The Many Problems of Blake Ashby

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The Ferguson Observer will be covering the  upcoming City Council elections to be held on April 2nd. I will be reporting. We plan to provide an introduction to each candidate and hope to add in some new voices to comment on the candidates along the way. I would like to start with a personal disclaimer acknowledging that I am not neutral, I have previously stated that I do not find Blake Ashby suitable to be in public office. Why do I think that? Well, there are a number of problems, more than I can go into detail in a short article.

One of the most recent problems occurred on December 5th, the day the Ferguson City Council had scheduled a Special Meeting for a work session to discuss four bills, one of which was Bill No. 7262. That morning, Ashby posted to the Facebook group “I Care About Ferguson,” stating his opposition to this bill. All fine and good so far, an opinion on the bill can certainly be publicly stated.

Later, I received a message from someone telling me that there was an obviously fake account that had commented on Ashby’s post and that this was clearly a plant for Ashby’s position against the bill. It didn’t take but a quick glance to see this was true.

The comment, made with the account of “Joe Butler”, clearly was posted by a fake account. This account had nothing more on its page than a profile picture and cover photo of a car covered in Joy! 99.1 stickers. The account had 65 friends, overwhelmingly foreign and primarily Asian. This profile was showing as belonging to four groups: “I Care About Ferguson;” “Patrick M. adds random people to his facebook friends list,” “I randomly add people to my friends list,” and “Yes, I add random people to my friends list.” The fake account was approved and added to the group using the account of moderator Dara Ashby, Blake’s wife, on November 11th, just two days before Ashby announced from the dais at the council meeting of November 14th that he was running for election. This comment was the only time the profile made any kind of post within the group.

The comment by “Joe Butler” contains long winded sentences and includes the use of two em dashes (also known as a long dash). Compare the writing in this screenshot to the post written by Blake Ashby <view at this link>. Ashby’s post is written in his typical long-winded style, with meandering sentences and, yes, em dashes. Ashby loves those em dashes, you can find them in his letters to the editor, his blogs, his other Facebook posts, and even on the campaign literature he’s already mailed out.

Dara Ashby was confronted about the use of her account to approve the fake profile but claimed she did not “intentionally approve” the account to the group. As the account was fake, the moderation group, consisting of Dara Ashby, Sara Holmes, Nick Kasoff, and Tim Larson, agreed to block the account from the group and remove the comment, which had been screenshot for documentation.

The incident was also shared directly with two council members, Mike Palmer and Linda Lipka with the expectation it would be shared with the full council. Palmer asked how the comment was known to be fake. Approximately an hour later the Special Meeting for the work session by the Council was cancelled. The statement given by the city was that the meeting had been “postponed as there is still more work to be done by City Staff.”

That may be the official statement, but the timeline certainly shows a different tale. Blake Ashby’s personally manufactured drama, including his use of a fake account and his intent to fraudulently influence the public cannot be disregarded. Currently, all four of the bills which had already been delayed are tabled. And even though Ashby’s fraud had been uncovered, he has moved forward with his plans to run for election.

Ashby has returned to campaign-style Facebook posts and comments. On December 29th, apparently with the confidence that his attempt to scam residents had been kept quiet, he posted a comment on a post made by Nick Kasoff about the problem of the council postponing items and delaying city business. This comment was tagged and directed to me. A friend who read this comment said that this triggered her, reminding her too much of an abusive ex. She’s not wrong at all. This, folks, is gaslighting. Ashby knew I was the one who had unmasked his con job and passed on the information to the council. He posted this because he wants people to think I have a close relationship with him and that he will go out of his way to talk to me. He’s putting public pressure on me to go along with this because, to unknowing people this looks like consideration and kindness. How could I not go along with him if he means so well? But this was not the first time he’s done this to me. Blake Ashby isn’t interested in considering an opinion different from his own. He responds with his opinion without listening to another person’s. He moves to manipulate others to believe they need to agree with him. That’s why he was compelled to comment on his own post using a fake account when no actual person showed up to rally for his cause like he wanted to see.

Let me try to explain, briefly, my connection to Blake Ashby. It began when I did something very stupid. I joined Ferguson Truth, headed up by Blake and Dara Ashby. It was a pointless and wasted effort. The consent decree, once signed off by the Ferguson City Council, was always legally binding. Ashby, however, spotlight lover that he is, used the group as his public platform. This included using, in a paid and promoted Facebook advertisement, the image of a Ferguson resident in a body bag being carried away after he was killed in a car collision. This ad promoted Ferguson Truth and was targeted to appear in the Facebook feeds of local residents. This young man’s family, many living locally, had never been asked to approve the use of his body in their ads. I was appalled and wanted it taken down. Then I was verbally attacked, insulted, and argued against for holding the view that the ad should not be run. I was kicked out from the Ferguson Truth, which was actually quite a blessing to have distance from those supposed “friends.” Later, Blake Ashby approached me. He told me I could be forgiven for disagreeing with them and all would be forgotten. Everything would be just like it had been before. That offer was not friendship, it was gaslighting and mentally manipulative. I was smarter this time, I turned his offer down. I had no intention of having any connection with either Blake or Dara Ashby.

Time passed. My husband and I were regularly going to Marley’s for a good meal. We happened to often go the same night a large group was also there, this group included the Ashbys. We chatted, we greatly enjoyed making some new friends among this group, and eventually started to join in. I was still wary, but the group was regularly a large size of 10-12 people. It seemed large enough not to be personally targeted again. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I have not met the group for a meal since the fraud perpetrated on December 5th. Blake’s overelaborate comment to me has validated that response as necessary. I have no desire to be near or connected to someone who believes that lying and manipulating others is acceptable, like Blake Ashby does. I have been the fool. But I’m not doing him the favor of keeping quiet about these facts.

I know I am putting myself way out there by speaking personally. Some people will think I am over sensitive, too dramatic, or making far too much of a simple offer to meet and talk. Maybe some will think I’m retaliating. I’m certainly not doing this because it’s easy. It’s not. Over a month has passed since Blake Ashby posted using a fake account. I somehow hoped that maybe he would not move forward with his campaign knowing that he’d been caught. But no, he’s even already sent out a full color two page flyer touting his alleged accomplishments. This is going to be one very long campaign season. I feel it’s important to share this experience alongside the fraudulent use of the fake account because we desperately need transparency in our council. We need a fully transparent view of the actual state of the council as it is currently, and we need an honest assessment of candidates in the upcoming election. But the public hasn’t been getting this.

Please take a good, hard look at the documentation of the fake account and its use. Blake Ashby was seeking to convince the public at large by using a fraudulent account in an attempt to manipulate residents to believe an actual person was speaking. The hallmark of someone who is gaslighting is for them to feed their victim false information. Why do you think Ashby felt compelled to act this way and use a fake account?

Now here’s another thing I hope people will consider. Blake Ashby was not elected to his current position, he was appointed after Toni Burrow was successfully recalled in an election after hundreds of Ward 2 voters signed a petition to hold that election and turn out to vote in that election. Ashby was appointed in a 3-2 vote of the council, a vote which by the City’s Charter excluded the mayor. Those councilors voting to appoint Ashby were Heather Robinett, Linda Lipka, and Mike Palmer. None of these people are supporting Ashby’s campaign. All had given their support elsewhere well before the events that caused the cancellation of the Special Meeting last month. This, along with the large number of tabled items the council has been unable to settle, should be a red flag of a problem to everyone. There’s no unified “we” in this current council. It may actually be more splintered than ever. I have asked Blake Ashby publicly three times whether anyone currently on council endorses his candidacy, and he has ignored the question every single time. If no one on the current council is supporting him then why is he so adamantly referring to “we” in his statements as if he is part of some wonderful unity?

But Ashby does have the active support of a former council member. This support comes from none other than Toni Burrow. Burrow did the vast majority of the work needed for Ashby to file his petition for the election. She collected 75% of the signatures submitted (45), whereas as Ashby only made the effort to get 15 signatures. Ashby is fronting based on the work of someone who was recalled for interfering with city administration, who held an open vendetta against a City Manager she wanted to force out, and someone whose misconduct was found to be disruptive to the work of council and toxic to those who had to work with her.

Blake Ashby has set his path to election victory directly through the only council member in Ferguson history to ever be recalled. Is this an achievement to applaud and support just because Blake Ashby is really good at convincing people he’s positive and things in the city are improving wonderfully?

I can only speak for myself, but I do not find Blake Ashby suitable for public office. I do not think he has the ethical base necessary to successfully fulfill the role. I do not think he has respect for others and instead has an inclination to toy with and manipulate others. I do not believe this was one bad mistake, I believe there is a long time pattern. I believe this dynamic has been toxic to the work of our council and will only get worse. And I do not think we can afford this drama and manipulation in our city government.