Cupertino commissioner threatens lawsuit for Nextdoor posts

The Cupertino Planning Commission chair who in July came under fire for a past harassment lawsuit and more recent controversial posts on social media site NextDoor says a former resident’s postings on the site have defamed his character and he is considering legal action.

Planning Commission Chair R “Ray” Wang’s attorney, Krista Baughman, a partner at San Francisco-based Dhillon Law Group Inc., sent a cease and desist letter on Tuesday to Ian Greensides, an attorney who owns a practice in Cupertino and until recently lived in the city.

The letter alleges Greensides “published several provably false statements of fact,” both on Nextdoor and in emails to city officials regarding the past harassment lawsuit against Wang. It asks Greensides to discuss a settlement in which he retract and correct the statements in question and publicly apologize to Wang. Short of that, Wang may “initiate litigation,” according to the letter.

But Greensides said he isn’t sweating the potential lawsuit.

“This is yet another documented attempt to bully someone who disagrees with him politically,” Greensides said in a statement to Wang’s lawyer.

Rather than settle on Wang’s terms, Greensides has offered a counter settlement option: to post all of the documents related to the harassment case against Wang “for the public to be fully informed,” of the facts, and for Wang to apologize and retract inaccurate claims that Greensides says Wang has made about him online.

Those terms, according to Baughman, Wang’s attorney, are not tenable because Greensides did not respond to Wang’s demands and instead proposed “wholly separate terms involving unspecified alleged conduct that was addressed nowhere in our letter.”

“These are not the characteristics of a legitimate effort to settle a dispute,” she said.

Meanwhile, Greensides has also written to Cupertino City Manager Deborah Feng to say the city should remove Wang as chair of the Planning Commission, saying he’s set “a bad example for our children and our community.”

In Cupertino, only a majority of the City Council has the power to remove a commissioner, city spokesperson Brian Babcock told San José Spotlight.

Baughman said Wang does not plan to step down from the commission.

The posts referenced in the cease and desist letter come after the two men last summer found themselves in a heated spat on Nextdoor spurred by a July 30 San José Spotlight article that shed light on an approximately 15-year-old harassment lawsuit brought against Wang.

The article came in the wake of Wang encouraging people online to contact pro-growth activists’ employers to get them “reprimanded.” Wang later apologized for his Nextdoor posts in a Mercury News article, though some, including the city’s mayor, acknowledged that might not be enough.

The planning commission chair also adamantly denies the allegations in the 2003 lawsuit brought against him by Rosanne Foust, a transportation leader in the region, who claimed Wang signed her up to receive pornographic materials because she and Wang had differing political ideology.

An investigation connected Wang’s home computer IP address to the pornographic emails, but he alleges he was framed by “developer interests” that hacked into his unsecured network due to his pushback at the time against using recycled water in development projects.

In the end, Wang and Foust agreed to a settlement that dismissed two of the charges against him and he pleaded no contest to one charge — meaning he didn’t admit guilt, but also didn’t dispute the facts of the case.

While some said they believed that Wang’s computer was hacked, Greensides remained skeptical, and said so on Nextdoor. He characterized the emails sent to Foust as “revenge porn” and wrote that Wang had pleaded no contest to that charge.

But what Wang is accused of, Baughman’s letter states, is not the “widely accepted definition” of revenge porn, and therefore that description is not accurate and is defaming to Wang.

Greensides said he hasn’t spoken to Wang since their heated exchange over the summer, but noted he’s been in contact with Foust regarding her past lawsuit against Wang.

“If he wants to … litigate over the definition of revenge porn, I’m happy to do that,” Greensides said. “If he’s going to bully me, then I’m going to make sure the City Council knows about this and as many people know about it as possible.”

Wang’s attorney said in the letter that if Greensides does not respond with a “meaningful settlement offer” by Wednesday, “we will be forced to seek relief in court.”

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

 

Greensides letter

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