of this group must be filed with the Secretary of State by October 18.
Drew Phelps contributed to this story. Illustration: Hannah Reilly
As appeared in GVWire.
In response to the Human Rights Campaign's request, it contained one word "No."
A Change.org petition had more than 400 signatures as of Friday, asking that Ashjian be removed from the school board.
LGBT advocates in Fresno demanded an apology from Ashjian for those statements at a school board meeting on Wednesday, where some of his fellow trustees also took issue with his viewpoints.
The board was informed Wednesday of past allegations of anti-LGBT comments made by Ashjian, in addition to his contributions to Proposition 8 – a 2008 measure that aimed to ban same-sex marriage.
According to a deposition from a 2011 libel lawsuit Ashjian was involved in, derogatory comments made about the organization Gay Fresno were tracked to a computer at his home. In the deposition, Ashjian admits to posting comments about Gay Fresno to a website called Ripoffreport.com, but says he can’t recall what he posted. The attorneys in the deposition claim that only three comments were made about Gay Fresno on the website – all anonymously.
The comments say Gay Fresno is run by “pimps in disguise” and “they stole my money, my dignity and my virginity. These people are evil.”
The comments were posted after Gay Fresno added Ashjian’s businesses to a list of companies that should be boycotted for supporting Proposition 8. Gay Fresno changed its name to LGBT Fresno – in part due to the comments posted on Ripoffreport.com.
“It’s just another example of why he is unfit to be in charge of a school district,” Jason Scott, president of LGBT Fresno, said Thursday. “He’s setting a very poor example for students.”
HT: The Fresno Bee
In the August 4th edition of The Fresno Bee, Fresno Unified school board president, Brooke Ashjian stated:
“We didn’t want someone else teaching our kids about morality, and what was right and what was wrong,” he said. “That’s the role of a father and mother: You bring a child into the world and you talk to them about things that matter. With society going away from church – whatever church that is – you’re not getting the first crack at that kid. Somebody else is. And that’s a problem.”
A Mormon and a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, Ashjian says Fresno Unified will follow the law, but he is blunt about his personal beliefs regarding some of the lessons now mandated in schools, including teaching LGBT-inclusive sex education.
“My biggest fear in teaching this – which we’re going to do it because it’s the law – but you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way,” Ashjian said. “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”
If you would like to make a public statement to the school board, and we encourage you to do so, attend the next regular meeting this Wednesday, August 9th at 5:30pm at the district headquarters. Public comments begin after section A of the agenda. You must sign up at the table outside of the room entrance to be called upon to speak. There is no cut off time to sign up, but must be done before public comments start.
PLEASE NOTE: PARKING WILL BE AVAILABLE AFTER 5:00 P.M. AT THE “N” STREET PARKING PAVILION LOCATED ON THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF TULARE AND “N” STREETS – ENTRANCE IS ON “N” STREET. Also, the City of Fresno will not enforce the street meters in this area after 6:00 p.m.