Bryan Pease fundraiser in Point Loma
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Democrat Bryan Pease, on today’s ballot for the District 2 City Council seat held by Republican Lorie Zapf, is normally outspoken about previous high profile, high conscious lawsuits he’s handled.

Pease was hoping to return to the OB Co-op’s board in November 2017.

bryanpease.com

Attorney Pease was happy to talk to the Reader in an August 27, 2014 article about his efforts to save UCSD’s Che Café.

Pease had already been heralded on local TV news segments as the cause-driven attorney who successfully stepped up to stop the removal of seals from Children’s Pool in La Jolla.

But he sent out no press releases about a March 23 ruling handed down by Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Pollack that said he lost the civil suit he filed against the Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Co-operative.

From 2008-2015, Pease was a member of the nine-person board of directors that oversees the OB Co-op that started in a garage as a hippie-era food sharing commune and grew to a hugely successful member-owned co-operative that brings in $15-million annually. It is the largest employer in Ocean Beach.

After two years away, Pease was hoping to return to the OB Co-op’s board in November 2017. There were two seats open. OB Co-op board members serve three-year stints with no pay. Four people requested to be put on the ballot. Pease was one of the two candidates who was deemed to be “not recommended” by the board’s nominating committee.

Per the co-op’s by-laws, in order to get on the ballot without a committee recommendation, Pease needed to turn in a petition that supported his candidacy signed by at least 100 co-op owners. Pease did in fact turned in the petition with the 100 signatures, but he had changed the wording at the top of the petition.

Because he drafted his own petition, the board denied his inclusion on the ballot for the March 2017 OB Co-op board election. That denial prompted his Writ of Mandate civil lawsuit against the O.B. Food Co-op which was rejected in March.

Pease says the crux of the lawsuit lies with former general manager Nancy Cassidy and former board president Ofelia Alvarado who Pease says would regularly “pull strings” for their own agenda. “Things got contentious and people stopped liking me after I became a whistle blower.”

For instance, he says former co-op president Alvarado, “Flew off to Spain with $5,000 of the co-op's money.”

Pease says he advocated for a higher employee minimum wage to no success while the co-op propped up a “top heavy, overpaid” management.

One insider with knowledge of the lawsuit but who says was prohibited from speaking on the matter says the $5,000 trip to Spain was part of an international seminar to learn about operating successful co-ops from Mondragon, the world’s largest food co-op.

When asked about the fact that his lawsuit over his election to the board cost the OB Co-op money, Pease said the OB Co-op's legal expenses were covered by a “director’s officers [insurance] policy.” The OB Co-Op member who declined to be named says there is an insurance policy that kicked in, but only after the co-op paid for the first $50,000 in legal expenses to fight Pease out of its general fund.

Would he file an appeal to bring the lawsuit back? Pease said yesterday, “I am too busy talking to voters to worry about that now.” But he said even though he lost the lawsuit, “An injustice was committed,” by not allowing him to run again for the co-op board last year.

While there have been no published polls, political insiders say Republican Zapf will face off in November’s general election against one of three Democrats running against her.

What do the other two Democrats on today’s ballot say about say about their fellow Dem suing the neighborhood cooperative he helped run for seven years?

“We have been very upfront about not speaking [negatively] about other Democrats,” says Jordan Beane. “Besides I would not want to say anything that may negatively impact the co-op.”

Jennifer Campbell in an emailed statement from her campaign office had a completely different take. “It shows there are two kinds of people running for public office. Dr. Jen served on the boards of organizations to build consensus…Bryan suing the People’s Co-op shows that he cares about himself more than this community.”

Meanwhile, one of the founders of the OB Co-op who says he does not want to be named out of fear of getting sued had this to say: “I remember when it was all about people showing up to get a bag full of rice in someone’s garage in the early 70s. There was nowhere back then where you could get healthy food. We had food driven in from local farms. It used to be called the OB Ecology Group back then…Then it got so big, it seemed to have lost its soul, that people were just in it for personal gains. Maybe this [court decision] will show it still has a soul after all.”

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Comments

Ken Leighton June 5, 2018 @ 10:24 a.m.

While the Co-op had to pay $50,000 in legal fees out of its own general fund for legal fees, it should be noted that Pease said he did not have to pay anything to the attorneys who did the work for him on this lawsuit.

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JustWondering June 5, 2018 @ 10:56 a.m.

Pease is just another slime ball attorney who sues when he doesn’t get his way. Then he gets one or more of his slime ball peers to run up costs to the opposing party hoping to break them financially. Why would the citizens of District 2 want anything WHATSOEVER to do with this person.

I’m just wondering what happens to the CO-OP if Pease becomes the Dist. Two councilperson?

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Ken Leighton June 5, 2018 @ 11:33 a.m.

He was hoping to return to the board in March 2017, not November. Sorry for the error.

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Cassander June 5, 2018 @ 11:40 a.m.

Clearly Pease's self-image is tied up with the Co-op, as it's the second thing mentioned in his candidate's statement. So this story is very revealing of his character when he doesn't get his way: He fraudulently altered the wording of a petition, invalidating himself; then sued when he wasn't given a pass for his behavior. And even after having a judge tell him he's wrong, he maintains not getting what he wants is "an injustice" and no price or hardship too much for his opponents to bear.

I agree with JustWondering: Pease is a bully who can't let go of a grudge, so there's little doubt he'd abuse elected office to pursue this and other vendettas.

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bryanpease June 6, 2018 @ 10:06 a.m.

What kind of hatchet job is this Ken? Read the bylaws like I said--they're posted here: https://www.obpeoplesfood.coop/.../56035807/2015_bylaws.pdf Section 4.3--the candidate is to generate and return a petition. I served on the committee that drafted these bylaws. The point is to take the nomination procedure outside the hands of the board so members can have their own voice. Wow Nancy and Ofelia are even more corrupt than I thought. Not only did they steal an election--installing 2 candidates and not giving members/owners any choice who to vote for--but they also stole $50K from the owners to do it rather than just letting us have a real election! This is also total BS that I was trying to somehow keep this secret. I sent multiple press releases out about this outrage and contacted a reporter from the Reader several times--Dorian Hargrove--but nothing was printed. So you decide to post a slanted piece the day before the election in my city council race because that scumbag Seamus who works for establishment Dems told you to? What a crock of shit.

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Ken Leighton June 7, 2018 @ 1:29 p.m.

Mr. Pease- "Scumbag Seamus" had nothing to do with launching this "hatchet job." I had heard from a friend of someone deeply connected with the OB Co-Op (who did want to be named out of fear of getting personally sued) but who nevertheless felt that your lawsuit was unfounded and baseless because you changed the wording of the petition. Of course the reason for you not being deemed worthy to be re-elected to the board in the first place was very complex and contentious and up for debate. The fact that you changed the wording of the petition (which you agreed happened) seems to any reasonable person to be a crucial point as to why you were not welcome to participate as a candidate (and the judge agreed in the lawsuit). I wrote this story because there was a lawsuit you filed, you lost, and the judge outlined in detail why you lost. Do you understand that concept of news reporting? I did not learn about this until the weekend before the election. I RECEIVED NO INITIAL CONTACT FROM ANY POLITICAL OPPONENT OR THEIR CAMPS. I think it is interesting to note how you told me the costs of the OB C-Op to defend itself was covered by its insurance. This was deceitful. Sure, the insurance company kicked in money BUT ONLY AFTER THE CO-OP PAID THE FIRST $50,000 in legal expenses. You made it sound like the entire legal expense was covered by the Co-Op. Not cool, Mr. Pease. You admitted me to that your attorney expenses were covered by attorney friends on what I would label as a "bro deal" (my words, not yours). The Co-Op did not have access to free legal aid. You mentioned Nancy and Ofelia. The first person I spoke with who spelled out the big picture and proved to me in my mind this was indeed a story, was neither of those people. "Trying to keep this secret" was not suggested. I was amazed that no other media had covered this month-old lawsuit which seemed to be very germane to your city council candidacy. After I spoke with two different OB Co-Op operatives (who were never seeking publicity in the first place) I did reach out to the two Democrat candidates. You can see what they said. One of the spokespersons said they had in fact tried to get publicity on this but that no one in the media seemed to care. That person clearly thought that it would have been much more beneficial to have gotten the story out when the ruling was handed down instead of when it did break. But the initial contact for this story absolutely did not originate from a competing candidate.

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bryanpease June 8, 2018 @ 12:03 p.m.

Ken, you lie and are not a real reporter. I stated that the other attorneys working on this case with me--representing several People's owners who are not happy about the rights of the owners being violated here--commonly work on public interest cases together and only get paid by the other side (government agency or corporation, in this case would have been the insurance company) if we win. I never uttered the words "bro deal." That's a ridiculous thing I would never say but maybe something you heard because you're wired that way.

The judge in this case did not analyze the history, purpose and wording of the bylaws but instead relied on the business judgment rule, which essentially allows corporations to do what they want. However, OB Peoples is a different kind of corporation. It is member owned and supposed to be democratic. Your accusations of "changing the wording" of the petition make no sense in light of the clear wording of the bylaws stating the candidate--not OB Peoples--is to generate the petition.

Usurping this role from the owners who want to run and/or nominate a candidate and inserting their own editorial comments onto the petition is prohibited by the bylaws. This is an important issue for all owners. I probably will appeal, as anyone running in the future should not be forced to use wording generated by OB Peoples when the bylaws clearly spell out that the candidate is to generate the petition.

I had no way of knowing that not only did these people steal an election, but they also stole $50K in owners' money to do it. We asked this question repeatedly in discovery and all they would say was they were covered by insurance. They would not say if they paid a dime in addition to that. The owners would liked to have known that too, that these insiders who took control of the board spent the owners' $$ in this way instead of choosing to simply allow a real election where owners could choose between candidates instead of being forced to vote for only 2 candidates for 2 spots.

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Ken Leighton June 8, 2018 @ 2:02 p.m.

Mr. Pease- Sorry your level of discourse has succumbed to "Scumbag Seamus" and "Not a real reporter." I fully expect "fake news" to follow. As I very clearly said, "bro deal" was my words not yours. Did you miss that? The point is, attorneys sometimes do favors for each other. And while I'm sure the attorneys who helped you with this lawsuit were absolutely doing it for altruistic reasons as you state, the fact is you did not have to pay them. Meanwhile, the co-op ended up paying out $50,000. That was my entire point. You maintain that the board stole $50,000 of owner's money. It seems to me they had a lawsuit with real life deadlines and they had to retain legal help to defend themselves against your lawsuit. If they did not retain legal aid, they would have lost by default. Since they did, they were able to fight back, tell their version of the truth, and what do you know? They won! Mr. Pease, we're talking about you not being on a board which does not pay its board members. You chose to SUE them because you were denied a chance for run for reelection. Maybe there were crucial issues that caused the fissure between you and the other board members in the first place. It seems to me those issues were lost because of the struggle of you getting on the board. You SUED because a/you have access to donated legal assistance and b/you were longer be an unpaid board member. Don't you think a better, less destructive path would have been to go public with the issues you raised and with the unfair way (in your opinion) that you were denied a chance to be elected. Clearly there seems to valid points on both sides. As it sits now, you SUED, and the judge said you were wrong and the Co-Op is out $50,000. Also, are you telling me the fact you passed around different petitions with new wording was not mentioned in the judge's ruling? Um, I think that was mentioned in why he decided against you.

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jay045 June 13, 2018 @ 12:47 p.m.

I am just now seeing this article. I did not vote for Mr. Pease, but in light of other past lawsuits I decided to choose another candidate. I definitely am politically aligned with his positions, but I had concerns over how well he would be able to work to build consensus on city council.

As a People's household member, I am disappointed by his decision to sue us for a grievance related to an election for a nonprofit board. I am involved in the nonprofit community and understand that disputes get messy, but usually people are able to mediate and work things out rather than filing a damaging lawsuit. Or let it go, and regroup for another day.

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