Tulare Public Cemetery District (TPCD) Chair Xavier Avila received a letter from the Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield on January 7 to stop communicating with the founder of the Caring Cause Facebook group, Elaine Hollingsworth.
Avila threatened Hollingsworth, the group administrator, with legal action on January 7. According to Hollingsworth, his text stated:
“You are accusing me of bullying people. That is slander. I will seek a lawsuit against you. I have all the evidence. It’s hypocritical how the people on Caring Cause who speak up positive get bullied by your members. If I’m bullying anyone then why are they posting what I have said? I’m giving you a chance to fix this Situation. It’s your choice. If you choose not to fix it then I will sue you. I already have legal council and they have all the evidence.”
Avila did not specify what the “situation” was, or what post he was threatening action over.
In response to the legal threat, Hollingsworth has retained the Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield as counsel. The firm has previously claimed Avila is in violation of state law by holding seats on both the cemetery board and the Tulare Local Healthcare District board.
Attorney Marguerite Melo sent Avila a letter stating Hollingsworth is “…very much aware of her rights under the First Amendment to criticize petty government officials such as yourself, or government agencies, such as the hospital or cemetery districts,” and that he should “[k]indly direct all further correspondence intended for Ms. Hollingsworth regarding this matter to this office.”
Avila did not respond to a request from the Valley Voice for comment, but did later post veiled claims against Hollingsworth, Tulare activist Alex Gutierrez, fellow board member Alberto Aguilar, and the Voice on a Facebook group that he is an administrator of, Political Perspective on the Tulare Cemetery.
Unprepared for threat
Hollingsworth currently cares for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, in her home. On January 2, her mother was diagnosed with the final stages of congestive heart failure.
Against that backdrop, and working on just a few hours of sleep, Hollingsworth said her phone lit up last Friday with Avila’s text while she was trying to get her mother dressed for the day.
Hollingsworth’s first reaction she said was to send a text to Avila saying that her mother was dying and “you can go to Hell.”
She says that she decided against engaging with Avila but then queried, “Threaten to sue me for what? I haven’t commented about him for almost a year.”
Hollingsworth speculated that his threat of a lawsuit might originate from a message she posted two days prior she received in an email from the Valley Voice. The email informed her that Avila was using Caring Cause member’s comments against them.
Because of Avila’s alleged pattern of bullying and intimidating behavior, Hollingsworth said she decided to enlist the help of Melo and Sarsfield.
“I just think it’s horrific threatening me to sue after all the hell he has put so many people through, and put me through. And when he was a member of Caring Causing, and pissing on other members’ comments. The audacity to call Caring Cause members and me bullies,” she said.
“Wow, look who is calling the kettle black.”
Members of Caring Cause have complained to Hollingsworth about Avila’s alleged threatening behavior towards them on Facebook, in private messages, and via text message. Hollingsworth says that’s why she blocked Avila from the Caring Cause group about a year ago.
A resident of Visalia who did not want to be identified posted, “Couldn’t agree with you more. I had to block the Avila guy because both times I voiced my opinion he began to slander and verbally harass me on this page.”
Melo: Avila is violating his oath of office
“I think some of these officials don’t remember their oath of office. When they take the Oath of Office they swear to uphold the Constitution. When you swear to uphold the Constitution – that’s a big deal,” Melo said.
The First Amendment is one of the most basic rights a citizen has, with the greatest protection under the law, Melo said.
“It’s the citizens’ ultimate redress to confront the government or public figures,” she added.
Melo claims that Avila is “violating his oath of office to uphold the constitution, especially the First Amendment, when he threatens to sue a person expressing their opinion.”
In her letter, Melo states that the supposed slight against Avila’s character “was taken from the Valley Voice newspaper,” adding that “Ms. Hollingsworth’s opinion of you as a ‘bully’ is only being cemented by these abusive threats of litigation.”
Melo stated that if Avila were to bring action, Hollingsworth’s statements would be protected under California’s Anti-SLAPP (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) laws, which protect free speech relating to public issues
According to the California Anti-SLAPP Project, “SLAPPs are often brought by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials and entities against individuals or organizations who oppose them on public issues.”
“I don’t know how many ways Mr. Avila has violated the constitution, three times at least” said Melo. “And fourth, do not make threats to sue a private citizen unless you are ready to go forward with the suit.”
“It calls into question Avila’s ability to fulfill his duties as a public official,” Melo said.
Not the first time a board member’s received a Cease and Desist Letter
Avila is not the first cemetery board member to receive a cease and desist letter.
Former cemetery board member Vicki Gilson sent a cease and desist letter to fellow board member Steve Presant in June of 2020, alleging he trespassed on her property; at the time, both were serving on the board.
“Ms. Gilson has authorized us to demand you cease and desist from coming onto her property or taking any picture of the property,” a letter from her attorney, Eric Eric Priedkalns of the Parker-Stanbury Law Firm, stated.
At the time, Presant and Avila were attempting to vacate Gilson’s seat and appoint a new trustee, claiming she had moved to Missouri while still sitting on the cemetery board.
Presant admitted on video during the TPCD May 23, 2020 meeting that he parked his car in her driveway, walked across her lawn, looked into her windows, turned on her water faucet, and took pictures of her property. He also knocked on her neighbor’s door, identified himself as a friend, and inquired of Gilson’s whereabouts.
Even though he lives across town and is not affected by Gilson’s property, he later reported her allegedly overgrown yard to Tulare Code Enforcement, according to the letter.
Avila admitted to doing the same during the September 17, 2020 meeting. He said that he drove by her house many times, claimed there was no trash service, spoke to her neighbors, spoke to people who attended Gilson’s church, and looked up her voter registration and her husband’s.
Avila asked Gilson during open session if she and her husband were separated, and why she had not voted in the March 3, 2020 primary.
Avila then accused Gilson of being “registered here illegally.”
Avila continued, “Where are your heirlooms? Where are your baby pictures? Where do you go to the doctor? Where do you buy your gas? Where do you do your banking?”
He only stopped when Trustee Aguilar fumed “If it were me, I would sue the hell out of you and you can quote me on that.”
Gilson explained that she splits her time between her Missouri home and Tulare residence, which is her primary residence.
Avila stated that he intended to continue to drive by her house just to check. When the public grumbled with discontent Avila snapped back, “I can drive by anybody’s house I want to and you can’t tell me I can’t.”
Avila calls out Hollingsworth, Gutierrez, and fellow board member Alberto Aguilar
In Avila’s lengthy post he states, “It’s about a power trip. It’s about control and not about the cemetery. This person (Hollingsworth) thought they could control me and found out she could not. So she is intent on controlling what people think about me.”
Avila continued, “They don’t like it when you stand up to them. They get furious if you call out what they do….They are willing to lie about you! They will falsely accuse you of many things in order to either control you or control how people view you.”
Towards the end of his statement Avila said, “You do not have a first amendment right to slander and lie about people. You have a right to your opinion. You have a right to criticize. You have a right to disagree but you do not have a right to lie about someone.”
Taking a moment for self-reflection Avila said, “I’m not even close to being a perfect person. There are a vast amount of people who are a lot closer to perfect than myself.”
30 thoughts on “Tulare Cemetery Chair Xavier Avila Receives Cease and Desist Letter”
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On August 31, 2021, Allied World Specialty Insurance Company issued a Notice of Cancellation of Insurance to Tulare Public Cemeetry District, and the Notice States, “We are cancelling this policy. Your Insurance will cease on the Date of Cancellation shown above. The reason for cancellation is willful or grossly negligent acyswhich materially increase the risk(s) insured. The cemetery district had no choice but to find another Insurance company which cost more money. Golden State Risk Management Authority (GSRMA) contract states, “”Coverage may be terminated at any time by GSRMA Board Action. In my opinion, Xavier is on the path that will result with the cemetery district insurance being cancelled again.
Nothing new to complain about so you have to rehash something that has been reported on and resolved several times?
YOU are the problem with The Board but you fail to recognize it even though it’s been shown to be true hundreds of times. You care nothing about The District, you only care to cause more problems. I can’t wait to see you behind bars.
Dear Disgusted Citizen, could you please clarify? Who is “you” in your comment? The author? Xavier? Geneva? Alberto?
The person I replied to, obviously.
I guess the “behind bars” threw me. What would Alberto be behind bars for?
Oh Catherine, you really should do your own investigating. You are well aware of what I’m referring to. Then again, that would require you to be unbiased and that just isn’t in your vocabulary or is it? Prove me wrong.
I did do my research. https://www.ourvalleyvoice.com/2021/07/15/tulare-public-cemetery-district-censures-trustee-aguilar-confusion-reigns/
In regards to disclosing closed session information, “It’s not a misdemeanor or any other crime,” Herr and Sarsfield said.
So I ask again, put behind bars for what?
Oh so it’s called closed session for no reason? Here is not a judge! The judge decides not YOUR ATTORNEY! Just because you over pay them doesn’t make them right.
You know as well as I do that Sarsfield is doing all of this hoping for a lawsuit so he can attempt to collect his fees from whatever amount he may win. Pro Bono!
Xavier is his own worst enemy,
he came on the board and talked the board into firing Julian who had been the Manager of Hanford Cemetery and had years of training, he also could manage the groundsmen. Xaviers reason was that Julian was paid $30 per hour, much less than he made in Hanford. He also talked the board into replacing Vicki Gilson as chair and appointing him. The Tulare cemetery has not progressed under his leadership. I would like to see Alberto be chair and just see what a difference this district would become.
He “talked them into” these situations. Lady, you couldn’t manage the cemetery that you were entrusted to manage. I value your opinion about as much as I value a rat’s.
LOL MEANS NOTHING! JUST A PATHETIC LETTER FILLED OUT BY AN ATTORNEY! NO JUDGE DECISION! WON’T HOLD UP ANYWHERE! ITS A VIOLATION OF FIRST AMENDMENT!!!! THESE ATTORNEYS NOW OF DAYS ARE DESPERATE AND DISGUSTING. VALLEY VOICE IS PRETTY OBSESSED WITH THIS NON STORY. ITS PATHETIC
Why, out of all the public boards within the City of Tulare, the Cemetery Broad is the only one that ever makes the news? And it always involves the same people?
Rick this particular public board I view as “The Real-Life Ongoing Trials and Tribulations of the Trustees of Tulare Cemetery” all brought to us by local surrounding press outlets and Facebook groups who proudly post online episodes. It’s surreal at times watching the one lone wolf trustee constantly and stubbornly oppose the other fellow board trustees in his pack on just about everything, even it’s the time of day. And then you have the other trustees for the most part keeping their heads down, eyes averted and staying pretty much quiet while the leader of their pack publicly and narcissistically denigrates and castigates the one lone wolf as if he were a petulant child. It’s like watching a preordained train wreck; you know what’s going to happen. Too bad they meet on cemetery grounds because Juvenile Hall would be a more appropriate setting for this group of trustees. If ever there was an entire board that needed to be disbanded (or canceled like a bad sitcom) it is this one. Alas that won’t happen anymore than Disgusted Citizen’s hope that the lone wolf will be put behind bars.
Because VALLEY VOICE IS OBSESSED WITH THEIR VENDETTA AGAINST THESE PPL
Valley Voice is in the business of reporting the news. Like it or not this IS news. When this all plays out Valley Voice will report on the outcome. Why you ask? Because it is news, like it or not!
So a cease a desist letter written by an ATTORNEY NOT A JUDGE IS NEWS? ITS NOT! WHY DOESN’T VALLEY VOICE POST EVERY CIVIL COURT PAPER EVER SERVED TO A VALLEY CITIZEN! BECAUSE ITS NOT NEWS
Neither are all these public comments news but yet they become so when they are posted on the online news sites and on Facebook “informing” the world of anyone’s opinion who takes the time to opine. That said, most civil court papers that are served on others are not as entertaining as the players involved in “The Real-Life Ongoing Trials and Tribulations of the Trustees of Tulare Cemetery” and most are boring to read. 🙂
Lighten up, Francis.
Catherine, I trust the Grand Jury’s decision to send this case against Trustee Aguilar to the District Attorneys office for prosecution. I anxiously await for the DA’s decision. Will Trustee Aguilar be “behind bars”? Absolutely not, other than the bars he throws into the every single Board meeting. Will he still sit on the Board? I certainly hope not. I hope this investigation is the final result that removes him from his Trustee position considering he lost the majority of the public’s trust long ago.
As for “Herr and Sarsfield”, I know nothing of Herr but Sarsfield is just replicating the turmoil that he caused in Hollister, stirring up the pot and attacking people individually instead of the Board as a whole. Again, a personal agenda, not for the good of the people.
I sincerely would like to know why it is that Trustee Avila is the only one whose name is brought up regarding decisions made by the entire Board (with the exception of the continuous negatives by Aguilar)
Trustee Aguilar continually votes against the entire Board. I find it confusing that he will agree during discussion that an item should be approved, yet he still votes against the item. The only reason I can find is that he has a personal vendetta against the Cemetery District. I would like to see him put his personal agenda aside and work towards making the changes he insists needs to happen.
I invite you to attend a meeting of the Cemetery Board so that you can actually investigate the situation yourself instead of relying on activists and tantrum throwing adults for your stories.
PREACH! THAT WHOLE LAW FIRM IS OBSESSED WITH SUING CITIZENS AND HARASSING THEM
ANYONE CAN THREATEN TO SUE ANYONE! THIS DOES NOT VIOLATE HIS POSITION! TELL ME VALLEY VOICE WHAT SECTION OF HANDBOOK VIOLATES THIS? IF THEY WERE TEXTING HIM THEN HE WAS A PRIVATE CITIZEN! HE IS NOT A BOARD MEMBER 24/7!
LEGAL THREATS DO NOT EXIST! ONLY THREATS TO LIFE OR HEALTH ARE AN ACTUAL THING! IF THEY ARE CALLING OR TEXTING HIS PERSONAL PHONE HE IS NOT A BOARD MEMBER AT THAT MOMENT! ELECTED OFFICIALS STILL HAVE RIGHTS AS PRIVATE CITIZENS! I SEE HOW VALLEY VOICE TREATS CITIZENS
You know, some people think those who TYPE ALL IN CAPS are crazy. Not me, mind you. But some.
Maybe he thinks readers can’t hear him unless he uses all caps? Or he can’t hear his own words? Or he …………….. (fill in the blanks) lol
THE FONT IS EXTREMELY SMALL ON THIS PAGE THATS WHY I DO IT
Survey saaaays ………… Good answer Chad! 🙂
IS THAT ALL YOU GOT? I WANT PEOPLE NOT TO STRUGGLE TO READ. THE FONT IS REALLY SMALL ON THIS THREAD. KEEP INSULTING MY FONT INSTEAD OF THE ACTUAL CONTENT. SHOWS HOW SMART YOU ARE
I have read most of these comments, pro and con. Any time someone threatens a law suit against and individual they have the right to legal representation and if it means “cease and desist” that is exactly what it means stop the harassment! Bullying is a form of harassment. The person doing the bullying is Avila, period! Sure he can say whatever he wants, but let the courts decide. The Tulare County District Attorney can do nothing about this board. The only government agency that can do anything including serving on two boards is the California Attorney General. All of you put that in your pea size brains. If you want to complain as to how and what this board is doing write the California State Attorney General’s Office. Put the pressure for him to do something and quit the bickering back and forth! As for Mr. Avila saying that the Valley Voice reports false and misleading information about him and his stunts he has the right to sue the newspaper. But he had better have good proof otherwise the judge with throw the suit out of court. Ask Devin Nunes, oh he doesn’t work here anymore!
As for the font size you change change that any time you want. It doesn’t have to be written in all capitols to be read. Educate yourself on the use of your phones!
Look who’s calling thee kettle black now.
I never read anything about the grand jury sending a letter to the district attorney to prosecute Alberto Aguilar.
For those of you that just complain there are board positions coming open, why not apply and make a change.
I think I’d be more concerned about who is buried where? Let the records speak for themselves.
Leave Elaine Hollingsworth alone she has enough to deal with her mother in the final stages of her life.
So cellphones don’t have a block button? What about Mr Avila’s first amendment right