The letter arrived late last week, printed on the letterhead of Mitchell, Brisso, Delaney & Vrieze, LLP, attorneys at law, and its warning was dire. "The North Coast Journal
's continued attempts to contact Mr. [Rob] Arkley ... border on civil harassment."
Signed by attorney Russell S. Gans, the letter was addressed to Journal
Publisher Judy Hodgson. And it meant business. "If this practice continues," Gans cautioned ominously, "Mr. Arkley will consider all legal protections available to him, including any options to pursue a civil harassment restraining order."
Just what the hell have our writers been doing, you ask? Did we nestle in his hedges, cradling bazooka-sized Nikon lenses? Did we fly to Louisiana and ninja it onto the roof of his palatial estate? Did we take our luggage up to South Fork Mountain waiting for his baby, the east-west train?
Well, no. We did try to call him on the phone, though. We freely admit it.
Here's the deal. Back when this writer was researching a 2012 story
comparing corporate bankruptcy rules and attitudes to private bankruptcy, Mr. Arkley issued a decree. Neither he nor his employees at Security National, a real estate holding and servicing corporation, were to have anything to do with us. He informed our publisher that he was having his IT guy block all emails sent by Journal
staff. He was done with us.
Trouble is, what with our reporting jobs and Arkley's position as a public figure/occasional newsmaker, we have, Your Honor, tried to reach him or his associates post-decree. About four times in the last year and a half, as best we can recall -- twice to ask about the indefinite closure of the Arkley Center for Performing Arts
and twice seeking comment on the end of Economic Fuel
, the business competition he funded for eight years. As the letter accuses, we even tried calling him (once) on his unlisted home phone, a number our publisher has had for years.
Are we in trouble? Bound for the slammer? Should we throw ourselves on the mercy of the courts?
"I just can’t imagine a court would issue a restraining order based on that," said Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. We kinda figured, but we wanted you to hear it from somebody other than us.
"He’s a newsworthy figure in the area," Ewert said of Arkley. "And being a former newspaper owner
he should have a better understanding of how a newspaper operates. Newspapers operate by asking questions of people who are newsworthy and who cast a wide net of influence, which he has."
So we can even call people who'd rather we didn't? According to Ewert, yes. We can.
Read the full letter here