Case against humane society goes forward

KEALAKEKUA — The vitriol surrounding accusations that the Hawaii Island Humane Society planned and engaged in a smear campaign against Big Island Dog Rescue seeped into 3rd Circuit Court on Friday, where Judge Ronald Ibarra rejected an attempt to have the case dismissed.

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KEALAKEKUA — The vitriol surrounding accusations that the Hawaii Island Humane Society planned and engaged in a smear campaign against Big Island Dog Rescue seeped into 3rd Circuit Court on Friday, where Judge Ronald Ibarra rejected an attempt to have the case dismissed.

Much of the case revolves around screenshots of emails that allegedly show senior Humane Society staff laying out a campaign to paint BIDR in a negative light while forming its own campaign to distract the public from the society’s euthanasia numbers.

BIDR’s suit claims interference for business advantage, appropriation, invasion of privacy and other charges. Named as defendants are HIHS, the society’s executive director Donna Whitaker, veterinarian and HIHS board member Elizabeth Jose, Deborah Baker and Kathy Kim Peters.

The two sides have been at bitter ends publicly regarding euthanasia and adoption methods. Friday’s hearing reflected that.

BIDR founder Tasi Autele didn’t attend the hearing but was later notified by attorneys about Ibarra’s decision.

He said he’s glad to see the issue that’s been playing out in public go to court.

During the hearing, an expert witness for HIHS testified that servers show not only were the emails in question not sent, none were sent during the time listed as when the alleged emails went out.

HIHS sought to dismiss the case and asked that BIDR and its attorney be censured for bringing the action.

That motion “is largely an attempt to get the case dismissed in a stronger way by threatening the attorneys for doing their job,’ said Paul Sulla Jr., an attorney for BIDR.

“Let’s keep this civil, not personal,” said Ibarra, who ruled a dismissal at this point in the case would be premature.

Ibarra did leave open the possibility for a future dismissal, after additional details surface.

Johnathan Bolton, an attorney representing one of the named defendants, later during the hearing characterized the case as an attempt to intimidate the humane society.

“We’re disappointed, of course, with the judge’s decision,” said Peter Olsen, attorney for HIHS, after the hearing.

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However, efforts to have the case dismissed will continue, he said, adding evidence does not support BIDR’s claims.

On the other side, part of BIDR’s efforts now will focus on identifying the person who originally provided the alleged emails, Sulla said.

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