Commentary: Pryor Allegations Accurate, but Incomplete and Thus Misleading

Alan Pryor speaking during public comment prior to the pandemic

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Yesterday evening, Alan Pryor submitted an article in which he charges that former Davis Mayor Gloria Partida, who is running for reelection, was convicted of a felony, is ineligible to run, and improperly omitted it in a disclosure.

His meticulously researched story is correct as far as his research goes—but the research stops short of all the facts and thus the whole story, which makes any inferences and conclusion false and misleading.

Worse yet, he either knew or should have known that he did not have the full story when he submitted the article for publication.

I was already aware of the backstory because I had had two off the record conversations with Gloria Partida.  You can read her explanation here, I am not going to add any details other than to note it was a messy family situation that occurred in 1996, it probably should not have been handled by the criminal legal system, and had it been today it would never have been charged as a felony.

She took a plea agreement, completed her terms and conditions, and the conviction was expunged from her record and her record was supposed to be sealed.  It wasn’t, which is how community members were able to search and report on what they saw.

Alan Pryor alleges—and cites portions of the law to attempt to substantiate it—that Partida is not eligible to run for political office due to her prior conviction.

We know that Robert Milbrodt this summer filed requests with both the city and the District Attorney’s office attempting to determine whether or not that is true.

Jonathan Raven, the Chief Deputy DA, informed Milbrodt that no, Partida had not committed any criminal conduct.

He writes: “We referred your complaint to the Sacramento District Attorney’s office for their review to determine the viability of criminal charges related to Ms. Partida’s August 5, 2022, written filing of a Declaration of Candidacy form for re-election to represent District 4 on the Davis City Council.”

The letter continued that they received information from the Sacramento DA’s office telling them: “After thorough review of all the materials along with applicable statutes and case law, we have determined there is no criminal conduct committed by Ms. Partida on her Declaration of Candidacy and filing of that [Declaration of Candidacy] document.”

Given that that Partida signed that “I have not been convicted of a felony…” and there is a determination that there was no criminal conduct on her part, the Sacramento DA’s office implicitly ruled that Gloria Partida was eligible to run for office.

An independent law enforcement agency—it was sent to Sacramento due to perceived conflicts because of the working relationship between Partida and the Yolo DA—determined there was no wrongdoing here and a letter was sent to Bob Milbrodt that Alan Pryor does not publish in his attack on Partida.

Did Alan Pryor intentionally not publish this letter, or was Pryor unaware of this letter?   Even if the latter is the case, Pryor has a problem here, because, unlike Bob Milbrodt, he failed to do his due diligence to determine whether or not a crime had been committed—something Milbrodt was able to do with a simple request.

One of my all-time favorite movies is the 1976 classic, “All the President’s Men,” which chronicles the efforts of Woodward and Bernstein to uncover the Watergate crimes.

In a compelling scene during the movie, the Jason Robards, who plays Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee, explains, “You guys are about to write a story that says the former Attorney General, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook! Just be sure you’re right.”

Alan Pryor failed in his duty to make sure he was right before doing the same to Gloria Partida.

Under the standard established by the Supreme Court in Sullivan v. New York Times, the courts established a much higher standard for libeling public figures.  They must libel them with actual malice.

The standard is that the public official would have to show that the defendant made a libelous statement with “knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

A court could rule here that Alan Pryor had access to the letter to Bob Milbrodt or it could rule that his failure to do the steps that Milbrodt did and consult with the city and DA’s office represents reckless disregard for the truth.  That is for someone else to determine.

I was concerned earlier this year that the nature of district elections would lead to more of these direct attacks on public officials—and that is precisely what we are seeing here.  Unfortunately, this has been borne out.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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20 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    Pryor’s attack is so sleazy. I get he is still running against Measure H but hopefully the rest of the electorate  wants to look forward instead of back. The question this raises for me is if Adam Morrill is going to repudiate this kind of campaigning by his supporters?
    Just like with Colin Walsh digging into Carson’s emails it seems that these No on H supporters are willing to go so low that they should be ashamed of themselves and apologize or at least the candidates they are supporting should if they won’t.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Pryor’s attack is so sleazy.

      Nothing new… think the term is modus operandi…

      I opine that all candidates should “call their dogs off”…

      Else will vote against those who “let the dogs loose”…

  2. Jim Gray

    I want to thank Gloria Partida for her service. I appreciate her interest in and advocacy for all people within our community.

    I also want to request that the attempts at character assassination  and spurious allegations be stopped.  We should judge people and particularly our elected officials by the merits of their service and the quality of their character. Why are some motivated to dig up matters from 26 years ago and use it to defame someone? My God we have all made mistakes in our past particularly within the past quarter century. Investigations have been done that say “case closed” and “expunge any record of wrongdoing”.  Gloria has publicly addressed the matter.

    Actions and allegations like this only discourage service and honest debate.

    Martin Luther King said let’s look forward to the day “where we judge one another by the quality of our character”  If I’m grading= Gloria deserves an A and the belly archers deserve an F.

     

     

  3. Alan Pryor

    Quite a bit of double-speak wrapped up in this article.

    While I appreciate the fact that you, Mr. Greenwald, acknowledge the accuracy of my article, you then go on to infer that because a letter from the Sacramento District Attorney exists that “implicitly ruled that Gloria Partida was eligible to run for office”, that this somehow detracts from the accuracy of my own reporting. And from this, without actually doing ANY analysis at all as to the accuracy of my own legal analysis, you then infer libelous behavior on my part.

    Excuse me, Mr. Greenwald, but is this not the same Sacramento DA that you have routinely excoriated in the past for poor judgment and misdeeds on their part and the poor quality of their legal work. I understand that you know your way around the law and how to do legal research, right? Yet instead of digging in and diligently analyzing the legal aspects of the matter on which I reported, you rely on cherry-picked excerpts of a letter from the Sacramento DA’s office on which to base your inference of libelous behavior on my part.

    Without doing ANY research on your own part as to the accuracy of their statement or providing ANY documentation as to the points and authority cited in their letter, you state that “Alan Pryor failed in his duty to make sure he was right before doing the same to Gloria Partida” – as if a single sentence from the Sacramento DA’s office represents the final legal word in this matter.

    Indeed, without addressing ANY of the legal points I raised in my article, you go on to infer that my behavior was therefore libelous and further stated, “A court could rule here that Alan Pryor had access to the letter to Bob Milbrodt or it could rule that his failure to do the steps that Milbrodt did and consult with the city and DA’s office represents reckless disregard for the truth. That is for someone else to determine.

    This is very shoddy work on your part, Mr. Greenwald. I understand that Ms. Partida is a friend of yours and that you have supported her politically in the past. But if you want to try to disparage me and infer libelous behavior on my part, at least do the leg work to accurately report on the legal aspects of what I reported before, potentially libelously, inferring libel on my part..

    Otherwise, a court could rule that David Greenwald had access to all of the same legal information as Mr. Pryor cited in his article and that his failure to do the same analysis as Mr. Pryor before inferring libelous behavior on his part represents reckless disregard for the truth. That is for someone else to determine.

  4. Keith Y Echols

    Up until this point, I’ve assumed that Alan Pryor’s articles and comments were those of at best a vigilant citizen (that IMO is often on the wrong side of good economic and civic planning and policy) and at worst a troll of the local government with too much time on his hands.

    But this seems like he has a personal beef with the city council.  Did Gloria Partida run over his dog or something?

    It seem to me that Alan Pryor got in over his head on this one.  It’s one thing to attempt to accuse the city of overcompensating it’s employees through public writing.  And quite another to write publicly that accuses someone of lying about possibly being arrested for previous felonies which even the possibility could effect their political and professional standing.   I think Allan Pryor is an over eager keyboard vigilante who appears to have taken things too personally.

    “I Propose That I Use What’s Left Of The Town Treasury To Move To A More Prosperous Town And Run For Mayor. And, Er, Once Elected, I Will Send For The Rest Of You.”

    “Very Well Then, Instead Of Fleeing This Town, I’ll Stay Here And Grow Fat Off Kickbacks And Slush Funds.”

    -Mayor Quimby

  5. Bob Milbrodt

    David,
    If you wanted to mention my name in this story, you should have checked with me to get your facts straight.
    There was a rumor running around town for about a year that Gloria had a felony conviction.  I was not sure she would seek reelection.  When she did, I sought to clarify the rumor.  I queried the city, county and state elections clerks to see if they actually vet the candidate statements, signed under penalty of perjury, that the candidate has not been convicted of a felony.  I learned that they do not vet the statement, nor does the district attorney.  My email follow-up to the city clerk was to learn if it was true that Gloria was a convicted felon, and whether that might disqualify her from public office.
    My email follow-up was forwarded to the Police Chief, who forwarded it to the District Attorney’s office.  I did not directly query them. The email reply (not a letter) I received did not address Gloria’s past or potential crimes, it merely implied the office would not be prosecuting Gloria.  That communication did not explain why an opinion was solicited from the Sacramento County District Attorney, did not provide a copy of that inquiry or the materials it was based on, and did not include the actual reply from that department.  Without seeing all of that information, it is terribly presumptuous of you to assert that Sacramento County determined Gloria was eligible for public office. You also failed to disclose how you received a copy of this communication directed to me, and you excluded this relevant portion: “That being said, there are exceptions where one would have to disclose one was convicted of a felony (e.g., applying to be a peace officer).” 
    See California Penal Code Section 1203.4. (a) 
    the probationer shall be informed, that the order does not relieve him or her of the obligation to disclose the conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for licensure by any state or local agency, or for contracting with the California State Lottery Commission.
    Given the DA’s evasive response, I decided not to pursue the matter any further. 
    Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with Alan Pryor.  He has merely raised legitimate questions about Gloria’s candidacy.  There is no question that she is ethically bound to disclose her criminal past, which she could and should have done when asked at the League of Women Voters forum.   The Penal Code indicates she is legally bound as well.

  6. Alan Pryor

    To be clear, I do not question Ms. Partida’s character or values. I know she deeply cares about the poor, the disabled, the LGBT community and the disenfranchised and has worked tirelessly for many years on their behalf. My article had nothing to do with any of that and the issue of her character and values was not raised nor disparaged anywhere in any way in the article.

    My article was simply a factual representation of the law as it currently exists on the books and as it pertains to her ability to continue to serve on the City Council in light of that current law.

    The facts speak for themselves.

    1. Ron Glick

      No Alan, its a set up and hit piece timed to perfectly coincide with the arrival of mail in ballots. Someone just happened to ask about this at a public forum. You are simply disclosing what you found just as ballots come out. So many coincidences so little time. Attacking her character is exactly what you are doing.

      As one of my students once said “I’m as innocent as O.J.”

      Apparently the Yolo DA sent this to the Sac DA who determined there is nothing there. If you bothered to read David’s critique you would stand down instead of doubling down but that is not the point. The point is to try to damage Partida and impugn her character before the voters.

      As I said above, sleazy. I doubled down too.

      Full disclosure, I sent $150 to Gloria’s campaign.

  7. Richard_McCann

    David

    It’s important to understand that it wasn’t Woodward and Bernstein who decided to hold off on publishing Watergate stories until they were validated and corroborated–it was the executive editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee. It’s not clear when you got the opinion from Yolo Assistant DA Raven or received the documents from the Sacramento DA.

    If it was before, it was your duty to balance the disclosure of the information compared to the determining legal opinions that you had received. That should have meant that you at least send the article back to Alan have him rewrite it acknowledging the difference in opinion with his from those who have much more experience in these matters.

    If it was after then you should have held the article until you gathered more information, a la Ben Bradlee. Following best practices is important for maintaining the legitimacy of journalism.

    1. Robert Canning

      I can rarely get my comments in the right place in the Vanguard, but nonetheless, Alan Pryor says: “To be clear, I do not question Ms. Partida’s character or values. I know she deeply cares about the poor, the disabled, the LGBT community and the disenfranchised and has worked tirelessly for many years on their behalf. My article had nothing to do with any of that and the issue of her character and values was not raised nor disparaged anywhere in any way in the article.
      My article was simply a factual representation of the law as it currently exists on the books and as it pertains to her ability to continue to serve on the City Council in light of that current law.
      The facts speak for themselves.”
      It seems to me that Alan wants to have it both ways – i.e. to both deny that the article is about someone’s values and character, AND then state that the person was not honest with the public and that he “seemed to imply that her only prior interactions with law enforcement …” were infractions.

      It seems to me that honesty, forthrightness, and transparency in public statements go directly to someone’s values and character.  And given the context of the article (e.g., the timing of his recitation of facts vis a vis the election, recent Council votes on developments, etc.) it would seem that Alan is (IMHO) definitely questioning Ms. Partida’s character. One way to think about this revelation is to wonder what the discussion would be like if Alan had published this a year ago, six months ago, or even six months from now.

      Facts, in this context, are never JUST the facts. And if you don’t believe that, I have a bridge (or maybe a research park in East Davis) to sell you.

  8. Ann Block

    Yes, Alan, the facts DO speak for themselves and your “reporting” is flawed.  Your own screenshot which you posted in your guest commentary, indicates the conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor in 2005 – how did you “forget” to notice that?  I hope it was not intentional.  And Robert, you are also incorrect here. A motion was granted BOTH to reduce the 20 year old conviction to a misdemeanor pursuant to Calif. P.C. 17(b)(3), as noted above, AND to allow withdrawal of the prior plea and dismissal, pursuant to Calif. P.C. 1203.4. So clearly Gloria answered the question correctly and is and was always eligible to serve on the City Council. The vitriol and false allegations of the “No on H” campaign has gotten completely out of control.

    As to the 20 year old prior conviction itself, this county (Yolo) under the current D.A. and his mentor and predecessor, has long charged as felonies what neighboring Solano and Sacramento normally charge as misdemeanors.  In addition, “welfare fraud” cases, are often unfortunately brought against obviously low-income people unable to hire a fancy, unlimited time, expensive defense attorney — for misunderstandings and miscommunications often caused by their benefits caseworker. And public defenders usually believe there is “no defense” in these cases – benefits were overpaid, so they think its cut and dried. (I advise public defenders on pleading every day as part of my job, and hear this all the time). But that is far from the reality, and I am presently in the process of collaborating on a practice advisory targeted to public defenders, with a Legal Aid attorney who is expert in these matters, to help public defenders understand there are often quite strong defenses in these cases where there was no intent to commit fraud.

    I myself have recently had a client so charged with the exact same “felony” – who I had actually pushed to apply for benefits due to her lupus diagnosis, inability to work and having the need to support two young children.  She was charged due to an asset she didn’t realize she needed to disclose, that she could not sell, and that she was not asked about. The conservative D.A. (in another northern Calif. county) charged her, nevertheless, when the county reported what they thought was an overpayment, despite the fact that she immediately began making restitution.  It took FOUR attorneys that I recruited — including myself, a private pro bono criminal defense attorney and two Legal Aid attorneys (one of which is the expert in mischarged “welfare fraud” cases), plus another asset expert, to overcome these charges, including appealing the denial of ongoing benefits.  She ultimately won on all counts, the benefits were restored, her restitution reimbursed, the D.A. dropped the charges, but nothing compensated for the shame and embarrassment she experienced in the process. Most are not so lucky, and just plead out and pay back the benefits, in order to avoid the worst consequences of a jail sentence, to protect family members or similar reasons. Obviously this old matter was very painful for Gloria, involved family issues, and had she been able to afford counsel that had the time to investigate what happened and vigorously defend her, she may well not have ended up with any conviction at all, not even a misdemeanor.

    Reply
     

  9. Colin Walsh

    The suggestion that the Sac DA has determined that Partida is eligible to hold elected office is untrue. Yolo Chief Deputy DA Jonathan Raven wrote in an email to me this morning, “As I stated in an earlier email, the District Attorney does not determine whether or not someone is eligible to run for or hold office and Sac DA did not do so in this case.”

    1. David Greenwald

      What Colin says is true.

      But that’s because neither the City nor the DA has the power to do that. Only the AG has the power to determine eligibility of a public official to hold public office.

      So yes, technically true.

      But, Gloria signed a statement attesting to the fact that she has “not been convicted of a felony involving…” She signed that under penalty of perjury. What the Sacramento DA determined is that she did not perjure herself when she signed that statement on qualifications.

      So as a technical matter, the DA does not make the determination of eligibility, but as a practical matter, once they cleared of the crime of perjury, they de facto said that she was in the clear on this matter.

      1. Colin Walsh

        This statement from the Vanguard is also not entirely true in 2 ways.

        1) Only through litigation can a final determination be made on eligibility to serve in public office.

        2) The declaration of candidacy that contains the language, “I have not been convicted of a felony involving… theft of public money…” and the candidate’s signature has no perjury warning on it or even an instruction that it must be filled out honestly. Further, since one of the defenses for perjury is that the candidate believed their statement was true at the time, they made it seems unlikely that the candidate would be found guilty of perjury. But that is different than the question of whether or not the candidate is eligible for office.

        1. Ron Glick

          Lie down with dogs wake up with fleas. My sense of this is that the community is disgusted by this attack on Gloria’s character. You or others, doubling or tripling down on this absurd claim of her ineligibility is a winning strategy for Partida. So suit yourself.

          Oh, and if  anyone thinks that the Attorney General of California is going to  pursue this based on the facts that have been presented of a multi-decade old  expunged case I say go for it.

        2. Mark West

          “based on the facts…”

          There are those in town who favor innuendo over facts, as the former are much more malleable than the latter. In fact, I doubt that some who post here have ever lost sleep over the lack facts supporting their position. Lies, half-truths and innuendo are the currency of a significant faction of our vocal locals. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to identify those who populate this category.

        3. Bill Marshall

          Mark West’s 10/13,  9:29 post…

          True story…

          Not limited to Davis, nor Yolo Co., applies to State and Fed levels, as well…

          And we can find it in all versions of media, ‘public comments’ @ public meetings, etc.

          I actually prefer to “think”… then, act as I can…

          That said, certain ‘innuendos’, ‘accusations’, have kernels of truth… but overstep the kernels and posit as ‘full truth’…

          A lot of that here, other media, and the “trend line” is, it is increasing… not a good sign of the times…

          On this site (and it goes far beyond that, other sites, media, etc., not just locally), when some are called out on their questionable innuendos, their questionable “facts”, respond by either back-pedaling, or “doubling down” and attacking those who “called them” on their (often highly questionable) innuendos or ‘facts’… it (unfortunately) is what it is…

          Not healthy to society…

          The real pernicious form of innuendos, are those that are ‘passive-aggressive’ things that purport to be ‘questions’…

          [ex. don’t you think my previous sentence is right or wrong]

           

  10. Ron Glick

    I want to know what both Morrill and Fortune think of this kind of character assassination campaigning?

    In Morrill’s case it’s obvious . He is Partida’s opponent and I have yet to hear what he thinks about it. To date I haven’t heard a thing from him.

    But why Fortune? I’ve seen both Walsh and Milbrodt tabling for her at the Farmer’s market. I want to know if she is okay with people representing her on her campaign engaging in this sort of conduct?

  11. j foraker

    Trumpian politics here in Davis. Nice. This is a trashy hit on the eve of an election meant to trash a respected member of our community who has served for years. The way to reject this type of politics is to reject it at the ballot box on Election Day. I hope voters in that district will reject this. I support Gloria, obviously. But more than that I support people with integrity who will not stoop into the dumpster to attack a political figure with whom they disagree, but rather to meet them on the field with ideas. Adam should publicly reject this trash, but if he doesn’t, vocally, then assume he owns it and it will be a reflection of what you will get in Davis in the future if you vote that direction.  Elections are choices. It’s up to us to decide if we want the politics of personal attack to become standard operating procedure in our elections going forward.

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